Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Doctor Who - What *does* IDW stand for, anyway?


Now that I've lost everything to you
You say you "wanna start something new"
But if you wanna leave, take good care
Hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there's a lot of bad and beware...

After three years, it really is about time I actually reviewed these things...

(set between Human Nature and Blink... I think...)

"We were being chased by robots! ...somehow that sounded scarier in my head..."

The range gets off to a good start with the pages reprinted above: a long, Superman-style prologue showing the destruction of Gallifrey and its only surviving child... a complete foam-at-the-mouth loony with the mind of a six year old in charge of a goddamned time machine! No pompous crap about Time's Champion or the Legacy of Rassilon, just a guy who makes the entire cast of glee look well-adjusted and described in the story as "John Cleese overdosed on caffiene". Imagine if the Earth was destroyed and Russell Brand was the only human left - simultaneously ironic, hilarious, embarassing yet awesome.

It's immediately obvious this comic isn't quite fitting in to the parent series. The Tenth Doctor and Martha have no angst, no unrequieted love, no Rose Tyler references. They're an endeering pair of kids rip-snorting through time and space having so much fun it boggles my tiny human mind - and its the endearing, Season-17-like fun and adventure rather than the smack-those-bitches-down of Tennant's first year. It's like the angst-free Infinite Quest, only slightly-less-authentic-feeling.

The first episode has the Doctor and Martha check out a deep space milshake bar to get the best chocolate milkshake in existence, their enthusiasm so infectious it makes me (something of a chocolate hater) want to break the habit of a lifetime and ask for one myself. While there they meat a very anxious shape-shifter who is being hunted by a Sycorax so huge and musclebound it's somewhere between scary and ridiculous. The Sycorax hunts down the last surviving member of a race and sells it to the highest bidder, occasionally passing off afforementioned shape-shifters as targets when the genuine one is extinct (a rather confusing and badly-explained plot point that doesn't add much... or indeed anything).

Wasting no time, the Doctor sacrifices his still-new sonic screwdriver to first shatter the Sycorax's sword and then take over his spaceship of last-survivor-prisoners and return them home. The Doctor and Martha then bugger off, bored, and arrive outside Big Ben where the Doctor suddenly sees something horrible!

What is this hideous sight? We never find out as episode two begins with the Doc and Martha J chilling out in 1974 England, being stalked by a small black cat as they go clothes shopping (the sight of the Tenth Doctor voguing in the Third's outfit is slightly undermined by my sneaking suspicion that it's actually an Austin Powers gag). The random mention of Kolpasha - the fashion centre of the universe and specifically where the Sixth Doctor got his threads from, as seen in the Season 17 comic Victims - is the first hint that Garry Russell is actually writing this. Well, bar his name in the credits, anyroads.

Things go a bit Goodies as the black cat turns Kitten-Kong behemoth made out of sand, causes a few panels of chaos and - the moment the TARDIS crew notice - vanishes. "Blimey we're good," says Martha, her and the Doctor continuing to act like Daria and Jane with a TARDIS. Deciding to visit a gallery of sand sculptures, you know, just in case there might be some connection. The fact all the exhibits are clearly ordinary members of the public magically transformed into sand-statues is a slighty dodgy clue. Then the cat turns up and Martha gets turned into a statue herself.

Don't think I'm skipping details here, because storytelling starts to slide around this point and I'm struggling to make sense. This is probably why this issue is the only one I actually bought (dude, half the comic is literally ads for other comics...). Anyway, it turns out that the two owners of the gallery were Ancient Egyptians who got into trouble with Bubastion - that's the evil black cat - who was an alien guardian sent by the Shadow Proclamation to Earth to help humanity advance. As a result, the Pharaoh's daughter and her mate have been left immortal nutjobs with the ability to turn people into sand. For some reason. When it looks like they're going to help the Doctor, Bubastion the space cat turns THEM into sand statues as well.

The cat reveals that he is a Time War refugee and got the two Egyptions to go on their killing spree to draw the Doctor out. The Doctor promises to help the cat if he releases all the humans, the cat does (except for the Egyptians who crumble to dust insisting that the cat is actually evil and not to be trusted) and the Doctor and Martha head off to the TARDIS to find the cat's homeworld. Except they don't take the cat with them. They seem to have completely forgotten the promise. So has the cat. Plus whole planetary populations are vanishing from their worlds (kinda like The Stolen Earth) and the cat is part of a gang of Lovecraftian monsters who intend to use the Doctor as the agent of the title.

Basically, this comic was a confusing waste of time and I refused to buy another, preferring them as crisp CBR downloads. Oh yeah.

Onto episode three, a New Earth prequel. It's New Year's Eve, 4.9 Billion and on the unimaginately-named planet of Felinus, the Cat People are bitching that they get taken over by the Earth Empire. Some cats are not pleased by this when suddenly terrorist bombing happening type things. The Doctor and Martha split up to help the injured (one of whom knows who Martha Jones is... for some reason...), when Martha gets put into protective custody and exposited at: turns out that Neanderthal-like cat savages live outside the gleaming city, deeply pissed off at human intervention and wanting a jihad before the Earth Empire takes over Felinus at midnight. Whereupon the cat savages terrorists will lower the forcefield and bat shit will go down. Because Bubastion the space cat and his panthoen of bastards are doing this for fun and profit.

At midnight, giant mecha cats with frikken laser beams out of their eyes storm the city. As you do. Oh, and these are supposed to look like vengeful spirits or something. Because Bubastion (who isn't a cat but just looks a bit like one) wants to take over Felinus as a base of operatations. But then one of the cultists switches off all the giant mechas and Bubastion buggers off after a cryptic warning, seemingly having absolutely sod all interest in the fact his plans are screwed. He then goes and spills the beans about the pantheon manipulating the Doctor. What a moron. Also this week, the fanwank gets into overdrive with references to Gridlock, The Lazarus Experiment, The Shakespeare Code, Time Lash, Terror of the Zygons, Full Circle, oh, and someone called Townsend.

Onto part four, and some new, slighly-less psycho artwork. After piss-farting about with the TARDIS antigravity, the Doctor and Martha get drawn to one of those mysteriously-deserted planets and get attacked by zombie-like robots shouting for Martha's flesh. This is followed by a genuinely (and intentionally) painful scene in an elevator where Martha idly bitches about Rose, shattering the cheerful grin the Doctor's had for the last three issues. Mind you, makes a change from the Doctor absent-mindedly guilt-tripping Martha...

Did I mention each planet leaves one survivor? Well, the Doctor and Martha meet the local one, having a video conference with all the other survivors. The Doctor immediately accuses "his" survivor of being a lying bastard. And one of the other survivors is a lying bastard. Because (did I mention this is INCREDIBLY bad in terms of story structure?) there are eleven planets that have been "zapped" but only ten of them in a freaky space alignment or something. The Doctor works this out by strutting through a hologram of the floating planets. Yes, just like The Stolen Earth. Is there HONESTLY the sort of quality control we're promised from BBC Wales? Or do they steal all their ideas from other media?

The androids try and capture the nearest lying bastard, who blows them all up and sends the Doctor and Martha through a wormhole under orders to capture "the leash" and in return they'll be allowed to go back to the TARDIS. OK, I really don't understand this bit, as the Doctor and Martha somehow announce the TARDIS has been stolen when they're in an empty room nowhere near where they left the damn thing! Oh, and this ISN'T part of the Pantheon's plan.

Issue five... this increasingly poorly-drawn story draws towards a conclusion. The Doctor and Martha get spat out onto an English beach in Ainsworth, 1957, where some random guy shoots Martha in the head. The Doctor carries her half a mile to an MOD building that is, for some reason, full of nurses who have very good experience with head wounds. Calling himself Harry Sullivan, the Doctor announces he's giving the place a surprise inspection. With a bit of fanservice, clad only in her underwear, Martha immediately accuses her nurse of being an alien spy. Christ, I am getting sick of that plot twist that happens twice an episode. Yes, Martha's right and the alien spy is in fact the cat person that recognized Martha on Felinus (before dying). It's actually a NICE member of the Pantheon of Bastards, a shape shifter with a stalker-like crush on Martha J. Well, THAT explains everything... not.

Meanwhile, the Doctor visits the head of the MOD production and finds it full of wierd space technology. Epic continuity fail - the Doctor says his cat person adventure occured in the 51st century. Instead of the year 5 billion. Russell, you n00b! Where was I? So, the Pantheon were organized to stop a massive extra-universal demon break the walls of reality. But it has managed it. And they need a hero to stop it by sacrificing their life: ie, the Doctor. One problem, their plan relied on lying bastard # 1 who sent the Doc and Martha here against orders. Lying bastard then turns up and aims a sonic canon at our heroes. Cause he's insane.

Onto the final part, mostly told in flashback from the middle of a warzone because there simply wasn't enough space in the last FIVE ISSUES to do it justice. The Doctor effortlessly switches off the sonic canon with his sonic screwdriver, so Lying Bastard teleports away with the usual Dr. Claw "NEXT TIME!!" threats and stuff. Our heroes then discuss Martha's addiction to ER for a bit. Then the Doctor finally confronts the Pantheon, calls them all a bunch of fuckwits, explains the entire plot twice, and then decides to go and help stop the demon because... would you believe it... this monster from outside reality CAN BE STOPPED BY A SONIC SCREWDRIVER! But this is still a suicide mission and, after discussing her plans for the Time Lord's bollocks (you think I'm joking don't you, you innocent people you...) the Doctor and Martha go ahead.

Why were all those people kidnapped from the planets? Not entirely sure. It creates a psychic wave of panic that can be used as a weapon but I dunno if it's FOR or AGAINST the monster. Either way, the Doctor and the pantheon run across a quarry towards Lying Bastard # 1, and after he's massacred some poor sods, kill him, steal his gun, shoot the monster. The End. Literally. The End. A couple of hastily-drawn panels about how everything is sorted, which doesn't balance much with the HUGE amount of detail of one of the Pantheon plotting to kill the Doctor. Did this go anywhere?

There HAS to be a better way to tell the story than the one we were lumbered with. A waste of a story arc. A waste of paper. The massive injection of angst and constant changing of artists was rubbish too. Frankly, only the first issue was worth reading. The rest, bar some rather funny gags, are completely disposable. The whole "stolen planets to fuel master plan over universal breach" was done WAY better by RTD. And HE did a particularly crab job. That's how rubbish and unsatisfying this ends up. Still, you hire the bloke who wrote The Next Life.

What did we expect?


(between Journey's End and The Next Doctor)

"What happened to me? That's easy. The Time War happened. I saw Arcadia destroyed. I laughed in the face of the Nightmare Child. And I saw Gallifrey sacrificed, burned when the Cruciform fell. I turned the key in the lock. I doomed them all."

Well, after that crushing disappointment and exercise in wasting my time, what could be better than a massive fanwank extravaganza with all ten Doctors?! Yes, it does turn out to be crap. How on Earth did you possibly guess?

The first chapter, Amputation, is set between The Keys of Marinus and The Aztecs. Charmingly depicted in sepia, the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan arrive in a pyramid under construction and, mistaken for godly beings, get rushed to meet the Pharoah. Two evil conspirators decide this will be the perfect distraction to kill the Pharoah with a poison dart, only for it to accidentally imbed itself in the Doctor's walking stick. The TARDIS crew leg it.

It's not much but it's only eight pages long. The characters are drawn faithfully but not necessarily in terms of personality. The First Doctor isn't the stubborn bastard from his early stories but the badass grandpa of his later years, the type that Vicki hung round with beating the crap out of assassins, correcting people's mistakes and treating royalty with no respect whatsoever. The bit where he tells Barbara off for not knowing about the events of Pyramids of Mars is the only blatant anachronism.

I don't know if it's down to the writer or the fact it's supposed to be the Tenth Doctor retelling the story, but there seems a bit too much wisecracking going on, with Ian's sole personality trait being him bitching about the Doctor. That's better than Susan though, who simply stands around being more cute than Carole Ann Ford was on TV. I suppose trying to distill an era into a NuWho friendly format was going to cause these sort of problems, but it begs the question of why the hell try it in the first place? HUH?

Onto Renewal, with the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. Seemingly set at the end of their time together, this black and white adventure has the trio arrive in a space station under siege from nasty telepathic alien snakes. Sneaking through an air vent into some control room or other, the Doctor plays the recorder and causes all the alien snakes to fall over.

The slight dodginess of the characters cranks up to 11 here. The Second Doctor is almost unrecognizeable, an arrogant, sarcastic know-it-all who at no point panics, improvises, or in any way acts like Patrick Troughton's incarnation. Even the Flanderized Reunion Second Doctors were better than this. Zoe acts more like DoctorDonna than her awkward teen genius, more interested in showing off than saving the day and to be honest far too happy and huggy to be the girl I remember. Jamie has a Scottish accent and runs into danger a bit. He is nothing else.

This less-than-a-parody of Season Six reaches a clear nadir when Jamie decides to sing Jon Pertwee's "I Am The Doctor", leading the Second Doctor to mutter "I hate that song!" under his breathe. I have tried numerous occasions but I can't visualize the Second Doctor EVER saying that sentence about ANYTHING. Epic fail in all but artwork. Truly, truly disappointing - did this guy base the story on the 1970s Annual rather than the actual episodes?

Finally into colour, with an adventure between The Daemons and The Sea Devils. A truly pathetic plot has the Doctor, Jo and the Brigadier being chased in Bessie by a greyhound-shaped alien in a War of the Worlds tripod. The Brigadier blows it up with a bazooka. The Doctor uses a sonic screwdriver. The end.

This is arguably worse than the previous tale. The likenesses are terrible, and I assumed Jo was a badly-drawn Liz. The characters have the banter of a 21st century sitcom, but at least seem to have the right personalities. There's something truly badass when the Brigadier dubs a bazooka his "sonic screwdriver" because it solves problems incredibly quickly and efficiently. But, no matter how funny it is (the Brig murmuring "Kill me now Yates" when the Third Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow), it's terrible as any kind of homage to the era. When did they ever deal with silliness like dogs with laser beams?! Paying lip service to the Master isn't good enough, and no doubt confused a lot of newbies wondering who the hell this mysterious "he" to blame for everything is. The author should hang their head in shame for this. Why do a Third Doctor story if you have no clue how the era works? Did this guy base these missing adventures on something he one read on wikipedia?!

Next, Misdirection, is set between City of Death and The Creature from the Pit. And it just gets worse and worse. The artist is drawing Tom Baker too old and fat for Season 17, wearing his Season 12 outfit and some Manga blonde for Romana who acts like her first incarnation only with far too much colloquial slang ("Does the randomizer only got five settings or something?"). Her temper tantrum when the Doctor grins like an idiot, ranting about how she wants to go back to Gallifrey... well, I almost stopped reading. The Fourth Doctor is in character - mind you, is that something to be impressed by? - but he talks far too much and never lets Romana get a word in edgeways.

The plot? Returning to 1900 Paris, the Doctor and Romana spot a street mime jump through a wormhole in the middle of the street. So they jump through it after him and arrive in the catacombs under the city with a bunch of soldiers from 1810. They chase after the mime who leads them to a giant minotaur... in a beret. The mime leads people to the minotaur so it can eat them, but it will let them go if they answer a very rubbish Sphynx-like riddle. Not that Romana can, of course. But the Doctor opens the door to the catacomb and the mime and the minotaur explode for no readily explained reason.

Well, some real imagination went in there, didn't it boys and girls?

Still, at least its ripping off of City of Death and Horns of Nimon endeavoured to evoke Season 17. Sod all occurs in the next chapter, which has the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough (between The Kings Demons and The Five Doctors) staying at the old house at Allen Road when Judoon invade. To put that in perspective, that's like a story where the Third Doctor and Jo visit the Powell Estate and meet the Saturnynians. The Judoon want some old nicknack so the Doctor gives them a cricket ball, using the exact same sleight-of-hand trick he used in the previous story. The Fifth Doctor is far too much of a sarcastic action hero, even more than Time Crash, while Tegan does nothing more than wander around looking like a punk and saying she's Australian (her hugging the Doctor is a bit wrong too). But much better than poor Turlough, the comedy coward who couldn't pass for a human being if he tried and even the Doctor takes the piss out of him every single chance he gets. This story treats the regulars with contempt unrivaled until The Kingmaker redefined Peri as a non-functionally-retarded teenage mum and part-time lesbian. For the laughs. The Judoon get better treatment...

Survival next, for the Sixth Doctor and Peri set between The Two Doctors and TimeLash. For once, the poor characterization actually works in favor. Peri and the Sixth Doctor are the best of friends, despite the latter acting like an utter loon and pointing a gun at her head. They'll do anything for each other, and woe betide anyone who gets in the way. Even the truly rubbish idea of putting the Sixth Doctor in a trial room drama works since the Doctor is the lawyer for the defense (Peri) rather than the prosecutor, and can actually fix problems rather than making them worse.

Anyway, Peri is minding her own business on an alien planet when some passing guy forces a gun into her hand. The gun goes off and a passerby falls dead. Peri's put on trial for murder but Old Sixie is on da case! He soon works out that the gun worked on quantum technology and thus could assassinate the victim no matter where it was pointed, and Peri is being used as a pansy!

The only real failure is the artists' rendering of Peri. Apart from the fact she's depicted as borderline flat chested, they don't even get the face right! Tut tut. And she's in that cute headband too...

Next, possibly the most forgettable of the lot, is the Seventh Doctor and Ace (between Dragonfire and Rememberance of the Daleks) visiting a wartorn planet off-limits to Time Lords. However, someone has given one side a Gallifreyan bioweapon, so the Doctor is determined to restore the balance by providing some cure hidden in his umbrella. The End.

Yeah, I thought it was a bit weak too. The Seventh Doctor and Ace are depicted quite well in both art and scripting, but they don't do much. There's a couple of line foreshadowing psychic paper and the Doctor being President Elect, but it's almost like this was written at the last moment to fill a gap. Ironic, what with it being the best written of all the stories so far.

And onto Revelation! Oh, at long last, the Eighth Doctor In The Time War story we've all been waiting for! And... it's awful. Spectacularly awful. The Eighth Doctor looks more like Sukozu from Farscape in a cravat than Paul McGann. He doesn't talk like any version of the Eighth Doctor I know of either, like some Mark Gatiss parody of a parody. And the bit where the Doctor tries to retcon the movie by claiming the whole "half-human" thing was a trick to fool the Master with a chameleon arch is... is... FUCK IT! WHAT KIND OF IDIOT CAME UP WITH SHIT LIKE THIS?!

Calm down.

OK. It's the Time War. The Doctor has decided to build a giant demat gun to wipe the entire Dalek race from the universe. Um, one problem, he needs the Great Key of Rassilon to do that and a bunch of robots on a jungle planet in the middle of the war zone have it. The Doctor lets himself get captured by the robots and locked in a prison with a Sea Devil and a Malmooth (like Chantho). After a month of sitting on his arse playing "Chan-Scissors-Paper-Rock-Tir", the Doctor stages a breakout and gets the Great Key. The end.

Now, you might think a glimpse into the Time War with no Daleks, Time Lords or indeed anything remotely interesting might count as lameness personified, but this is the tip of the iceberg as the next story makes this look The Caves of fucking Androzani it's so, so bad.

The Ninth Doctor and Rose (between The Unquiet Dead and Aliens of London) land in the English trenches on Christmas Day 1914 when everyone stopped fighting a world war for a game of soccer. The Doctor organizes said game. The end.

Yes. That's it. That's the best they could come up with. A few pages of a football game and the Ninth Doctor in a green coat. That's IT. The only other moment of note is the Brigadier substitute Dobs and his mate Benton, and mention of "Captain Harkness" who is too busy recovering from a fatal gunshot to meet the Doc and Rose. I boggle. I really do. I mean... just... GAH!!! The artwork is atrocious as well.

But surely the Tenth Doctor story, Reunion, has to be an improvement?


The Doctor and Martha wake up in a dark spooky museum full of stuff from all Doctor Who history and no idea of how they got there and a nasty suspicion the TARDIS has been destroyed. They find a special section devoted to the Doctor himself, when the Doctor realizes he can't remembering anything before "BARCELONAA!!". Feeling sick, he collapses and Martha finds a pile of junk to restore his memories of the previous nine stories - a walking stick, a recorder, the keys to Bessie and the TARDIS, jelly babies, cricket ball, cat badge, umbrella, cravat and the psychic paper. But a bearded Time Lord running the museum decides to get nasty and sends an Auton after them (blown up by nitro-9), some giant spiders (distracted by a blue crystal), a Voc robot and a Clockwork man...

Eventually the Doctor works out Martha's acting pretty weird and realizes that this isn't a 2007 story but a 2008 story... ripping off a certain Angel episode to boot! Yes, the Doctor's lying unconscious in the TARDIS with a sluggy parasite on his head trying to take over his mind and the TARDIS is trying to snap him out of it by using Martha as an avatar. Suddenly 10.5 himself appears, sporting a beard and a black suit and explaining he is the Valeyard, come to take the Doctor's remaining regenerations for a stupendous cliffhanger moment!

Things kind of REALLY go downhill from hereon in.

After spending about five pages ripping this cliffhanger to shreds, pointing out all the flaws and revealing that "the Valeyard" is just that damn bug from earlier that jumped onto the Doctor after the events of Journey's End, the avatar goes batshit crazy and turns into (deep breath) Harry, Leela, Mel, Steven, Kamelion, Adric, Sarah, Adric again, and then the past Nine Doctors. And the "Valeyard" promptly melts. As the first Doctor notes, pretty fucking anticlimactic.

There then follows the traditional Doctor bitching scene (the Fourth uses my own catchphrase of "Hey, I resemble that remark!" Who do you think you are? Nigel Verkoff?!) while it's nice to see the Seventh Doctor being the one to lure the Sixth out of a miserable sulk. The Doctors fade away and the true Doctor wakes up with the brain bug dead. Next stop Barcelona.

The constant change in artists is pretty nasty too, with some of them forgetting to make the museum exhibits Who-related (I did like Martha getting a Liberator teleport bracelet while looking for a Time Ring though). The retcon of the Eighth Doctor as a loser who had no companions is a bit of a bitchslap to not only Big Finish, but BBC Books, DWm and all points in between, surely? The stuff about the Time War sits very awkwardly with what we see on TV, with apparenltly the Time Lords quite cool about their own annihilation and the events of Rose happening "immediately" after the Doctor pressed the button.

This collection has a lot of problems, but the biggest and most unforgivable? At the very end, the Doctor asks the TARDIS avatar to change into one specific companion so he could say goodbye.

And it's Susan.

Not Donna, Susan.

Donna is, in fact, the ONLY companion not involved in this. And we get to see Astrid Peth for Cliff's sake! But no, Susan angst. Gimme strength.

Oh, yeah, and the whole Valeyard stuff was bollocks but enough people have complained about that before now.


(between 42 and Utopia... or thereabouts)

"This is horrible. All these voices, all these regrets. It's so stupid. Why didn't they just say it? Why couldn't they let the world know how they felt instead of bottling it up until they were gone? Until it was too late. These pictures can't feel. They can't see or hear. Even when their unrequited love finally answers them, they can't understand... so what's the point?"

The trouble with the first two series was that they were simply being released too damn slow. Part one of The Forgotten came out when Martha was still a companion and ended circa The Next Doctor (leading to an admittedly clever twist of where the story was truly set). But this meant that when the IDW specials turned to one offs they were stories way out of date. I mean, a world fascinated with speculation on who will be the Eleventh Doctor and what do the comics offer us? Another missing adventure that would have vaguely been contemporary three years prior!

And at first glance this comic anything but value for money. The artwork is atrocious and I mean that most sincerely folks - rather than draw artwork like everyone else, Ben Templesmith has decided to use some very dogdy screengraps and trace vague shapes over them. Usually this leaves the Doctor and Martha looking strangely deformed and ugly, while he seems adamant about NOT drawing the TARDIS and using the same photo of a police box over and over again. It really reaches a nadir when we get a panel showing Martha climbing into the control room where no one's noticed the Ninth Doctor is clearly standing at the console!See? You can't make it up!

In fairness, there is a vaguely fairytale kid's book vibe to the whole thing, particularly the monster which is black, hairy tentacled death with lots of teeth and works on a primal vibe. But that's undone when it's clearly a drawing fighting photos, and poorly cropped photos at that!

All this makes more frustrating that this is a brilliant - if incredibly miserable and depressing - story that has more to say than the last two epics encompassing the entire Whoniverse and the fate of reality itself. It's set in an empty art gallery and a graveyard on a rainy afternoon. Small scale, big results.

It turns out that the Tenth Doctor had a companion we never knew about, an alien girl called Grayla from the planet Gratt - a society repressed where no one shows any emotion. When the locals die, a chunk of their mind is downloaded into a painting which can then whisper all the things they never got to say during life. "Kinda sad, really," the Doctor notes. Being a spunky rebel, Grayla teamed up with the Doctor, saw the universe, opened her eyes, and she promptly returned back to Gratt to tell everyone to loosen up and admit what they feel.

One problem, the society was repressed in order to not feed an emotional vampire and keep it docile. Grayla's little cultural revolution caused a Godzilla-style rampage that slaughtered countless lives, and Grayla herself, unable to hide what she felt, ended up a sad portrait in the Whispering Gallery with the bitter knowledge that her good intentions literally lead the world to hell.

And when the Doctor and Martha arrive in the Gallery, they are horrorfied by this state of affairs... which, of course, wakes up the empathivore Morkon once again...

Oh, if only someone else had drawn this. Coulda been a winner...


(set between... well, same as The Whispering Gallery, I suppose...)

"I have a plan. A good plan. A reasonably well-thought-out plan. Well, I saw it in a film once. It worked well then."

Fact: those bird-faced 17th century plague doctors look creepy.

Which seems to have been the inspiration for this story. Hell, there are worse reasons.

Anyway, the TARDIS dumps the Doctor and Martha four centuries too early to meet the Beatles at Abbey Road - London, 1669 where a strange plague has broken out and is just as mysteriously being cured by an "angel" in a nearby church. The plague doctors are a bit pissed off at their loss of business... or rather, they are the ones causing the plague! Yes, virus-people and antibody-people are at war on Earth so the Doctor lures them both to somewhere they can fight in peace.

It's not a particularly deep story, but it is dark - literally and metaphorically, and the sight of Martha dying of plague is as nasty as other victims exploding to reveal wierd Thirdspace aliens. The ending, where the Doctor encourages war rather than peace is pretty bleak as well. Alas, there is little truly memorable here, and Martha does little bar show she's clued up on the history of the black death.

And that wierd skeleton Doctor on the cover? Never happens in the story itself.


(um... between The Doctor's Daughter and Midnight... somewhere in that gap, definitely...)

"Good grief! Are you telling me that women are to be seen but not heard? And WHAT are they wearing? Burquas?! You have GOT to be kidding me! What, you cover em up so the boys don't get disturbed by their curves? Now THAT is what I call cold-blooded..."

Ah Donna Noble! The only companion (assuming you're not a history teacher from Colchester) to be completely writer-proof! I always considered the reason she was so popular was that she had the mindset of a child - in a good way. No hiding her feelings like Martha or toying with emotions like Rose. If Donna has something to say she will damn well say it with every fibre of her being, from the awesomeness of first century Pompeii to cutting the Time Lord Victorious down to size. There's a reason she is the only RTD companion to be dubbed the Doctor's "best friend" by the man himself (standards are way higher than when C'Rizz fitted that category, right, kids?) and frankly, I think she's awesome. So awesome I might be so biased as to forgive these comics for any and all failings they have. Super-Temp is in town and all is right with the world!

So... Draconia is in civil war as a female has ascended the throne! In desperation, Earth sends two Adjudicators to Draconia... but they get blown up on the way. When the Doctor and Donna arrive on Draconia, they get mistaken for the Adjudicators by the Ice Warrior security forces (mind you, psychic paper helps). Alas, the Doctor is immediately kidnapped by Draconian ninjas, leaving Donna Noble to deal with negotiations.

It should come as absolutely no surprise Donna succeeds in less than two pages.

This is a story by Gary Russell by thankfully written by someone else. Mind you, the old "How come a Draconian wasn't in The Curse of Peladon?" question that has vexed mankind for aeons might have given that away, but the clash of Pertwee era and NuWho isn't as seamless as it should be. The Adipose newsreader was cute, Alpha Centauri's cameo definitely wasn't, and the idea of the Galactic Federation being subservient to the Shadow Proclaimation is ugly even on paper. The angsty conclusion is rather like that of The Doctor's Daughter though, but it reinforces how the Doctor and Donna relate in a way that Rose, Martha or even Amy couldn't. There's even a nice logo from the 80s DWM comic strips on the last page. Top notch.


(between Midnight and Turn Left)

"Oi! You can't do this! I NAMED YOU AFTER MY CAT!"

A slightly more photorealistic artstyle after the big scratchy Adrian Salmon artwork of the previous tale, yet it continues the frankly irritating practice of "adapting" a TV episode rather than taking a comic book approach, so all the back story is contained in big dialogue-heavy talking head panels. When TV Comic has a better grasp of the medium than you, you need help, IDWDW!

The plot. A bunch of lotus-eating no-fist losers seal their planet in a forcefield and then create armies of robots to tend their every sordid whim in private decadence cut off from the rest of the universe. The TARDIS, of course, can get through the force field easily and the Doctor and Donna are immediately... put to death by the bodacious blond(e) inhabitants who don't visitors and prefer to lie about the place in their Grecian underwear looking hot.

Luckily, the robot slaves have begun to develop consciences and they spare the Doctor and Donna and decide to revolt against the filthy human meatbags. As ever, Donna is on hand to stop a bloodbath and generally fix things.

It's a rather thin story, but the characterization is perfect, the jokes funny, the plot's just complicated enough to be straightforward, and the art's good too. See what Donna can do to a franchise? Imagine how good The Forgotten might have turned out if they'd bothered to use SuperTemp!


(between Planet of the Dead and The Waters of Mars)

"Inside that room is a temporal paradox. Open it and... well... you know Schrodinger's Cat? No? Well, this is Schrodinger's Tyrannosaurus Rex!"

Boasting the disconcerting waver that this comic may not work if you read it in a strictly linear order, this imaginative one-off is a comic designed to be read backwards in parts and so manages to pull off a stunt that couldn't really be done on television. Even Red Dwarf: Backwards pales in comparison.

Beginning with the Doctor trying to ween himself off companions by sitting in the corner of the control room and going "ohmmm" a lot, the TARDIS picks up a distress signal from a space station hidden in intergalactic void. This station is so isolated because it's quarantined from a ridiculously lethal plague ravaging galaxies - how lethal? You can get it off a phone call! So sending off a distress signal is incredibly dangerous, and the scarily-cheerful lightbulb-headed alien what did it also killed someone just to do it. The Doctor is immediately on the case, which is because he's a Time Lord and the only person who understands what the hell the murderer is on about.

Coz, get this, the murderer lives his life backwards. He answers questions before they're asked and has a completely different frame of reference - he thinks people that will kill him are his parents, and the day he was born was a rather upbeat funeral. Thus, the whole "reading the comic backwards thing" rapidly comes into play as we try to understand what in the name of God's bollocks is going on.

Basically, the murderer knows that it won't be long before some alien battle fleet blows up the entire station and everyone on it and is attempting to avert "the great creation" by sending out a distress signal. Having a mind that works backwards, he knows there won't be any plague outbreak because he doesn't remember one. He's quite happy about being executed for his crime, since it's how he was born.

Having sorted this out by constantly doubling back on his time stream until there are four versions of the Tenth Doctor in the same room ("This story never gets out!" grins one of them), the Doctor heads off into the wild blue yonder to find a new companion, segueing reasonably into the ongoing IDW series. The artwork's good, too, and the spot-the-Sontaran gag wasn't bad either. Worth actually buying.


(I'm guessing directly after Room With A Deja Vu)

"But this phantasm as I rubbed my eyes. The time machine was gone, save for a subsiding stir of dust... Dammit, Doctor, you've got me thinking about writing again!"

Let's get one thing clear before we start. I hate Paul Grist's artwork. I dunno why, but his ugly cylindrical-headed, barely-recognizeable doodles with their sole facial expression rub me up the wrong way. I might have been able to cope with a one-off, but he keeps getting employed, doing absolutely no justice to the stories he gets. It's boring, symmetrical and often colourless. I couldn't even recognize David Tennant, just some leering git in the Tenth Doctor outfit. This is all the more problematical given The Time Machination is

a) a crucial prologue to the ongoing IDW comics
b) a fanwank fest that even Craig Hinton might back away from

The main thrust of the story is simple. Why didn't Torchwood catch the Doctor prior to 2006? We discover they were loitering around Krakatoa as the Ninth Doctor got his picture drawn, and perhaps its best for their own safety they missed him at Gabriel Chase (seriously, does anyone think the Welsh psycho lesbians stood a chance against Ace in that story? Hell, the local psycho lesbians were dead meat too...). But for Robert Lewis and Eliza Cooper (they're not named here, but they will be important one day), they haven't yet twigged the Doctor can change his face.

Then, the TARDIS crash-lands in 1889 London and needs refeuling - the Doctor needs to get it to Cardiff but he knows the unfriendly reception he'll get there. Especially with this particular face. Thus, he decides to recruit HG Wells to aide him, and HG Wells gets a scientist called Jonathon Smith to help him. No sooner have they planned to get a "petrol can" together so they can refuel the TARDIS without heading to Wales, the Torchwood Institute arrive and they're even more psychotically dedicated than usual!

Upon learning that the Doctor (who committed the sins of TimeLash upon him) is a threat to the Empire and Queen Victoria, the outraged HG Wells immediately throws in his oar with the institute and they capture the notorious time traveller, and send him off for Cardiff to be dissected! MWAHAHAHAHA!

Except, it's all a Hustle-style ruse! The TARDIS was never broken, it was all a trick to lure Jonathon Smith, an evil time traveller, out of hiding so he could be dumped on Torchwood (who would never believe his entirely truthful claims not to be the Doctor), who would then leave the real Doctor alone (assuming his ultimate destiny is to be on a Welsh mortuary slab). The fact they had a certain Jack Harkness working for them didn't exactly hurt the plan either.

The fanwank explodes in this story. The Tooth and Claw and TimeLash stuff is forgivable, maybe even The Unquiet Dead bits, but then it just goes out of control with Shada, Ghost Light, Inferno, The Gunfighters, An Unearthly Child and even the comic strip War of the Words... It then hits the "You're Pushing It Chester" level on the FanWankOMeter with the last few pages literally dramatizing The Talons of Weng-Chiang with a guest appearance by the Fourth Doctor and Leela. Does Robert Holmes get any credit for this? A clue: no.

Of course, the revelation that HG Wells was in that same foggy street when the Doctor and Leela were discussing Little Titch, or the newspapers about missing girls, might be forgiveable, but it goes out of control. The whole thing turns out to be a prequel sequel to the TV story, with the evil time traveler being a Magnus Greel groupie out to get the Doctor killed by Torchwood before he can kill Weng-Chiang... did any new readers understand the relevence of the Li Sen Chang poster?

Certainly it's very annoying to have HG Wells portrayed as a completely unimaginative and gormless tit. Even his one park of ingenuity is revealed to be all down to the Doctor's cunning plan. I mean, suggesting the odd poetic line to Shakespeare is one thing, here the Doctor reads out whole pages from the guy's works and orders him to start writing even though Herbet keeps insisting he doesn't enjoy writing at all... And then we find out the best title our hero can come up with is... The Time Machine. Remind me to take off my glasses before I start repeatedly headbutting the desk.

Sigh. So close to being good, but let down to the shitty artwork, some rubbish ideas (so you can pull the TARDIS console apart, can you? WITHOUT unleashing the Bad Wolf? Gimme strength...) and someone - possibly G Russell - cutting the brake cable on the Pointless Continuity Reference flow. Did any new readers appreciate the toss about Professor Chronotis? Wouldn't they rather the plot be explained with some usual flashback panels instead of endless monologues? This does, of course, assume anyone was still reading at this point...


Saturday, September 25, 2010

NOT NEWS: I am still alive

As I marvel that those on the interweb wonder what happen to me even though I've got half a dozen blogs, a facebook account and the fact I'll talk to anyone who emails me. Obviously even googling "Ewen Campion-Clarke" is beyond those I left begind on a certain opinion forum.

I'll just pad out the post with Johan Redsen's amazing Mad Larry Rant Formula.

You know what I can't stand? The way there's so much Who material and not enough time to appreciate it. I've got a ton of BFs, books, comics and more to experience, and never give them the indepth exploration I would like the early days of Illegal Alien or The Stones of Venice. Not to say I'm falling over myself to drool over Victory of the Daleks or the latest DWM comic strip ripping off the most famous Angel episode ever, but rather having time to remember damn well ANYTHING about the latest PMG story featuring moments that will make fandom punch the air in joy (Graeme Garden is the Meddling Monk!) and punch out their monitor screens in disgust (and he's got Lucie Bleeding Miller as his companion!). It's just that some waffling Oirish-accented monks wandering around and a mystery about a book that was found in a toilet never really leapt out and grabbed me as a plot - the returning characters were the only thing to grab my attention. The problem with it, of course, is that there are so many oddball one-off stories that you need a return of Axons or Time Meddlers to stand out of the crowd. And it's been this way since they kicked Rudd out of office. Assholes.

The thing that really irritates me, though, is that the answer is so bleeding obvious. Rather than taking spara's lead, which would be to make the central character a psychotic pedophile murderer wanking over small children he sees on the beach in order to make a story memorable before changing his mind and trying to start an annual that went nowhere just like the last three without my help - this isn't Torchwood where effects have no cause and visa versa. No. The answer is to force the government to pay me vast amounts of money for pissing about with photoshop to make covers for stories that near-as-dammit-are-never-written.

I know doubtless Mlock would say "Oh, Ewen, your genius makes me want to take my own life in worship of you" at this point, but fuck off you creepy puppet-fetishing jerk! It's that same type of attitude that lead to my being in therapy!

And before you jump up and down shouting "Hang on, a published BBC author had Nyssa slagging off Adric for being a Monty Python fan?!" I want to make it clear that I wouldn't want to write for that stupid annual anyway since no one is willing to acknowledge my genius at the best of times except of course when THEY can't be arsed to do it themselves. Like a BC project earned MORE effort than simply running a YOA episode through find-and-replace and recasting Nigel as Ben, Andrew as Kyle and Dave as K9! Like worse things haven't happened to Ben's arse in the Chathamological canon anyway...

In the meantime...

...I really should get round to finishing that one day.

Ooh, and a present for The Legacy...

Friday, September 10, 2010

FFS, Gabriel Chase!

Woo-hoo! The man who's incomprehensible stupidity and unreasoning hatred puts the likes of Lawrence Miles, Kyron Mallet and Sparacus himself to shame has finally updated his vitriol-dripping Saturday Teatime Guild website, the "constantly evolving" website that is so on-the-pulse its banner has the words "(almost) Totally bereft of references to Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Billie Piper. If you're 40-something and consider Russell T.Davies' version of your favourite show to be an abomination against all mankind, this site is for you. Enjoy."

And the ONLY addition to this site is the "Parallel Universes", where you can TASTE the bile and resentment as the meager couple of paragraphs devoted to the new series is forced to grow in time with its episode count. "73 episodes so far" it grudgingly mumbles, as if this doesn't mean the new series has racked up as many episodes as the last two "proper" Doctors put together!

Oh, the howlers GC has committed, friends. The years before he realized that Torchwood did not feature "Captain John Bannerman" and his squad of psychic detectives, or his rant that Freema Agyeman DARED to call herself anything other than "half-black". Not to mention the fact the only part of the new series he has actually seen was Time-Crash.

But what's worse than his insane refusal to so much as google what he's ranting about, or his patronizing view of people that dare to disagree with him, or the way he stole images from Charles Daniels' site... it is his gutless refusal to let anyone in any way contact him. Coward.

So what does GC have to say about the Eleventh Doctor?

With new Executive Producer Steven Moffatt forced to cast a new lead,
Suffering that horrible fate that five producers before have ALSO suffered with the integral part of the series - oh, poor Moff! And you only had over a year to prepare for it, you poor bastard you! JNT's suffering is nothing in comparison...

and choosing the virtually unknown Matt Smith
Virtually = even the AB frigging C could tell you what he was in. And so the hell what? Tom Baker was virtually unknown...

(looking like a cross between Edward Scissorhands, Marilyn Manson and a young Peter Davison)
...see? That's why GC's such an open-minded, objective sort of bloke. I like "young" Peter Davison, as if a three-year difference mattered... remember, Patrick Troughton was over TWELVE YEARS younger than Hartnell. The biggest age gap ever.

But what I am I saying. Matt Smith has wierd hair. Ergo: freak.

a new direction for the show was inevitable,
OK, pay attention to this bit.

and Moffatt immediately introduced the kind of inter-episode cross-linking that had been such a trademark of his Coupling sitcom.
Only someone who has watched neither Season Five nor Coupling could say things like that. "Inter-episode-cross-linking"? You mean the episodes cliffhanger into each other?!

Unfortunately, he was unable to resist the Davies-like grand finale,
So this is a new direction. But exactly like RTD.

And what is bad about a "grand finale"? Who the hell asks for a "weak finale"?!

bringing together all the major monsters and characters of the series for an action-packed two-part conclusion.
Notable that "all the major monsters and characters" appeared for about two minutes at the beginning and end of the first episode. It wasn't exactly The Stolen Earth, was it? But there I go again, mistaking GC for someone who has even the VAGUEST idea of what he's talking about.

Although a Christmas special is scheduled, it remains to be seen how much longer this vastly different version of Who will last.
I love how GC has been peddling those last seventeen words for OVER FIVE YEARS NOW. It's like a prayer. He said it before the show was made! He said it when Eccleston quit! He said it when Billie quit! He said it when Kylie Minogue dropped by! Yet 73 episodes and a clear BBC commitment for at least one more year EVERY TIME HE SAYS THIS clearly means nothing.

Still, points for admitting that the show is still being made. Well, assuming "scheduled" isn't GC-code for "well, they SAY they'll make one but they'll change their minds at the last minute oh yeah". And see how GC missed the return of the Silurians, River Song, even a little thing called... what was it now? Oh yeah, Amy Pond!

Given it is the SINGLE SOLITARY PART of his rubbishly-designed website he EVER updates and NEVER LETS ANYONE COMMENT, you think he MIGHT have some modicum of pride in his work.

Like me with photoshop for example...
...OK, bad example.

Why did the Sixth Doctor regenerate?

By the end she was so sick of him, he repelled her so much that she gave up. He didn't want her carrot juice, didn't want her exercise videos, so she just decided to let him do what he wanted. She let him stuff his face with burgers and milkshakes. She let him lie for days, barely moving, just eating and watching television. By the end he reminded her of Elvis Presley in 1977.

Of course, his hearts gave way. They just couldn't take any more abuse.

The regenerated version was much improved.
- Carrot Juice
After my philosophical treatise Is The Master The War Chief? (short answer: duh, obviously...), Is Jack The Face of Boe? (short answer: no), Is There A Season 6b? (short answer: meh, probably, but The Two Doctors isn't part of it) and Am I Turning Into A Complete Jerk? (short answer: reply hazy, try again later), I turn my mighty mind onto this most vexing of questions...

"I’ve come to think of him as invulnerable. Yet you saw him die — one of him, at least. How did it happen?"
Mel pursed her lips. "I didn’t actually see it. I was unconscious at the time. But I think..."
"Well, he fell over and banged his head on the TARDIS console."
Benny laughed until her sides ached.
- Head Games
There are, of course, numerous takes on this. Some of them my own. It's generally assumed something along the lines of this happened: the Sixth Doctor and Mel are having an awesome adventure, the Doctor gets mortally wounded and dragged back to the TARDIS which then gets hijacked by the Rani. It's a nice idea, isn't it? Everyone goes for it, from the creme de le BBC Books range (Spiral Scratch by Gary Russell) to the lowest of fan fic hacks (Kronos Square by Ron Mallett)...
In the console room of the TARDIS, Mel stared at the nearly dead body of the Doctor lying on the floor. He had set the TARDIS moving. Peering at what controls she did know,she saw that the destination was Gallifrey. "Peri..." came the weak voice of the Doctor. "Going soon. Time to say..."

She ran next to him. "I'm not Peri. I'm Mel. What's wrong, Doctor?"

"This is not the end,but it has been prepared for..."

"What? You're not making any sense,answer me Doctor!" Mel wanted to shake the Doctor back to his senses, but she feared that the shock would kill him.

"Tears, Sarah Jane?" his face strained to form an emotion.

At that point, Mel sat back and began to think. He was a Time Lord. He had amazing powers of regeneration.

"Nooo... nooooo... Stop it,you're making me dizzy...... noooo..."

She made up her mind at that point to try to shock the Doctor into a regenerative cycle.

She moved to shake the Doctor, but the TARDIS began to violently shake. She fell back and knocked her head on the console. Mel fell to the floor sprawled out. She fell to the floor, knocked out. The shaking rolled the Doctor onto his stomach.

"This old body of mine is getting tired..."

And then he fell unconscious from the strain. The TARDIS materialised. The door opened, and two beings entered in. One pointed to the Doctor, and the other one reached down to the limp form. As he flipped the Doctor over, the regeneration began.
- Century's End
...but they all miss a whacking great, epic point.
MEL: I know about regeneration, of course.
Mel is not expecting the Doctor to regenerate. She doesn't even think he's been injured.
MEL: You claim I was alone when you found me.
Oh, don't go on about this Doctor again.
I have to.
There was no one else in the strange box. If he exists, he must have left you.
No way! The Doctor wouldn't do that.

It's rather hard to fit with scenes of Mel weeping over the dying Sixth Doctor, isn't it? And given her inhumanly good memory, you think she wouldn't FORGET something like this - as far as Mel is concerned, the Sixth Doctor is alive and well. She's not worried that, say a regenerated Doctor has wandered off while she was unconcious, is she?
MEL: You're nothing like him. If the Doctor's been harmed...
She gives absolutely no hint that when she last the saw the Doctor he was at death's door from chronon-blood-loss or being zapped by a Sleeper or doing a strange deal with the White Guardian to regenerate into someone badass...
"Hogwash! I don't believe in destiny! All this rubbish about me being The Ch'ar'K'yrt, the chosen one. I am not some reincarnated Rassillon."

"Doctor, you know that at the next regeneration The Change will come, the Champion will be born. I have reset the TARDIS coordinates, it will take you to the point of change, goodbye my friend and good luck." With that the White Guardian vanished.

"Goodbye." The Doctor whispered back. The two of them went back into the TARDIS.

"Where are we going?"

"Well the coordinates seem to be set for a planet called Lakertya..."

- Sacrifice
The novelization, by the authors of the teleplay (who, remember, are best mates with Colin Baker and dearly despair his lack of grand exit), make this clear...
(The Sixth Doctor is brooding over the console. Mel is skipping in the corner.)

MEL: 52, 53, 54...
SIXTH DOCTOR: Stop skipping, Mel!
MEL: Doctor, just because you don't object to being overweight is no reason why I should...
SIXTH DOCTOR: Don't argue! Stop!

(Mel does so and joins the Doctor at the console.)

MEL: What is it?
SIXTH DOCTOR: I don't know. (runs hand through hair) The slide control for setting time and space co-ordinates seems to be stuck...
MEL: (checks controls) This isn't operational either...
SIXTH DOCTOR: Take a look at the computer read-out screen.

(Mel does so.)

MEL: Blank! I'll run a check on the circuit...

(Mel starts pressing buttons to no avail. The Doctor suddenly looks up in horror and runs around the console to press a control, but before he can the room lurches and Mel is flung to the floor.)

MEL: What's happening, Doctor! What's happening?

(The room lurches again, flinging Mel first against the wall then the console. The Doctor tries to rise, but falls and cracks his head against the console plinth. He slumps, as does Mel. The exercise bike collapses, and then the room falls still. The doors open and the Rani enters.)
I'm not saying it's a version I'd be proud to call canon, but it's Word of God, people: the Sixth Doc and Mel were minding their own business when the TARDIS crashed.

Having this dynamic redhead as a companion was a prospect he viewed with unqualified pleasure. But that pleasure was to be tempered by a hazardous journey into uncharted territory. Hazards that were destined to have a profound impact on the Sixth Doctor.

For he was about to embark upon a series of adventures that would eventually culminate in a confrontation with the Rani. After which, this Doctor would never be the same again...

- The Ultimate Foe
That so many say otherwise as though all these authors (and, hell, I've done it myself) aren't paying attention to anything in Time and the Rani post the opening credits. (Though I have the excuse that I only recently saw the full story).
"Here they come!" The Doctor shouted, he rubbed his cat pendant for luck and then set his hands flashing across the controls of the TARDIS.

The time rotor started to move just as the proton missiles reached them. There was massive impact and everything in the TARDIS was tossed about as the TARDIS dematerialised. The Doctor and Mel lay unconscious on the floor...

- Kronos Squared
Now, some of the NAs tried to work with this...
Death laughed, and raised a soft finger between the Doctor's eyes. 'Don't lie to me! You sacrificed the colourful jester because you needed to be born! Time would have her champion, and he was just the compost for your blooming. You ran your TARDIS into the Rani's beam joyfully. Hah! Your sixth self hates you for that, he will become Valeyard for that –'
- Love and War

Which people treat as gospel. Ignoring the fact the above is
a) a dream
b) a dream by Ace of all people
c) contradicts the TV evidence as the Rani and the Doctor note that he had no idea about her operation on Lakertya and couldn't have dived into the "beam" anyway
d) written by an author that single handedly ensured all the NAs aren't canon anyway - BWAHAHAHHHHH...

So. To find out what really happened, we have to take in some curious facts, not least that the Sixth Doctor was alive and well before the TARDIS crash but clearly dead as a doornail afterwards.

  • The TARDIS tool kit (easily identifiable as the one the Doctor's used since Earthshock) is open and positioned just next to the Doctor, who is last seen lying underneath the console, as if he was doing some traditional TARDIS maintenance when the disaster struck.
  • The Rani's space harpoon is described by the dazed Seventh Doctor as "a navigational guidance system distorter" that "would force any passing spaceship into landing here". It sounds like its some kind of computerized siren that lures prey by reprogramming its flight computer... and NOT firing multicoloured laser beams from a planet's surface into deep space.
  • The TARDIS is dragged down to the surface of Lakertya in a waterfall-like beam of light, very similar to how the Time Lords captured the ship in the previous story.
  • In The Mark of the Rani, the titular Time Lady is unimpressed at the Master's ability to override the Doctor's TARDIS and draw him to a specific location. She herself can remote control her own TARDIS, a feat that impresses the Master and the Doctor. Now, if a hack like the Master can drag the TARDIS across the English Channel without so much as putting the wind up Peri's skirts, it seems a bit odd that the Rani can't do likewise.
  • The Rani says, "I didn't go to the trouble of bringing you here just to discuss the ethics of my work," making it seem that capturing the Doctor and Mel was a lot harder than just firing the space harpoon into the sky.
  • Mel notes that the TARDIS was "hijacked" by someone, rather than assuming it was, say, "shot out of the sky" or hit by an asteroid or simply went haywire. So the Doctor and Mel were aware someone was trying to take over the ship well BEFORE the rainbow fireworks struck.
  • Mel states twice that she has no idea who the Rani is, so not only have they never met (even in the wonderful 53 years of missing adventures), the Doctor's never even mentioned her. Yet the Rani can not only disguise herself as Mel in moments, she can even do an incredibly accurate impersonation.
  • The previous Rani story had the Doctor note her anal retentiveness meant she was incapable of doing ANYTHING "at random". She plans things meticulously. Are we supposed to think she has a wardrobe of Mel wigs and outfits to hand, along with amnesia drugs and the like just lying about the place and decided "what the hell" and used them all?
  • Furthermore, since she needs the Doctor alive and well for her plans, why would she draw the TARDIS down in such a way it might (somehow) kill him in the process?
  • The Rani shows absolutely no surprise that the Doctor has regenerated upon arrival, even though surely this means he is medically unfit for her services with his DNA in flux and his brain defences down. She never says anything like "I managed to work my plans around your regeneration", or tell him off for living so dangerously. In fact, she's surprised when he recovers so quickly and needs to drug him.
  • If, say, the TARDIS landing was so violent it killed the Doctor... why wasn't Mel a sticky puddle of blood and bone in the corner?
So... this is my theory about what happened prior to the beginning of episode one.

The Rani has built the giant brain and wired in King Solomon, Hypatia, Za Panto, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Za Panato, Ari Centos, Niels Bohr, Steven Hawking and Jeremy Clarkson. Suddenly, part of the giant brain life support system explodes due to shitty wiring. She needs it fixed and fixed good.

The Rani's already decided to add Albert Einstein and the Doctor to the Giant Brain, and the Doctor can fix the equipment. Taking her TARDIS to kidnap the former, she spies on the latter for a while. Now, we all know that Time Lords have mental defences (The Brain of Morbius) and said defences are down during regeneration (Castrovalva). The Rani is also a brilliant neurochemist and TARDIS mechanic. Thus, she returns to Lakertya and constructs some kind of remote regeneration gizmo that will kill the Doctor and change his body, leaving him alive and vulnerable for her to dope, bluff and finally jam into the giant brain.

Using her navigational guidance system distorer, the Rani hijacks the TARDIS in the middle of a fitness session between the Sixth Doctor and Mel. Having five decades more experience, the Doctor gets out the tool kit and struggles to regain control of the TARDIS. With Mel's help, they succeed more or less.

Realizing they're getting away, the Rani uses her orbiting space satellites (the ones she uses to regularly keep an eye on the Strange Matter asteroid) to open fire on the TARDIS, simultaneously zapping the Doctor in such a way he'll regenerate on the way down. The turbulence knocks both the Doctor and Mel unconscious. The TARDIS is dumped in the quarry not far from where the Rani and Urak are standing with a TARDIS lockpick to break inside just in time for the Sixth Doctor to finally succumb to the artificial regeneration, which is why he recovers so quickly.

The novelization itself notes...
The prehensile claw It tugged roughly at the Time Lord's shoulder, rolling him onto his back so that he was face up. Face up? But these were not the rotund features of the Doctor. Could this be the endearing sixth Time Lord?

The Rani had no doubt. A single look was all the confirmation she needed. And she would not be mistaken.
She's expecting a new Doctor. She killed the Sixth Doctor to help her plans.

RANI: Am I expected to abandon my research because of the side effects on inferior species? Are you prepared to abandon walking in case you squash an insect under foot?
Of course, how did she engineer this to happen?
There was something wrong. Without moving an inch, the Doctor mentally checked himself over. There was definitely something wrong. His body had suffered a mental and physical battering from the forces that had attacked the TARDIS. The symbiotic link that he enjoyed with the sensitive consciousness buried deep within his ship had communicated much of the stress of the bombardment to him, and his alien physiognomy had interpreted the attack in perhaps the only way it could.

He felt a by now familiar rush of blood to his brain, the opening of normally dormant glands to release unique Gallifreyan chemicals into his system. It was happenning again. His Time Lord genes had responded automatically to the assault and he was on the verge of regenerating for the sixth time.

The chemicals flooding through the Doctor's system made it hard for him to think. All at once, something grasped his side and pulled him over onto his back before the final neural switches tripped and his regenerated started in earnest...
- The Seventh Doctor Handbook
So, the regeneration was psychosomatic, like the way Sil tried to kill the Doctor in Vengeance on Varos. The Doctor felt the TARDIS' pain, his mind thought he was dying of being zapped, his body agreed...
His alter ego smiled. "Dead? Oh no, Doctor. I’ve been waiting. Waiting a very long time for you. I’ve watched your pathetic meanderings through time, your meaningless battles. I saw you taken in by that scheming harpy the Rani, saw you die again. How did you ever let yourself be fooled by her?"
- Matrix
Thus, the Sixth Doctor was deprived a heroic exit, the last thing he managed to do was tinker with the console before being knocked unconscious and forced by the Rani to regenerate just to help with her scheme.

Ergo, the Sixth Doctor's comments in Zagreus are completely accurate!

SIXTH DOCTOR: Not bad, I suppose. A little overwrought, perhaps? But it's a better exit than I ever had! A bang on the head I ask you...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

101 Reasons "Time and the Rani" Rocks

Could this be the endearing sixth Time Lord?
This was, indeed, the Doctor.
Regeneration had been triggered by the tumultuous buffeting.


I'm not going to be stupid enough to think that anyone is going to suddenly believe that Time and the Rani is the best story ever. Coz it isn't. But it's certainly better than people think. Seen at the time and seen again, in context in the ABC's "that's the next three years of weekday 6:00 slots sorted then" marathon rescreening of absolutely every episode they could get their hands on, Time and the Rani is a breath of fresh air, full of cool monsters, spooky images, a loveable central character and lots of skeletons. To the kids in my social circle that ever saw the series, Time and the Rani did no wrong than ANY OTHER Doctor Who story. There were no complaints about dialogue disaster or complaints that if Strange Matter is so damn heavy the gravitational pull would knock Lakertya out of orbit and drag the missile to it anyway. There was just "did you see the giant vampire bats bite the screaming girl on the neck? COWABUNGA!"

So, sit back, relax, ideally watch KLF's Doctor'n the Tardis and then straight into this whistle-stop tour of my childhood...

1) This is perhaps the only story bar The Big Bang to be a serious Doctor Who story based on a comedy skit. Specifically The Lenny Henry show, which begins with the TARDIS crash-landing, prompting a completely unexplained regeneration for the Sixth Doctor, and then he and his screaming companion team up with a strange comic relief resistance fighter on a world ruled by monsters in turned ruled by a vicious female villain the Doctor is terrified of and has something of a history with. After numerous chases up and down corridors and the female villain being undermined by her lumbering henchman, the Doctor uses some explosives to save day and heads off into the sunset getting to re-know his companion. Yes. Suddenly EVERYTHING makes sense!

2) There is no arguing with the fact that Time and the Rani is one of the best stories ever in terms of production values and special effects. No wasting your entire budget on a single model shot here - CGI and model shots, animatronic monsters, alien skies... hell, you won't find any Nu Who story doing all this on an alien planet. For once Doctor Who is not working on a shoestring. From a technical point of view, Time and the Rani is the BBC giving everything it's got. And, no, I don't think this was a wise distribution of their efforts, but it still counts.

3) The original idea for the pre-credit sequence was Albert Einstein writing a letter about atomic weapons in his room when he gets kidnapped by a giant vampire bat. But that wasn't enough. So it became King Solomon, in a palace with hundreds of courtiers, doing the whole "cut the baby in half" thing... and THEN getting kidnapped by a giant vampire bat. But even this wasn't enough. So instead we get a lightning storm blast the TARDIS out of the sky, ride a rainbow down into a quarry in front of a startled lizard man, the harpoon-weilding Rani breaks into the console room, give a camp one liner and THEN a giant vampire bat kidnaps the Doctor. Who regenerates. This pre-credit sequence earns the FULL FIST!!!

4) The Matt Smith era is obsessed with fairy tale? THIS is the story where a wicked queen in the land beyond beyond, in a castle filled with evil monkey-ape-bat things, who puts clever people into a trance so she can steal their genius. She then uses drags the hero down a rainbow and bewitches him into think she's his best friend, making him an unwitting slave in a plan that strikes two shooting stars together in a collision that will end the world itself. It's like The Wizard of Oz and The Silver Chair met in a Large Hadron Collider...

5) Now, the regeneration itself probably ISN'T the best example of its type, given it's one actor in a wig rather than two actors and there's no death scene... but it works as a single kinetic tracking shot. And if, like me, you'd never clapped eyes on Colin Baker before, you honestly never twigged it wasn't him. And the liquid quicksilver washing the old Doctor's face away is definitely a much more imaginative idea than the New Series' "flame on" approach.

6) The first scene with the Seventh Doctor is brilliant. It's the equivalent of a CIN sketch or an audition piece. The Doctor's wide-awake, firing on all cylinders, and only takes ten seconds to sort out his regeneration cobwebs. He immediately paints the situation as completely serious - he's scared of just being in the same room as the Rani, and the sight of the asteroid terrifies him even more. It's the first few scenes and suddenly we know that the whole universe is in danger. The Rani idly banters with him, long enough for her to pull out a syringe, and the Doctor totally loses it. And when the Rani idly threatens to kill Sarn, the Doctor is on his feet, dragging attention back onto him as he screams "STAY AWAY OR I'LL SMASH IT! I'LL SMASH IT TO PIECES!" so angrilly that suddenly it's the Rani that's scared. This might also be the first and last time that Sylvester McCoy does anger completely convincingly too. It's also clever that we get to see the "proper" Doctor before three episodes of him stumbling around off his face on amnesia drugs. No "tune in next year to find out what he's like" as with last time.

7) The Rani claims "I've no feelings one way or the other", when it's clear she's not HALF as detached as she claimed. Apart from her superiority complex, she gets annoyed very quickly, has a sense of humor no one understands (she finds the idea of "procuring" the Doctor hilarious), and is bouncy-happy-puppy when loyhargil is invented. It makes me wonder what happened in her childhood to make her so standoffish. Did she get dumped by Braxiatel or something? The Doctor and the Master to this day try to get in her pants every chance they get... But proof the Rani is not the emotional island she claims: "If the fool didn't accept her as Mel, then she'd gone to a lot of trouble for nothing! It gave her no pleasure to wear this ridiculous wig and cute clothes!"

8) The farcical elements of the first episode are quite clever. The Doctor drunkenly scoops up an object and tells the audience that it'd be very handy to drag any passing spaceship down to Lakertya, completely unaware it's been used on him. He also turns aside a spiked drink, again not suspecting a thing. He even struggles to come up with an explanation how he could regenerate in circumstances that didn't so much as scratch his companion!

9) Mel: The Doctor wouldn't've left me!
Ikona: [to himself] If he had any sense he would.
Mel: It's not even up for discussion!
Ikona: Good, I shall enjoy the silence!
Mel: Were you born a pessimist, or is it self-induced?

10) So the unseen monsters are shaggy, brown-furred humanoids carrying weapons that fire cobwebs against their victims. Was I the only one that thought, "Hang on a second... the Rani has Yeti working for her?" OK, I was wrong, but it's still cool.

11) The novelization gives an explanation for whatever the hell it is Mel is wearing: "'Just as well I'm wearing sneakers,' she muttered to herself. She preferred the more fashionable high-heeled boots she had worn with her previous pants suit. As it happened, she had been exercising when the disaster overcame the TARDIS, and so she was appropriately dressed for this inhospitable planet beneath its cerise sky." Yet, oddly enough, Peri never had that excuse when she was wandering around in a bright pink leotard...

12) Speaking of Peri, this is the first alien planet since Frontios where the natives haven't uncontrollably lusted after the companion and tried to mate with her. Ikona says that he considers the Tetraps better-looking than humans. Compare to The Twin Dilemma where a giant slug wants to rape Peri because he reminds her of his own mother. This is also the first story sans Eric Saward, oddly enough. You think there might be a connection?

13) The Doctor nudges the fourth wall by wondering why the hell he ever chose Mel as a companion - something that wouldn't even be vaguely explained for over a decade and even THEN in a book the author later dubbed non-canonical. He then decides that "Mel" is only useful for one thing: playing the spoons on her tits. If the Sixth Doctor had done that instead of strangling her, Peri might have been a lot better disposed towards him.

14) "'Do I detect a hint of displeasure, Mel? This egalitarian spirit doesn't strike a note of harmony. Or could it be you think yourself superior to me?'
The Rani's tapered fingers caressed a vial bearing the legend CYANIDE... 'How could I possibly assume that, Doctor?'

15) Think about the Rani's headquarters for a minute. Just think about it. A secure base with en suite cave for giant bats and inbuilt brain-sucking mechanics wired up to a giant purple brain with convenient rocket launcher and alchemy factory. Not likely to be a Lakertyan warehouse the Rani's just taken over, is it? The whole thing has been built "at the cost of many lives". By whom? Well, if you look closely you'll notice the butresses have Tetrap shaped gargoyles built into them, and none of the building is the style of Lakertyan building we see later on. Clearly it's a Tetrap design. The idea of a Tetrap architect is so amazing it merits its own Monty Python sketch: "I normally design abbatoirs, you see..."

16) "The more I know me, the less I like me," the Seventh Doctor says. And it's true that almost all his actions come from a desire to be better than his last self (though it's based entirely on the Rani's claims of what his old self was like). If Sixie has set up sticks on Lakertya, Seven wants to travel the stars. If Sixie's built a laboratory to create goo, Seven wants it all abandoned. If Sixie thought the Lakertyans were lazy sods who deserve everything they get, Seven is going to save every last one of them he can! He even promises not to be "sulky and bad-tempered" if that was what he used to be like... it's quite moving when you think about it, especially now we know Sixie is DEAD and it's a new man sauntering off.

17) It's some florid prose that does sort of kill off Spiral Scratch's claims to show the definitive Sixth Doctor finale by not having Mel know the Doctor is dying or what planet she's on. Oh, and she's also in character. Yes, Russell, I went there...
"Alone, Mel paused. The steep incline she was climbing rose to a serrated ridge. The elements had eroded the granite into untidy obelisks which the imagination could transform into misbegotten effigies. Ruefully, Mel cast three of them as the witches in Macbeth. A wistful smile relieved her gloomy speculation: if the Doctor were here, he'd quote Shakespeare's gory tragedy, that's for sure! She could herself. During schooldays in Pease Cottage, Sussex, England, she'd hammed her way through the role of the Third Witch. Loneliness crowded in. Evocation of her lush and verdant birthplace brought home her predicament. She didn't even know where in the infinite universe she was stranded. Pluck, not self-pity, was Mel's style. She resumed the arduous climb."

18) A lovely cut as Mel notes that "One thing about the Doctor, you can't miss him in that outfit!" to the Doctor's coat getting thrown into a chest as the new Doctor changes his clothes and thus any hope that Mel can easily sort out this mess. As the book notes grimly, "The trimmings of the sixth Doctor were being discarded."

19) One reviewer complained that it was ridiculous and embarassing that the Doctor would spend ages dressing up as Napoleon following his regeneration. Um. Well. Yeah. It's also utterly ridiculous the idea that the Doctor can change his face. And his height. And weight. Yet the fact the Doctor is concussed and pumped full of drugs, a fact which explain his behavior, gets completely ignored. For Christ sake it's less than three minutes of screentime. When it happens in Robot, The Twin Dilemma and The Christmas Invasion, no one complained then...

20) The major point of this entire sequence is, of course, to compare and contrast. The Sixth Doctor also went into the wardrobe, chose a ridiculous outfit, and had a psychotic attack. But here the Doctor is ASKING his companion for HER opinion. He's dressing up in stupid costumes to get a smile out of her. Each time the Rani rolls her eyes and the Doctor gets upset. And when "Mel" says that she likes the question mark look, he's instantly pleased and declares he has regained his fashion sense.

21) Doctor: [on his outfit] A little portentous perhaps, Mel?
[long pause]
Rani: Pretentious is the word.

22) Stepping aside for a moment, it's worth mentioning that while these episodes were on, Doctor Who Magazine had kicked off its first ever Seventh Doctor comic strip, A Cold Day In Hell. Amazingly enough for a last-minute storyline, it echoed the as-yet-unseen Season 24 in so many ways - a frozen alien planet, monsters that need cold that die when sun-filters are dropped, a strangely unconvincing departure for a regular companion and their replacement neatly filling the gap in the TARDIS... remind anyone of Dragonfire? How about the Doctor and companion going to a holiday camp which is overrun by alien soldiers lead by a certifiable psychotic who has heard of the Doctor... bit like Delta and the Bannermen really, isn't it? The Doctor and companion watching holiday images on the TARDIS screen, arriving in a hellhole that seems to be deserted, encountering a ragged female rebel who becomes an ally, civilians wielding homemade explosives to deal with unstoppable killing machines, a coward sacrificing himself for the greater good... Paradise Towers? Time and the Rani offers villains with distinctive POVs stalking the landscape, the companion being forced to lead the resistance, the Doctor seemingly dead at the end of an episode, and this...
No one knew the Seventh Doctor would wear that fur coat. But he does. In both his comic and TV debuts. This is a freaking amazing coincidence. Charles Fort would dub this the work of the Cosmic Trickster...

23) This scene with the Seventh Doctor in a motar board inspired Paul Cornell to write Human Nature. Which in turn was made a TV story and one of the most popular stories of the RTD era. A story everyone at the time thought would feature the Rani, disguised as Joan Redfern. All that. All from here.

24) If you watch the wardrobe scene carefully, you'll see the Doctor doesn't actually change his outfit. He changes his hat, then his jacket, but he's always wearing the same trousers and shoes. So he'd already settled on the check pants and spats and was looking for other things that would go with them...

25) In a moment I literally cannot believe people don't remember let alone big up, the new Doctor is checking his reflection when he sees the Rani reflected in the mirror... then Mel... then the Rani again. The Rani responds to this dawning comprehension by punching the Doctor across the room. This dialogue free sequence is amazingly spooky, perhaps added by the freaky Rani-Mel hybrid that looks a bit like those websites that show you "the baby" of two photographs you upload. Or maybe just Lucy Griffiths in a wig.

26) Urak clearly has some kind of cyber implant in his brain, since the Rani can program the TARDIS to tune into Urak-vision. Speaking of the TetrapCam, it's awesome, with four different images colliding and then resolving into one bloodshot view of the world that can then zoom in on the target...

27) When the Rani suggests the "completely evil" Rani (actually Mel) should be destroyed, the Doctor looks at her expressionlessly and whispers, "Destroyed? Don't let's be hasty." Now, it's clearly MEANT to be the Doctor rejecting such senseless violence and rehabilitating his foes. But Sylvester McCoy plays it completely differently. As a kid I was absolutely convinced he was actually saying "she has to suffer first!" Hey, Kerr Avon was one of my childhood heroes who lustifully rasped "I NEED to KILL HER... my SELF!!" We're not saying Servalan's nicer than the Rani, are we? Are we...?

28) Wow, a cliffhanger that DOES NOT feature a close up of Colin Baker's face! Seriously though, episode one ends amazingly. Mel's on her own. She's being hunted by monsters we can't see. She has no idea what's going on. The Doctor seems to have penned her into his 500 Year Diary as public enemy number one. And then she steps into a fucking bubble trap, 100% guaranteed death trap. No one is around to help her. And even the Doctor wants her dead, it seems. She's utterly doomed and no one's going to stop the Rani's plan. It took me TWELVE YEARS to see how she got out of that fix. As impossible situations go it's slightly ahead of Remembrance of the Daleks part one. And it took me SEVEN YEARS to see how the Doctor got away from being locked in the basement with a Dalek...

29) The novelization cranks up the tension: "In a whoosh of dust and shale, a huge, opaque bubble with a bulging metal detonator encapsulated the screaming girl. Steam spurted from its underside. Mel frantically tore at the plastic. To no avail. The bubble began to spin. Faster and faster. Towards the edge of a cliff. Mel kicked. She yelled. Tried to pierce the bubble with her fingernails. Attempted, by running counter-clockwise, to force it away from the precipice. All in vain. The bubble rolled inexorably on, until, abandoning terra firma, it shot over the edge of the cliff..."

30) Ikona's life sucks. "The Rani's domination of Lakertya had been achieved with humiliating ease. His acquiescent countrymen, spoonfed by an indulgent regime, offered little opposition, preferring to believe the intrusion would be small-scale and transient. A monumental mistake.
Anticipating this, Ikona tried to rally Beyus; the peace-loving intellectual rebuffed him, preaching non-aggression. An innate dissident, Ikona then endeavoured to organise resistance groups. His efforts were fruitless.
Already nursing a burgeoning sense of disillusionment, he divorced himself from Lakertyan society and dwelt alone: an iconoclast living a hermit's existence.

31) Doctor: And another thing: why was the Rani dressed like you?
Rani: Perhaps she's fashion-conscious.

32) "Those who deduced the Rani was devoid of feeling were wrong. Passing the cabinets, she experienced an intoxicating glow of satisfaction: Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, the creme de la creme! Adrenalin pumped through the Time Lady's veins and she saw, with unflawed clarity, the inspired beauty of the new dawn her scheme would usher in. Not only for this insignificant cosmic fragment called Lakertya, but for the whole of creation. She halted by the vacant cabinet. A small smile embellished her lips. Soon the final piece of the mosaic would be in place. She slid the card into the empty slot and read again the name she had inscribed: THE DOCTOR."

33) It's a cunning move. Rather than save the appearance of the monster for the cliffhanger, the Tetraps unveil themselves halfway through the second episode, jumping out of nowhere to land, hissing in front of Mel. Total amazement city.

34) After one lengthy and hyperbolic speech from the Doctor about how utterly fucking badass the Rani is, the disguised Rani turns to camera and deadpans "I'm overwhelmed." Does this hilarious moment get the praise The Caves of Androzani does when Morgus does the same thing over and over again? No! Double bloody standards, every time!

35) Amazingly enough, this story has a love interest for Mel (Ikona, joining such ranks as Edwardes and Glitz - Pip and Jane clearly think Mel is enough to drive any man wild). It's the usual pattern - boy meets girl, kidnaps her and ties her up while she's unconscious, she saves his life, he saves her life, next thing you know they're actually going on about how they wish Ikona was aboard the TARDIS. However, any subtlety goes down the toilet window in episode two as Ikona has to try and remove a long cylindrical object from a narrow hole that makes Mel scream, leading to this exchange which shocked the audience more than Erato or anything Captain Jack ever did...
Mel: Have you done this before?
Ikona: It's the first time! And, Mel, if you don't stop squawking it'll undoubtedly be the last!

36) The novelization deals with this scene in a very mature manner. Ikona is "saturated, hissing with tension" as he "eases" a "tumor-shaped bolt" and "steeling himself" incase it should "blow". Mel is "squirming" with "the dexterity of an eel" as "Ikona's hand trembled... Delicately... gradually... A jerk! With mercurial speed, the explosion sent a spectacular spout of steaming water spurting upwards into the air." It's turned into Scary Movie, really, hasn't it?

37) Mel: Are we just running scared? Or are we heading somewhere in particular?
Ikona: The answer to both questions is 'yes'.

38) The novelization has a cool sequence where Urak, having "Mel's scarf" as a trophy, tries to catch Mel and Ikona, who escape up some vines on a cliff-face and thus avoid the Tetrap's 360 vision by going above his head. Cool.

39) The Doctor and the Rani reveal that you can ferment an environmentally-friendly, biodegradable plastic called polyhydroxybutyrat (PHB) with ordinary sugar and starch at home! In your FACE, Blue Peter!

40) Lakertyans greet each other with high-fives. Seriously. They do.

41) A particularly brutal moment: Mel tries to break Faroon's snooty attitude by pointing out Sarn's skeleton. She then finds out that the skeleton was Faroon's daughter and is left uncharacteristically speechless. "I had to be told," says Faroon gently as she weeps over her child's remains. Yeah, Season 24 is so childish.

42) Mel: Where's the Doctor, you brute?
Doctor: Here!
Mel: Where? Under the carpet?
Doctor: There isn't any carp- [blinks] Me, you stupid woman! Me!

43) In The Twin Dilemma, the Doctor assumes his companion is an alien spy and tries to kill here. Here, this madness is not only part of the plot, but instead of simply getting choked to death like Peri, Mel beats the crap out of the Doctor. He then grabs her, throws her over his shoulders and spins her around. There is not a child alive that would rather watch a courtroom scene with a new pun ending in "yard" than this.

44) The novelization meanwhile, turns the fight scene into something that Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonsen would marvel at... "Mel ducked beneath his outstretched arms, snatched up the acetylene torch and flourished it menacingly. A threat made comical by its weak flame. Sneering, he advanced. Hastily she increased the gas flow, forcing him into an undignified withdrawal from the spurting tongue of flame. He grabbed a stool to fend her off. But the seat cover caught fire! He dropped the blistering stool and retreated in disarray. A stab with the acetylene torch was brought to an abrupt halt! The rubber tubing was fully extended! With a Kung Fu yell, the Doctor sprang onto the bench and stamped on the acetylene torch's tubing. The flame drooped to a puny flicker. Spluttered. Then died. He leapt to the floor. The spritely Mel evaded him, putting the bench between them." When the Rani returns she finds the scorched chair - "Turned pyro-maniac, too, have you?" "Pyro - er - yes. Soldering what-d'you-call-it slipped..."

45) Many people assume that the Rani gets the best line of the story. This is a total falsehood. It is Mel who gets that line, in response to the Doctor mocking her with Tom Baker episode titles ("Try looking in the mirror, the face of evil!") What is the best line of the story?
Mel: I've had enough of this drivel.

46) Realizing at last who they are, the Seventh Doctor and Mel do a headbut of love. The fans rejoiced when the Eleventh Doctor and Amy do something similar, the hypocrites, but not here...
"COME ALONG, BUSH!", it's just not the same...

47) The Doctor tells us all this adventure doesn't bode well for his new persona. It's better than Robot or The Twin Dilemma though, and look how THOSE Doctors turn out!

48) Urak accidentally zaps the Rani, mistaking her for Mel. When he tries to raise the (reasonable) question of why she's dressed up as an escaped prisoner all the Tetraps are hunting and never warned any of them she's doing this, she quickly changes the subject with "Inquests bore me." Next time I get asked why I'm doing a totally stupid and pointless thing, that's going to be MY witty answer.

49) The Doctor informs us that Strange Matter was discovered by "a Princetown physicist discovered it in the Earth year 1984." Topical and educational! When was the last time NuWho managed that? Tooth and Claw about haemophilia!

50) There's a balated attempt to give the Sixth Doctor a longer life - he's aparently fifty-two years older when he dies than when he was in Trial of a Time Lord. Big Finish have leapt onto it with all their might, and in Orbis it's revealed the Eighth Doctor lost complete count of how old he was and just calls himself 900 in time for the new series. So. Yeah.

51) Compare and contrast the Doctor trying to bluff the Rani with how he deals with Fenric or Light. There's a real vibe he becomes such an arch manipulator and chessmaker as a reaction to being pissed around with so much in this story. Just think, the Seventh Doctor would be a completely different person if the Rani hadn't fooled him and made him knuckle down and fight back...

52) The first two episodes do admittedly stray vaguely into pantomime territory with the Doctor continually almost-but-not-quite spotting the Rani's mistakes. Then, when the Doctor DOES find out, the mood changes. And so does the lighting as the Rani presses a button that makes everything dark and sinister and cheerfully takes off her wig. A simple way of saying "the kid gloves are off now".

53) A truly brilliant cliffhanger to part two. We've seen ominous looks at that trapdoor for the last two episodes. We know whatever is down there likes buckets of blood poured down their trough. And ergo it's a very bad idea for the Doctor to ignore warnings and run inside. The Rani follows, but isn't brave enough to enter. She peers through, then closes the door and LOCKS it. The Doctor's trapped in the dark... and then he's attacked on all sides by very hungry giant vampire bats. McCoy had a thing about being trapped in underground lairs for cliffhangers, didn't he? It happens again in Paradise Towers, Dragonfire, Remembrance of the Daleks, The Happiness Patrol, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Battlefield... even Ace does it in Ghost Light...

54) After the entire Tetrap swarm allows the Doctor to escape because of their uncontrollable plasma binge, Urak self-consciously clears his throat and turns to Beyus hautily: "The Mistress has profound insight but I think she is mistaken to rely on any of your worthless race!" Beyus just stares at him. Urak awkwardly shuffles off. It's like a scene from The Office produced on LSD and napalm.

55) The Doctor escapes the Rani by hiding in the cabinet she was going to throw him in when she caught him anyway. Now THAT is clever.

56) "The Tetraps are nobody's pets!" warns Beyus. Pip and Jane got the name as an anagram of "Star Pets". Hey, Robert Holmes got Drashig from "dish rag"...

57) I like the Sixth Doctor, but let's be honest, if he'd accidentally knocked over someone blocking his escape and trying to help his enemies, he WOULDN'T immediately rush to his assistance. In fact, he'd more likely make sure the sod was unconscious with a good punch

58) Faroon being so protective of Mel is some subtle transference there, what with her daughter just dying.

59) Ikona: You must be the Doctor! I've met your companion, Mel.
Doctor: Well, don't hold that against me.

60) The stunned Doctor takes off his hat in respect as a Tetrap gets nuked. The Sixth Doctor would have given a witty one-liner ("I'm forever blowing bubbles"?) and then we'd cut to a bloody trial room for a five minute argument about whether this violence is necessary. None of that here. This is a good thing.

61) Lakertya gets more of a culture than Thoros Beta from simply seeing the tradition of people kissing their hands and touching a stone before entering a city. And the Doctor does it as well, just to be polite!

62) The disco music in the Centre of Liesure is actually Keff McCulloch remixing his own singing. That's incredibly foresighted for 1987. It's called Future Pleasure for crying out loud... and is so similar to the theme to Rugrats methinks something sinister and suspicious took place.

63) There's surprising depth to the scene where the Rani releases the bugs. The Rani's furious that the natives are turning against her, Urak is spitting blood that one of his bruthas got killed and Beyus is almost tearful at the carnivals and fireworks they used to have on Lakertya. Nice little details that show a world more than a woman in shoulder pads shouting at a drag queen and a giant bat...

64) A nice detail that people often overlook: why in the name of God's arse do the Lakertyans hang out under the disco ball of death? Well, only Beyus and his missus actually KNOW there are killer insects in there. And once the trap is opened, the only reason the Lakertyans hang around there is because the Tetraps forced them inside at gunpoint. All makes sense.

65) There really is something sad and pitiful as Ikona tries to high-five with his dead brother, but can't because, you know, the dude is dead.

66) It's a damning sight when the Doctor risks the entire fate of the universe to save his companion's life... and he doesn't get her back. It's all for nothing. Topped by Urak laughing at our hero: "So stupid! You are not a worthy opponent for the Rani!" RTD pulls this stunt regularly in his season finales, but done here first! And, eschewing wangst, the Doctor bounces back from the defeat again!

67) The Rani clearly gets a kick of of humiliating people - she notes that Mel is an expert on computers even as she gives her grunt work that anyone could do. She also chooses the woman that unintentionally got Sarn killed to have to work with her father. Sadistic bitch, you gotta love her!

68) No sooner do the Doctor and Ikona note the "run around distracting Tetraps" shtick is getting predictable than it turns out it's all a trap by Urak. Cunning bat-faced bastard!

69) You have got to admire the "stiff" acting McCoy and Langford do when they're paralyzed by Tetrap bites. Seriously, that cannot be easy, to the point you wonder if they're REALLY good wax dummies or something. But no, it was all them. Wooden acting isn't a complaint, it's a freaking skill!

70) Urak is a collossal pervert, getting obscene thrills from pawing and groping young girls. The book notes Urak constantly drooling and licking Mel's ear "with the tenderness of an obscene lover". Hell, Mel gets more fondled and more arse shots in this story than Peri ever did. Not sure if this counts as a good thing or not...

71) Yet another cool death scene, with ankle-bracelets that turn you into skeletons. Skeletons are cool. And Urak laughing as everyone screams. Awesome.

The Doctor: Really, this is not the place for double entendres!

The Doctor: A fool and his formula are soon parted.

74) Albert Einstein: Outrgaeous polemics! God does not play with dice!
Niels Bohr: Don't tell God what to do!
The Doctor: Gentlemen, such hostility! Remember, [sings] blessed are the piemakers for they shall make light pastry...

The Doctor: You wouldn't say that if you met my uncle.

The Doctor: Ah well, every dogma has its day.

The Doctor: Or a No. 3 bus.

The Doctor: Does that mean the faster a fat man runs the fatter he will get?

79) There are people in this world that thought that Einstein was played by Patrick Troughton. Now, in fairness, Troughton was always saying he'd love to be an uncredited extra in Doctor Who. Einstein would be the perfect role, so this theory was vaguely reasonable except a) the guy looks nothing like Troughton b) Troughton had been dead for nearly a year when the story came out. The irony is Einstein's voice is supplied in the brain scenes by Peter Tuddenham. So this DWM readers got the right initials if nothing else...

80) Just as the Doctor and Mel kidnap the Rani, she's trying to get something out of her bracelet. The full scene would have her get out an ampoule which then gets dropped to the floor in the struggle, and then stepped on by a Tetrap rushing to the rescue, which is then engulfed in a flesh-eating fungus before it can savee the Rani. 'She meant that for us!' exclaims Mel. 'Yes, well, let's postpone the post-mortem,' the Doctor says glumly.

81) "Grandly, Urak distributed silver bangles among the troop. 'Naf tuo! uoY era erawa fo eht stnuah eseht elbacipsed snaytrekaL tneuqerf...' (By simply reversing the Tetrapyriarban language, this would read: 'Fan out! You are aware of the haunts these despicable Lakertyans frequent...')
Braying the equivalent of Tetrapian tally-hos, the winged bipeds rombed cumbersomely into the hunt."

82) Hell, some more coolness from the book and continuing the downright flirting between the two enemies:
'If only you didn't choose to waste your talents on superficial exploits, you could be quite brilliant, Doctor.'
'I'd never be as scientifically brilliant as you, Rani.'
'Flattery? Too obvious a ploy.'
'Not flattery. I deliberately said scientific brilliance. When it comes to the less attractive aspects of your nature, you're congenitally unbalanced.'
'You could have it wrong. What you call balance could be chaos.'
'Well, that's the way of the world and nothing can change it.'
'Nothing can change it? I think I can negate that fallacy.'

83) People always winge that the Rani wanting to conquer the universe is a degradation of her original character. Except the Doctor is the one boggling at her apparent change in aspirations, and the revelation is that she's been planning this since day bleeding one:
"'I've underestimated you. I thought science had blinded you. But it's power.'
'Wrong again.'
'They should never have banished you from Gallifrey. They should have locked you in a padded cell!'
'If the Time Lords hadn't refused to intervene in the pedestrian evolution of other species, a Time Manipulator wouldn't be necessary!'
'This - this monstrosity will give you the ability to change the order of Creation!'
'Creation's chaotic. I'll introduce order. An order based on logic not the capricious whims of chance."

84) Those scenes with Urak lumbering through the darkened laboratory are creepy. This is all.

85) For the first time it's the Doctor who does all the pop culture references rather than his companion, a trend that will culminate with the RTD years. Fair's fair, it's much more credible the Doctor would gasp "Shakespeare, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Elvis... Even Mrs Malaprop will never have existed!" than Mel would...

86) The Rani's entire scheme only stands the slightest chance of working because the Doctor absent-mindedly corrects a mistake the giant brain makes. Still, if YOU were standing next to a brain composed of the greatest geniuses in the universes and YOU were in a position to show you were smarter, wouldn't YOU?

87) A moment worthy of the Tenth Doctor and his water pistol. With nothing but righteous fury, the Seventh Doctor scares the shit out of a giant blood-sucking gun-weilding bat. Using only an umbrella that said bat KNOWS isn't a weapon. Who needs any of this "look me up" nonsense?

88) "'Faroon,' intervened Mel ardently, 'you've got two choices. Sit tight and wait for the Rani to load that Loyhargil into the rocket and blow up the asteroid. Or try to stop her. Believe me, reducing every Lakertyan to dust is an unimportant side-effect in her book!'
'A precise precis of what I've just said,' agreed the Doctor.

89) The Doctor relies entirely on Mel's know-how to disarm the deadly anklets. OK, the authors seem to think that any "computer expert" can rewire alien bombs, but it's no more ridiculous than the sort of wierd trivia that other time travellers can pick up - see Charley Pollard's amazing ability to rewire the Philadelphia Experiment even though she doesn't know what half the mechanics are called...

90) Urak's betrayal of the Rani is rather novel. He overhears her evil plans, yet she doesn't stupidly say something like "The Tetraps have outlived their usefulness!" It's only later when she tells Urak to stay behind to guard the place till the last moment (which Beyus ends up doing anyway), not realizing he knows its a suicide mission, that snaps him out of it. The realization that his mistress GENUINELY doesn't care whether he lives or dies, after all his good-natured ribs at her being sentimental, shocks him. A character arc for a giant bat. I love Doctor Who.

91) "'Hey, come on! This isn't a conducted tour!' yelled Mel. 'Don't just stand there gawping, Ikona. We've got to get all of these characters to the TARDIS!'
'You'll deafen them before we get there if you don't stop that squawking!'

92) "The approaching zero did not rufflle Beyus's calm. He had jammed the umbrella through the interior locking mechanism. This meant neither the Rani nor her loathsome acolyte, Urak, could get in... equally it meant he was trapped inside..." All together now. Awwwwww. Poor umbrella.

93) It's a scene that sums up the Seventh Doctor SO well. He cunningly wires all the bracelets to the brain, and then tricks the Rani into setting them off - destroying the brain and wrecking her plan. Fiendish! Except it also kills Beyus and undoes the sabotage to the missile. He's good at theory but rubbish at practical, ol' Seven.

94) So, a man puts aside all his principles for the common good, works demeaning labor, is forced to hear second hand that his daughter has been murdered in cold blood and then brutally and unnecessarily sacrifices himself by standing in the middle of a bomb. Crying. And people say this is a kid's story?!

95) If the missile misses the asteroid and hurtles off into space... what happens to it? What happens when it inevitably hits something? Sequel fodder alert!

96) Not only do the Tetraps have the amazing ability to grow a rock roof in a TARDIS control room, they also hang the Rani the right way up. This is clearly a vicious insult in the upside down Tetraptariyarban culture - even MEL got hung up the same way as the bat people did.

97) Given a tankard of anti-deadly-killer-insect-potion that would innoculate him against the things that killed his brother, Ikona throws it on the ground. Thus ensuring the Lakertyans don't immediately go back to their funky disco ways. At the very least ensuring they'll have to build a completely NEW disco to hang out at, anyway. And since none of the lizard people object, they either agree with him or are such no-fist losers they can't be bothered to oppose him. So either Ikona leads them to greatness or becomes a vicious dictator over a bunch of people who probably deserve it. Cause if they DO resist, that's just what Ikona wants. My head hurts.

98) There are twelve geniuses, so that means there are a minimum of twelve TARDIS trips to get them back. This gives us the possibility of twelve stories featuring the Seventh Doctor, Mel and Einstein. Matt Smith, for one, would punch the air at the sheer awesomeness on offer here.

99) Prior to the New Series, Time and the Rani was only story you could reenact with specific Doctor Who action figures (you'd need a few GI Joes to do Remembrance of the Daleks, not to mention the wrong sort of Davros). But with a TARDIS playset, the Seventh Doctor, two Mels and four Tetraps, suddenly the story could be remade in your bedroom. Bugger it, throw a green K9 in as well, he's cooler than Ikona any day...

100) This story gets its own sequel in The Rani Reaps The Whirlwind. That may not sound impressive, but only if you haven't heard it. Imagine a remake of Time and the Rani by the man who wrote the Torchwood episode about the sex gas monster that killed by orgasms. So there's gore, violence, tentacle rape, all done in Pip and Jane's inimitable style, with lines like "Sorry to grab you unceremoniously Sam but your foot nearly tripped that wire!" and "Talk of Tetraps has renewed my energy and I’m ready to go on!" competing with "Oooh, he's trying to protect your precious hymen, Lucy! Got to lose your virginity sometime!". Words simply fail me.

101) In The Twin Dilemma, the story ends with the new Doctor telling you that if you don't like him, well you can just fuck off. This story ends with the Doctor promising that, even if you're a bit uncertain about him after all this, he'd "grow on you".