The Android Invasion

This one was good, but for the first time this season, not brilliant. Which is a shame, as it had all the makings of a classic. The initial set-up, spread across the first couple of episodes, is brilliantly intriguing. There were times when I genuinely wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t, and I loved The Doctor spotting all the tiny clues that something was amiss.

The androids themselves were also excellent throughout – a good balance between the eerily uncanny and the dead-behind-the-eyes automaton. Unfortunately, the Kraals are not so interesting. They’re not bad, and I liked that Roy Skelton just used his actual Zippy voice, but they’re a bit generic and dull. Couldn’t we have done without them? I don’t see why the androids had to be the henchmen, rather than being behind it all themselves.

The whole thing felt very old-school, and slightly out of whack with the brave new direction the season has taken so far. I think it’s down to a combination of Terry Nation using the same old tropes as he’s been flogging since 1963, and the sleepy English village setting feeling very Pertwee. As does, of course, the presence of UNIT.

It wasn’t really much of a last hurrah for them, considering we only saw the non-android versions of them for a few minutes in Part Four. Lovely and unexpected though it was to see Harry, so much more could have been made of what it means to be an ex-companion. And I’ve just read that this is the last we ever see of Benton, and I feel conned. All he did was smile politely for a bit and then get knocked out.

Then there’s the lack of The Brigadier, which was made worse by the somewhat insulting decision to replace him with a one-off stand-in. Why couldn’t Benton have been deputising for him, and why didn’t anyone question who this other guy even was? Overall, if you’re not going to use them properly, I’d kind of rather UNIT weren’t involved – Terror of the Zygons would have been a much better send off.

There’s plenty to keep you entertained in this serial, not least the android duplicates of Sarah Jane and The Doctor, which were by far the best thing on offer. But frustratingly it never quite lives up to its promise, and as such it’s a little underwhelming.

RATING: 7

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Terror of the Zygons

I love Zygons, but prior to now have only ever seen them in the new series. Considering that The Day of the Doctor and The Zygon Inv[a/er]sion are two of my favourite stories of all time, the original had a lot to live up to.

And it’s probably a bit of a shame that I’ve seen it this way round, because while all the ingredients that have made their recent appearances so successful are present and correct, this serial doesn’t quite use them as effectively. There’s a hell of a lot going on – “UNIT vs Nessie” and “invading alien doppelgangers” are both stories that I want to see, but they could, and perhaps should, have been done separately. Both ideas seem slightly wasted when they’re completing for screentime in a four parter. Just let Zygons be Zygons.

I loved Evil Harry, which was played brilliantly by Ian Marter, but I just wish there was more of it. But the thing is, I’m probably only thinking along those lines because it worked so well with Clara, and I was hoping for more of the same. I feel ever so slightly underwhelmed, especially as I know this one’s considered an all time great, but it shouldn’t detract from what is a brilliantly gripping story, and a hugely impressive production, in itself.

The design of the Zygons is fantastic – instantly iconic and unforgettable. Nessie, not so much, but you can see what they were trying to do. There’s never a dull moment, and the Highland setting – though clearly shot several hundred miles to the south – was well realised, even if some of the accents weren’t. Intentionally or otherwise, the stereotypical Scottish bits are hilarious – the serial opens with a bloke asking for haggis, and ends with a gag about Scotch people being tight-fisted. No wonder they want independence.

It’s also great to see UNIT back in action for one last hurrah. I believe (please don’t confirm or deny) that this is their last appearance for a very long time. I’m kind of sad about that – mostly because of how brilliant the Brig and Benton are – but the show is clearly moving on. The Doctor is back to travelling the universe with nothing in his way, and he no longer needs anything to ground him. It was a great time for the show, but the show is nothing if it doesn’t change.

It’s also goodbye to Harry, from the looks of things. This is a shame, as character and actor alike are great. The received wisdom that his role was superfluous is nonsense – the three way dynamic in the TARDIS was working really well, and there was a real spark between him and Sarah Jane. He may have been an imbecile, but he was funny, charming and likeable with it. On the plus side, his exit makes sense in story terms – he never wanted to travel with the Doctor in the first place, and he was given the opportunity to make an informed decision. Best of luck to him – he’s off to invent an anti-Zygon gas, apparently.

I liked that Sarah was also given the choice of whether to stay at home or stick with The Doctor, and that she chose the latter. I share her enthusiasm to find out what adventures are to come…

RATING: 9

Robot

Yeah, I couldn’t resist staying away for too long. I might have to miss the odd day here and there for the next few weeks, but I couldn’t even last a full week without starting to miss my fix of new old Who. Well, I say ‘new’. I’ve seen most of Season 12 before, but quite a while ago and only the once, so it’s still more or less fresh to me now.

But anyway. This is one hell of an introduction to one hell of a Doctor. Escaping from the medical bay was very Pertwee, but the way the Fourth Doctor just dives feet first into the action within the first episode, with such innate joy and vigour, could only have been done by Tom. He’s just arrived fully formed, with his big eyes and infectious grin. He’s even offering the jelly babies round in his very first story. Incredible.

This was a time of much upheaval behind the scenes, but having the departing Letts and Dicks deliver this serial as a sort of bridge between the old and new regimes was extremely effective. It’s the tried and trusted technique of UNIT providing reassuring familiarity whenever anything changes, and it was particularly nice to see Benton – in what I assume is one of his last appearances as a semi-regular – promoted to second-in-command behind the Brig. He always was, in my head, even before Yates turned out to be a rotter.

And as with Liz and Jo in the past few seasons, UNIT has provided a ready-made new companion in Harry. He seems an amiable sort of chap, very much in the Chesterton/Steven mould. I know he’s not going to be around for that long (although I don’t know exactly when he’s off), and it’s easy to see that he’s probably going to be bit unnecessary alongside such a brilliant combination as Sarah Jane and #4. I literally forgot that he existed when he spent an episode or so undercover at Think Tank.

As for the story itself, it wasn’t particularly original, but it did what it had to do – provide Tom Baker with lots of opportunities to be daft, whilst also giving him character-defining moments of intelligence and triumph. The secret Nazi-esque society were pretty effective, and I liked Kettlewell (and his hair), but wasn’t hugely surprised when he turned out to be in on it. The big old eponymous robot himself is great – a fantastic design, and the Oedipal element is a nice touch. Some of the effects aren’t brilliant, but as always, I will cut them infinite slack for the sheer audacity required to even attempt such things at that time.

I know that this is probably hindsight, but this genuinely feels like the start of something new, exciting and above all special. The tweaked title sequence works a lot better with the TARDIS in place of the Pertwee cut-out, and the mere image of Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen on screen together is extremely pleasing. I’m also glad that four-episode serials are now the norm, with six-parters being saved for special occasions. Not all of them dragged by any means, but things are a lot more interesting when the setting and storyline change more frequently.

Oh, and I loved the fact that the locations were all shot on VT. I know it’s a very specialist area of interest, but the whole thing is much more immersive when you don’t have that jarring switch between formats whenever anyone goes outside. Another brilliant thing about this project is that I’m seeing a microcosm of “old” television slowly transforming into the form I remember from childhood. As someone who’s always been fascinated by every aspect of television production, Doctor Who is a perfect case study.

RATING: 9

Planet of the Spiders

I’ve seen two hugely climactic season finales this weekend, and enjoyed them both very much indeed. This one was much more of a mixed bag than the other, but it works incredibly well as a fitting end of an era. It was like the whole of Pertwee’s tenure was condensed into six episodes, with Dicks and Letts giving “their” Doctor one last hurrah before seeing him off and ultimately handing over the reins themselves.

Like most good stories this decade so far, it was firmly rooted with the now partially estranged UNIT family, with Benton and Brig the mum and dad holding everything together, while golden child Jo writes home about her travels and black sheep Mike thinks about what he’s done. There’s real links between the events of The Green Death, Invasion of the Dinosaurs and this, which makes everything seem all the more significant – when changes occur in these people’s lives, we see the consequences.

But as well as a little bit of UNIT, every other type of Pertwee story was also included: investigating a creepy supernatural cult; getting involved in a power struggle between colonists and alien natives; dealing with mind control, hypnosis and magic energy beams; repeatedly getting captured and escaping in order to fill a six-parter; and of course a massive multi-vehicle chase sequence across land, air and sea.

This was blatantly included purely for Pertwee’s benefit, and why not? It was part of a sense of fun spread throughout the early parts of the serial, such as the pissing about with the fake-not-fake clairvoyant, and the frequent back-references to the Third Doctor’s greatest hits. The scenes on Metebelis III are not quite on par with the rest of the episode – the two-legs aren’t interesting enough for us to care about them, and the spiders aren’t distinct enough from one another for their in-fighting to make much sense.

But the bits in the monastery were often superior, especially when they involved Tommy. What a lovely, compassionate character, even if some of the patronising attitudes towards him are so very 70s. Meanwhile, the redemption of Mike Yates was a good move – going back to see what happens next after a character’s story is seemingly concluded seems like a very New Who thing, and I totally buy him retreating to the countryside and becoming a bit of a hippy. It’s nice to think that he knows he’s done wrong, and that he’ll carry on investigating danger and having adventures in his spare time.

The redemption theme was very much in play towards the end, with The Doctor having to pay the ultimate price to atone for his greed. To be fair, I don’t think nicking a shiny crystal that a spider needs to take over the universe is quite punishable by regeneration, but the scenes in the final episode with K’anpo are so good that you don’t care if it’s all a bit OTT. Finally we meet a Time Lord who isn’t a complete shit. Is K’anpo the same guy as the hermit up the mountain, I wonder?

All of which leads up to a truly terrific regeneration scene, which manages to be both emotional and comedic, thanks to Sarah Jane and the Brigadier’s differing reactions to the situation. I feel like I’ve hardly mentioned Sarah Jane since she started, and that’s probably because she’s so good that it feels like excellence is par for the course. Just assume she’s kicking arse each and every episode.

So that’s it for the Third Doctor. I don’t feel the same sense of loss as I did when Troughton left, but that’s not to say that Pertwee wasn’t a magnificent Doctor. He was always charming and enthralling, but I think that after five seasons, a bit of change is probably for the best. He’s been a little out of sorts since losing Jo, and it seems harder for him to hit the same heights when he’s sparring against lesser evils than The Master.

Overall, Planet of the Spiders serves as the perfect swansong for this entire Pertwee/UNIT/Letts/Dicks era, while also promising much for the next phase. I know it’s all due to the hindsight of knowing how good the next Doctor is, but I couldn’t help but grin with anticipation at the sight of those curly locks…

RATING: 10

And as it’s the end of the season…

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.2

  • Seasons/Series watched: 11 of 35
  • Stories watched: 74 of 259
  • Individual episodes watched: 381 of 825

And unfortunately, despite how keen I am to see the hair and teeth in action, I’m going to temporarily pause it there. I’ve just had my longest uninterrupted run of exactly one episode a day for seventy straight days, but I’ve got so many work and social commitments coming up that I can’t keep up this pace without either falling behind on the blogs, or dying. It’s annoying, but at least I’m making it last longer.

So rather than squeezing an episode in here and there, this feels like a good place to take a small break until my schedule clears, which should be within a fortnight. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine by bookmarking or subscribing, so that you know when I’m back.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs

You know how I’ll always champion the use of special effects in early Who, regardless of whether or not they quite work, because of the fabulous innovation and imagination on display? Well, it’s a lot harder to forgive the faults when the effects are so integral to the plot, and when they’re this woeful.

There were a handful of decent sequences, such as the T-Rex bursting out of the aircraft hangar, and… no, that’s the only example I can think of. The textures were too rubbery, the motion too restricted and the least said about the floppy pterodactyls the better. The fight between the T-Rex and the brontosaurus at the start of Part Six should have been brilliant, but was just too comical. I wasn’t sure if they were fighting or kissing.

All of which is a shame, because there’s a fantastic story at the heart of this. The dinosaurs are a complete red herring; the meat is in the unraveling mystery of who’s behind it and why. The plot is full of twists and turns, and you can kind of see most of them coming, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Especially since one of them is truly shocking, in that it goes against character conventions in a brilliant way.

I’ve always thought Yates was a slimy little shit, so him turning double agent made perfect sense, especially given the duplicity he displayed in The Green Death. What’s shocking is that the Doctor has been completely and utterly betrayed by someone he should be able to trust. I’m not going to get into a debate about who counts as a companion and who doesn’t, but this is certainly the first time that a recurring goodie has turned out to be a baddie. Sure, The Brigadier’s done some dodgy shit in his time, but there’s no coming back from pulling a gun on your own men. The UNIT family now has a black sheep, and it can never be quite as cosy again. The show is beginning the process of leaving it behind.

Elsewhere, all the other traitors were great too, as were the rest of the guest cast. General Finch was clearly a bastard from the start, but I was genuinely fooled by Grover at one point. Also, that grey-bearded chap from the fake spaceship totally looks like Jeremy Corbyn. Typical BBC bias to portray him as a big old communist, aggressively brainwashing people to conform to his left-wing peace-loving ways. Never mind the Thatcher stuff in the 80s, it was incredibly prescient of them to satirise a Prime Minister 46 years in advance.

Another huge positive is Sarah Jane, who’s already showing exactly why she was the one companion from the classic era to be brought back all those years later. Ultimately though, this is a story that feels like it’s a couple of episodes too long. I was gripped and intrigued by the plot, but at the same time wishing it would develop just that little bit faster. I don’t always feel that way with six-parters, but I am glad that this is the last season where four-parters aren’t the norm.

Oh, and the Whomobile is rubbish. Bring back Bessie immediately.

RATING: 7

The Green Death

I cried, as I thought I might do. That’s got to be one of the most heartbreaking companion departures in the show’s history. The closing scenes are sheer joyful agony, with the Doctor devastated by his imminent loss despite knowing that it’s for the best, just like when it was his own flesh and blood. The giant leap from first meeting to marriage proposal was also very similar, but you can easily forgive that thanks to the beautiful way this story is constructed.

It’s got an elegant structure to it, and as a result it zips by, quickly establishing the situation in episode one by intercutting between the various factions involved, in order to get on with moving the plot forward without ever overwhelming the audience with information. That this is further intercut with the Doctor’s hilariously nightmarish trip to Metebelis III is the icing on the cake.

Meanwhile, Professor Jones is subtly being set up to be a young, human, sexy, Welsh version of The Doctor, which is solidified with the brilliant back reference to Jo being someone who can hand you test tubes and tell you how brilliant you are. By the end, she’s pulling favours for the Prof just like she did to meet the Doc, and she’s off to go adventuring in exotic locales in the name of science. This era of Doctor Who really knows what it’s doing, and it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s over forty years old – this is just great television.

Elsewhere, it’s lovely to have the Brig back after a relatively long absence – like slipping on a comfortable dressing gown, making you feel at home. And I see Yates is still alive and well after all, and he’s finally becoming useful and vaguely interesting. Despite only turning up halfway through, this was his best story yet, with his undercover shenanigans giving him the chance to do some very Doctorish things. And did I detect a little moment of heartache when Jo announced her engagement to another man?

Pertwee was on great form too, not only with the emotional goodbyes, but also getting a chance to do a bit of comedy. It’s surprising that the Third Doctor is so serious most of the time, given the actor’s Navy Lark heritage and future Worzel Gummidge infamy. But it’s great to see the Doctor’s penchant for disguise return, and he’s outstanding as both the milkman and, in particular, the cleaning lady.

And speaking of campness, BOSS is a bit flamboyant for a computer, isn’t he? Increasingly so throughout the serial, and he becomes all the better for it. His giddy singing and child-like distrait in the last episode is brilliant, and also a stark contrast to the visceral, creepy threat of the maggoty mine scenes that dominate the early episodes. This serial really does have everything, and it does everything well.

Well, almost everything. It’s a shame about the big papier mâché wasp, and the Welsh accents definitely aren’t as convincing as the ones in New Who. But who cares when there’s so many other brilliant little moments – the deeply disturbing but brilliantly underplayed suicide machine, the touching generation-spanning friendship between Jo and Bert, and of course The Doctor cock-blocking Professor Jones when he tried to seduce Jo in front of a log fire.

The CSO doesn’t always work, and it was especially weird when they were cutting between filmed locations and video-taped mock-ups within the same scene – I wonder whether they ran out of time on location, or whether these scenes were extended in the studio to pad out the running time? But despite how poor the effects look by today’s standards, I still always see them as a huge tick in an episode’s plus column. For a start, they wouldn’t have looked nearly as bad on a tiny CRT in the early seventies, plus they show incredible ambition and ingenuity; the production team utilising new technology in the pursuit of telling as big and impressive a story as possible. Coupled with great performances and brilliant writing, this is a golden age.

RATING: 10

Season 10 ends with a 10 out of 10. Milestone time!

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.8

  • Seasons/Series watched: 10 of 34 and two thirds
  • Stories watched: 69 of 257
  • Individual episodes watched: 355 of 821

That’s the highest average rating so far – the extra special tenth anniversary season very much living up to its promise. I’m now past half way through the classic era in terms of episode count, and this makes me slightly sad. But on the other hand, I can’t wait to have witnessed all the brilliance that’s still to come, starting with the first appearance of possibly the only companion who seems worthy of following Jo Grant…

The Three Doctors

It’s the start of season ten, and nobody in the production has seemed to notice that if you do one season each year, the start of the tenth season is actually much closer to the *ninth* anniversary than the tenth. But their lack of knowledge of how calendars work is a small price to pay for the joy of having our first multi-Doctor story a year early.

It’s such a pleasure to have Patrick Troughton in the TARDIS once more. He’s still my favourite ever Doctor (at the time of writing), and he slots back in effortlessly. The return of the old irreverence and obfuscating behaviour brings the contrast with his successor in to sharp focus, and it’s this clash of characters that provides some of the funniest scenes of all time. It’s great that Troughton’s presence ups Pertwee’s game, rather than overshadowing him – there’s a danger that bringing back long-gone elements from the past could make you pine for the old days, but Pertwee’s performance here reminds you that the role is still in safe hands.

It’s a shame that Hartnell couldn’t be more involved, and it’s probably best not to approach his performance with a critical eye. But the vacuum created provides great opportunities for the other regulars to play their part. The Brig is on fine form, playing it for laughs by becoming increasingly pissed off at everything he can’t understand, culminating in the brilliant “Cromer” line. Elsewhere, Jo’s utter devotion to the Doctor is further evolving into a fear of being separated, to such an extent that I’m blatantly going to be a blubbering mess come the end of this season.

It’s also a strong showing from Benton, who gets to have a go at being a proper companion for the Second Doctor, and takes it all in his stride. One thing, though – where’s Captain Yates? Were the injuries sustained in the doodlebug incident worse than we thought? I’m trying to work out how I’ll feel if he’s been quietly written out between seasons (I genuinely don’t know, so no spoilers please). I don’t think I’ll be too bothered – unlike Benton, he’s never really had much of a distinct character, and has always just been the spare army guy if the Brig is doing something else.

As well as being the first multi-Doctor story, this is also the first time we’ve really had a good look at Time Lord mythology. Having only seen bits and bobs of it during the classic series, I’ve always been a bit confused by this element of the show, so it’s great to see it all play out without having to worry about half-remembered bits from other stories. Omega himself is hammy as all hell, but entertaining with it. The reveal of his empty armour and his subsequent breakdown was compelling, and the earlier battle between the Third Doctor and Omega’s dark side was completely mental.

There were undoubtedly a few less successful elements, such as the fantastical world of anti-matter Omega creates looking just like an English quarry, the pan-dimensional monsters and wibbly video effect not being the most convincing, or the convenient way that the Second Doctor’s recorder fell into the forcefield generator and landed upright. But when there’s so much joy sprinkled throughout, and so many brilliant actors at the top of their game, this serial is nothing short of an absolute classic.

RATING: 10

The Time Monster

Seriously, what is wrong with Doctor Who fans? I genuinely don’t mean to be contrary, but it seems like every time I approach a story with no preconceptions, I like it a hell of a lot more than the people who, for example, voted it 222 out of 241 in the most recent DWM survey, below The Bloody Web Bloody Planet. And Before The Flood wasn’t that bad, but I’ll get to that in about three years.

Anyway, this story combined a huge amount of fun with all the drama you’d hope for in a season finale. You can’t fail to be delighted by The Master pissing about with time to thwart UNIT, or perfectly impersonating The Brigadier, or turning The Doctor’s voice backwards just to shut him up. The souped-up super-fast Bessie was also brilliant, as was Baby Benton. Little moments of joy sprinkled liberally throughout.

And as for the drama, the stakes were really ramped up. A lot of the cliffhangers were superb, particularly at the end of episode three with the Doodlebug crashing down on Captain Yates’s convoy, and the subsequent rare loss of composure from The Brig sold it as genuinely perilous. The Doctor’s speech about the hermit in the last episode was beautifully written and perfectly acted – both in Pertwee’s reading and Manning’s reactions.

A special mention for Katy Manning and Jo Grant, who both continue to absolutely shine. Jo is utterly fearless thanks to her total devotion to The Doctor – twice in this serial she has moments where she accepts the prospect of death, because life wouldn’t be worth living without him. Plus, her costume in the Atlantis scenes was really quite something.

It was nice to see a return to a historical setting, albeit a mythical one. I hadn’t quite realised how long it had been – you’ve got to go back to relatively early Troughton since we’ve seen anywhere that wasn’t contemporary, futuristic or alien. That said, episode five being set entirely in Atlantis, with no cutting back and forth with the present day, was a bit of a mis-step. It all went a bit Clavdivs and it was weird.

Also, obviously, great to have UNIT back for only the second time this season, but it’s a shame there wasn’t more for them to do towards the conclusion. Yates was hardly in it even before he was hospitalised, and Brig got frozen in time for half the serial. It was a strong outing for Benton, what with his various run-ins with The Master and the aforementioned Baby Benton, but it was disappointing that he wasn’t seen for two episodes after being youthed.

This lack of following through on ideas is all that stops this story from getting full marks. (Which reminds me, for those of you who have been paying attention – I’ve gone back and altered my rating for Day of the Daleks). Well, that and the initial manifestation of Kronos as a big flappy bird being a bit daft. It’s also hard to take something called a “TOMTIT device” seriously, and the time sensor thing, pictured above, totally looks like a cock and balls. Oh, and the inside out roundels are crap.

But seriously, that speech about The Doctor’s origins – along with the sheer number of times this serial made me exclaim with joy, shock or horror – makes this a worthy conclusion to what has been an excellent season. Not the season I was expecting, but with the exception of the damp squib of an opener, you can’t fault the results.

RATING: 9

So yes, with the season over, let’s have a look at the scores so far (with totals correct at time of writing):

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.4

  • Seasons/Series watched: 9 of 34 and a third
  • Stories watched: 64 of 255
  • Individual episodes watched: 329 of 817

Very much looking forward to what’s coming next, even though I’m already familiar with the next couple of stories. Weirdly though, the prospect of The Doctor being free to explore the universe unhindered once more doesn’t feel as exciting as it should, thanks to the fact that this season has played out like his exile has already been lifted. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see a couple of old friends again…

Day of the Daleks

They’re back, after an absence of 134 episodes, equating to about five months’ worth of my marathon. And after a five year break for the production team, it seems like they kind of forgot how to do them. The voices in particular are really off – staccato to the point of sounding hesitant. Where’s Zippy when you need him?

And yeah, you could totally tell that there were only three Dalek props available. I wasn’t aware that there even was an attempt to disguise the fact until I read about it afterwards – I assumed that the entire invasion had been carried off by just three Daleks, one of whom was gold. Maybe it would have been easier to pass them off as dozens if they were all the same colour, rather than attempting to suggest that they all hang around in groups of two greys and a gold.

I kind of liked my interpretation that all they’d subjugated and enslaved an entire planet with just three of them – it fits in to the descriptions in Dalek that made me fall in love with them in the first place. As it is, though, it’s another example of the shoddy workmanship that plagues this serial. The Ogrons weren’t terrible, but they were seemingly only there because they were cheaper to make than more Daleks, and the cheapness showed. With the exception of Aubrey Woods – who I always thought was creepy as fuck in Willy Wonka, so it’s no surprise he makes such a good villain – most of the guest cast are woeful. Then there’s weird little things like CSO elements disappearing from shot to shot, and the theme tune scream appearing after the cliffhanger resolves. Just why?

But the worst thing? You set up a scene at the beginning where The Doctor and Jo are visited by another version of The Doctor and Jo from the near future, seemingly from towards the end of the same serial. And then we get to the end of the serial… and there’s no corresponding scene where The Doctor and Jo visit their past selves. Not even a hastily-inserted line of dialogue to explain what that visit was all about. Unless they do something amazing, like resolve this hanging thread in the last episode of the season, I’m going to come back in time and remove one point from my rating for this episode.

EDIT: Yep, see below.

It’s a shame, because underneath all of that, there’s a decent story to be told, it’s just not the one that involves the Daleks. The stuff with the “ghosts” appearing at the manor house was much more intriguing than the dystopian future – again, Aubrey Woods aside – and that eventually developed into a brilliant timey-wimey story. Just as I was wondering how they could possibly resolve this plot without invoking a paradox, they go and explain that they’d been aware of that all along. It works well, and there are plenty of other good points – Pertwee and Manning are both on fine form, and there’s some great little UNIT moments, particularly those involving Benton, Yates and a plate of cheese.

But the problem is, apart from that little moment where they cycle through pictures of Hartnell and Troughton, I’d kind of rather The Daleks weren’t in it. This is not ideal for a long-awaited comeback. Overall, not an absolutely terrible serial, but I sincerely hope it’s not the best Dalek story I see this week.

RATING: 7 6

The Dæmons

Now, I don’t particularly like stories about magic, in Doctor Who or in general. It’s purely down to personal preference, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, it’s just that I prefer my sci-fi/fantasy to be heavier on the sci. So there was an element of trepidation as I watched the opening episodes of this one, especially considering the running gag of The Doctor being interrupted every time he’s about to give the rational explanation for everything that’s going on. I was a little concerned that this would continue for the duration.

But I should have just gone with it from the off, because as soon as the explanation did arrive – as cursory and functional as it was – I started enjoying the serial a lot more. There’s clearly a hell of a lot of fun to be had by casting The Master as the figurehead of a Satanist cult, and the whole thing about a sleepy picturesque village harbouring a secret network of hooded minions was very Hot Fuzz.

The scale of the story escalated perfectly as it went along, with really grim moments like Benton having the shit kicked out of him by an invisible force, and The Doctor being tied to a stake to be burnt alive by evil Morris dancers. In the end, the world may have been saved pretty much by accident, rather than with the culmination of a brilliantly cunning plan, but it was nice that it was Jo that saved the day – she’s been an absolute star of this season, which is no mean feat for Katy Manning considering the might of Pertwee, Delgado and Courtney. They are a fantastic ensemble.

Regardless of the convenient nature of Azal’s demise, the coda on the village green is the perfect end to a season, especially the subversion of The Master’s usual last-second escape. He’s finally captured, bringing his run of consecutive appearances to an end. Probably for the best, considering the need to keep things as varied and unpredictable as ever despite the current production restrictions. But here’s a sign of how brilliantly the character has worked up to this point – the big cliffhanger at the end of Episode Three is The Master’s life being in peril. It’s not The Doctor we’re worried for, or one of his companions, but an actual villain. That doesn’t happen very often.

Pleasingly, this was one of those serials that seemed rife with links to the future, intentional or otherwise. It was amusing to see “BBC 3” used as a “Jaws 19” type gag, although it does mean that the UNIT adventures are actually set in the 2000s at the earliest. Then there was the nerdy UNIT Sergeant named “Osgood”, which got me wondering whether I’d missed a line in The Day of the Doctor. Turns out Moff wrote her to be this Osgood’s daughter, but didn’t include it in the script. I love the fact that the daughters of two different characters from the 70s are working together for the same organisation in the modern day.

Best of all, though? The lines “reverse the polarity” and the impeccable: “Chap with the wings, there. Five rounds rapid.” That line in particular encapsulates this whole era of the show. It’s completely distinct from everything that came before or after, but it’s oh so charming and captivating.

RATING: 9

And so we reach the end of another season – these are coming round much more frequently now that the show has a far more sensible production schedule…

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.2

  • Seasons/Series watched: 8 of 34
  • Stories watched: 59 of 253
  • Individual episodes watched: 303 of 813

Ooh, the total number of stories and episodes will have gone up next time I do this bit. And the top figure will be out of 34 and a bit. But before that, I’ve got an appointment with some old friends. Brief cameos aside, I’ve not seen hide nor hair of a Dalek since the middle of April, and this ridiculous state of affairs must stop immediately.