The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End

Well, there is certainly a lot to process here, having experienced this rather epic tale for the first time since broadcast. And I haven’t had to tag this many returning characters since The Five Doctors (or possibly Dimensions In Time). There are more notes to make than I have time; brace yourself for a fuckload of small to medium sized bullet points.

* This is essentially the entire four years of the revival thus far in one go. It’s a pleasantly nostalgic greatest hits package, celebrating a truly brilliant period in the show’s history, but the joy is slightly tempered by the knowledge that they’re going to do all this again in five episodes’ time.

* Well, Torchwood are less sweary and sex-obsessed than usual. They seem to be over Owen and Tosh already, which should save some time come Series 3. Over on the other spin-off, poor old Maria and Clyde weren’t invited to the party, but at least Mr Smith is better now. The last time we saw him, he was intent on killing Sarah Jane and destroying the world, but this was probably not the occasion to dwell on that.

* The obligatory RTD Episode 12 celebrity cameos: Richard Dawkins! Why is he there doing spacey sciencey stuff? He’s a biologist; it should have been Brian Cox or suchlike, but then Brian Cox isn’t married to an ex-companion. Also, Paul O’Grady! And his dog! Ianto’s a big fan, even if the rest of us aren’t.

* Usually when the human race is threatened by aliens, they all band together and look after each other. This time, they react by setting fire to shit and looting, to the extent that nobody notices Rose running round with a big space gun, at least not until she starts threatening people with it.

* Sarah Jane’s reaction to the Daleks nearly got me going. All four former companions were scared, but it was especially emotional when it was Sarah Jane, hearing those voices again after so many years. The sheer terror they inspire in these characters really sells them as a threat. It’s interesting that these days, the villains are shown to react like that upon realising they’re up against The Doctor.

* It’s a shame that The Doctor spends so long poncing around with the Shadow Proclamation while the exciting Dalek stuff happens without him. While he’s there, he says “someone tried to move the Earth before” – I assume he’s talking about Dalek Invasion of Earth, but does the fact that he said “someone” mean that they’ve retroactively decided that Davros was behind that? If so, excellent.

* Speaking of whom, Davros is utterly excellent. He’s got a metal hand! Within moments, he’s shown admonishing a Dalek for sounding proud, keeping their emotions in check. Considering how much they veered from their fundamental principles in their last appearance, it’s a good statement of intent now that their dad’s back.

* The spooky woman in the Shadow Proclamation who tells Donna that she’s “sorry for the loss that’s yet to come” – that’s a dickish thing to do. If you’re a soothsayer and you can see that something terrible is about to happen to someone, either come out with it so that they can prepare, or just say nothing. Don’t vaguely allude to it and then fuck off.

* So, bees are aliens, and they abandoned the planet when they sensed its impending destruction? The last ever bee message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to ingest nectar, process it and store the resultant substance in a honeycomb, but in fact the message was this: “So long and thanks for all the pollen”.

* I have SO MUCH TO SAY on the big Harriet Jones conference call. Highlights include:

  • Cribbins saying that webcams are “naughty”.
  • Sarah Jane telling Torchwood off for using guns, as it’s not suitable for Luke.
  • Martha’s mum getting a cameo for not particular reason, although it’s nice for her to get some closure on her abandonment issues from the fact that Martha subconsciously chose to teleport home.
  • The Mr Copper Foundation? Not sure he quite warranted a mention, but then everyone else from the last four years seems to be getting one.
  • Rose being jealous of Martha, in a neat role reversal.
  • While everyone’s firing up their supercomputers and their secret alien technology, Martha’s big contribution to the effort is forwarding on a phone number.

Wasn’t as keen on Harriet attempting to justify her Belgrano move on the basis that this latest alien invasion proves that you need to kill all aliens. However, her ultimate sacrifice does provide redemption her character deserved.

* When The Doctor joins the party, he says that “everybody except Rose” is there. Everybody? Has he forgotten the dozens of companions he had when his adventures were 4:3? Justice for Dodo.

* Then Jack fucks off to find the Doctor, abandoning Torchwood and leaving Gwen and Ianto to the Daleks, and then comes the big reunion. Despite not having been on board with the returned Rose thus far, it put a big grin on my face and nearly a tear to my eye. How perfectly tragic would have been if the Doctor actually regenerated at this point, so that she got so close but still never touched her Doctor again. The giant fuck-off “TO BE CONTINUED” that followed is a bit stupid, but kind of justified – it really is one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time.

* Sadly, the resolution to said cliffhanger is all very convenient, with each individual threat neutralised by a hitherto unmentioned safety net: Mickey and Jackie turning up (sans Pete, sadly), Torchwood’s magic bubble and The Doctor’s sneaky hand job. It’s not deus ex machina – very few people who use that term as criticism seem to know what it means – it’s just a bit of a shame. They got away with quick and easy cliffhanger resolutions loads in the old days, but that’s because there were at least three of them per story – with this one, the resolution would ideally have matched the epic nature of the set-up.

* A few random notes from the opening stages of Journey’s End: DALEKS SPEAKING GERMAN! It seems so right, for reasons obvious to anyone who’s watched Genesis. / The Doctor is not often this scared. This is good. / When Jack’s body got incinerated, how come his clothes didn’t?

* All these years later, I’m still not sure what I think about the Meta-Crisis Doctor. I mean, it’s a complete waste of a regeneration, considering he thinks it’s his penultimate one, but it’s kind of cool to have a double dose of TV’s greatest hero. That is until he starts talking like Donna. The only thing more annoying than Catherine Tate doing comedy is David Tennant impersonating Catherine Tate doing comedy.

* Davros wants to destroy reality itself. This is certainly in keeping with the core principle that every non-Dalek life-form must be destroyed, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory. Destroying all matter as well as all life would make them supreme masters of absolutely nothing.

* Other than that, absolutely everything Davros-related is amazing. The moment where he recognises Sarah Jane is even better than when she recognised him. On an intellectual level, I think Davros betters The Doctor for the first time; the argument that his companions turn into weapons is not something I would have necessarily agreed with, but Davros convinced me. His final victory indeed. The montage of all the people who have died in The Doctor’s name was RTD going all JNT on our ass.

* It’s the perfect build up to a big climax, with all the ex-companions’ individual plans failing one by one, and the TARDIS rising from the ashes. But then the day is saved by Donna suddenly becoming magic. I know I didn’t complain when it was a magic version of Rose fixing everything, but this is why this blog is a document of an experience, rather than a series of objective reviews – it may not be fair, but it’s how I reacted. I just don’t like Donna very much. And the only thing more annoying that David Tennant doing smug is Catherine Tate impersonating David Tennant doing smug.

* Which is a bugger, because everything else is very good indeed: Sarah and Rose exchanging pleasantries while shoving a malfunctioning Dalek around; Captain Jack’s cheery suggestion of a multi-Doctor orgy; Dalek Caan turning out to be a traitor. I actually shouted “YES!” when K-9 popped up to say hello.

*The Meta-Crisis Doctor is faced with the old do-I-have-the-right dilemma, but he presses the button without thinking twice. That’s not The Doctor. The proper Doctor offers to save Davros, and he’s right to later chastise Pretend Doctor for committing genocide. In his defence, he was forged in battle, like The War Doctor before him. Perhaps the process extrapolated and personified all the worst, most dangerous aspects of The Doctor, like the triplicator in Red Dwarf, or Richard Herring playing himself at snooker.

* Can you imagine the ecological damage that’s done by dragging the Earth from one end of the universe to the other? Nevertheless, it’s a joyous scene to end the episode… except that there’s still ten or fifteen minutes to go. We then get a long sequence of long goodbyes. Why exactly does he drop off Sarah Jane, Jack and Martha all in the same park? Ealing is nowhere near Cardiff.

* I’ve been trying to figure out whether Rose’s return diminishes the impact of her initial departure. I don’t think it does – I still cried like a baby when I rewatched it recently. It’s like how people complain that a cover version “ruins” a song, or a remake “destroys” a movie – no it doesn’t, because the original still exists. However, the beautiful tragedy of these two soulmates being forever separated is certainly altered by Rose being given a Doctor-shaped sex doll. It’s just all a little grubby – he’s not The Doctor, not the same man she fell in love with, but she’s happy to make do with a lookalike, even though he’s out there continuing his life without her? Nah. At the very least, we should have got to finally hear him – either of him – say “I love you” to Rose. That would have at least provided some level of genuine closure for the audience, if not the characters.

* Sadly, if predictably, the “a companion will die” prophecy turns out to be bullshit, as it was before and has been since. The memory wipe isn’t even a particularly stable metaphor for death – it’s actually saving her life. I found the sight of The Doctor enacting the procedure without her consent, while she’s pleading with him not to, a little disturbing. I mean, he’s doing the right thing, but Moff dealt with this issue a lot better with Clara.

* But at least this deed is a promise that Donna will never come back. Wilfred is damn right when he says “she was better with you” – he must be gutted to have to live with the old Runaway Bride Donna again. The permanently miserable Sylvia can do one and all, but Cribbins is just the best. Despite the high levels of emotion throughout, his goodbye to The Doctor was the only moment that made me shed a tear. Seriously, he’s one of the best actors the show’s ever had. Ever.

* Favourite Dalek lines: “The abomination is insane.” / “The males, the females, the descendants.” / “My vision is NOT impaired.” / “Exterminate Torchwood.”

So, what to make of all this, after comfortably the longest post in the history of this blog? Well, The Stolen Earth is one of the best episodes ever, but Journey’s End not so much. As has been the case for much of Series 4, I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to look past the faults now that so much time has passed – it’s not the “current” show any more, it’s just one brief chapter in a long history. Rather than having to worry about what state the show is in, or which direction it’s heading, I can just judge it on its sheer entertainment value. On that level: massive, massive win.

RATING: 9

And so I come to the end of a series that I thought I hated, but then when you look at the scores…

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 7.5

  • Seasons/Series watched: 30 of 35.58
  • Stories watched: 198 of 269.67
  • Individual episodes watched: 751 of 834

…the average rating is actually higher than Series 2 (although admittedly, Fear Her is a massive statistical anomaly). I dunno. I still dislike Donna, and I’m definitely starting to go off Tennant by this point, but again, with so much water under bridge, I can now look past those annoyances and see what else each episode has to offer. I guess the conclusion is that there’s very little Doctor Who that’s without a significant amount of merit, but sometimes it’s just a case of taking a few steps back before you can see it.

And now, a short break for a wedding, to coincide with the first of revived Doctor Who‘s short breaks. Join me again in a few days to begin another voyage through a whole bunch of spin-offs and specials.

Remembrance of the Daleks

Oh, wow. The last season showed improvement at a steady and somewhat slow pace, but this is something else. The show has spent three seasons in a state were the highlights are only as good as the more average episodes of any other era, and now all of a sudden they deliver one of the finest serials of all time.

The pre-credits sequence suggests we’re in for something special, and the scale is impressive right from the start, with massive explosions left right and centre, and no delay whatsoever in wheeling out some heavy Dalek action. It’s the first time since the early 70s that they’ve been allowed to take centre stage, and the culmination of the civil war arc gave us some amazing Dalek-on-Dalek violence, along with the sheer brilliance that is the Special Weapons Dalek. The spaceship landing in the school playground was beautiful too – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, late 80s BBC practical effects are so very special.

The stair-climbing cliffhanger to Part One is also amazing – one of the best ever – and it’s one of many moments that make this feel, in retrospect, like the new series came early, and not just with the idea of The Doctor being caretaker at Coal Hill School. Taking elements from the Doctor’s past and adding new meaning is the big one, and instantly the Seventh Doctor is a vastly improved character thanks to the huge dollop of mystery that’s just been layered on top of him. I love not knowing what The Doctor’s up to, and it allows the story to be all about him, rather than the usual trick of him stumbling upon something and getting in the way. His scheming is a joy to behold, and I’m totally on board with The Doctor being this powerful and manipulative.

McCoy is really bringing something unique to the role now; a serious side that allows for a deep discussion about slavery with Geoffrey from the Fresh Prince, but without losing the humourous side that allows him to mock Davros with shouts of “unlimited rice pudding”. (Hey, that’d make a good name for a website, that.) It feels like a lot of time has passed between seasons, and that he and Ace have been travelling together for a while – no need for a gentle getting-to-know-you adventure, they’re already firm friends.

And yes, in only her second appearance, and her first as a full companion, I can already see why all my Whovian friends adore Ace. She outs a traitor, expresses horror at racism, and beats the shit out of several Daleks with a super charged baseball bat. What’s not to like? She’s already a much more rounded character than in her debut, and her vulnerabilities seem much more real this time, along with her mannerisms. I think I’m in love.

There was so much going on here that it’s easy to forget that it’s also an anniversary story. Unlike Attack of the Cybermen returning to Totters Lane seemingly arbitrarily, Remembrance uses links to the show’s past as a way of enhancing its own story, by posing the question of what the First Doctor was doing there in the first place. This is where other recent nostalgia trips have gone wrong – you have to build on what’s gone before, otherwise you’re just repeating yourself. No danger of that here.

Other miscellaneous notes include: The creepy nursery rhyme music cues are equal parts disturbing and silly. Michael Sheard playing an evil teacher is wonderful for obvious reasons. And hey, there’s the great George Sewell, playing an actual Nazi sympathiser. Between those two and the aforementioned soon-to-be-Will-Smith’s-butler, that’s three really recognisable faces playing relatively minor parts, with the more major guest characters being played by actors that I’m less familiar with.

Actually, it’s a shame this story is set before the UNIT era, as it could quite easily have been them instead of this Counter Measures outfit. Mike Smith is easily as slimy and turncoaty as his UNIT namesake. But really, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is the kind of story that reaffirms my love for Doctor Who all over again, and while it’s unreasonable to expect this to be the standard for the next two seasons, the fact that a story like this can pop up out of nowhere means that it was such a pity when they pulled the plug so soon afterwards.

RATING: 10

Revelation of the Daleks

This was one of the first Classic Whos I ever watched, but I only ever watched it once, because I thought it was complete rubbish. I’ve now realised that my issue was probably with the trappings of this particular era – the Doctor and some of the production values are rubbish, but this is by no means a bad serial overall, and it stands head and shoulders above the rest of this season.

I remember finding the plot confusing the first time round, but I think it benefits from knowing more about Davros and the Daleks – I’ve now seen their story play out in the order it was intended, and this is a decent installment of the ongoing civil war thread. The highlight is the scene in the catacombs, with the truly gruesome and scary mid-conversion mutant. One of the few all time classic scenes from the Sixth Doctor’s time, and tellingly him and Peri aren’t in it.

This was the case for much of the first part in particular – what little we did see of them was some irritating bickering and some extremely dodgy, sexist bullshit about Peri putting on weight. 1) That’s absolutely no way for the Doctor to talk about a companion; 2) You can talk, you fat fuck. The pair wandered around while a story happened independently in the distance, which did give us the great, chilling moment of The Doctor finding his own grave. The cliffhanger was slightly let down by the statue falling in neatly-segmented polystyrene chunks, and indeed by the resolution, which revealed that it was only polystyrene after all.

There was more screen time for the pair in Part Two, and The Doctor/Colin was actually on decent form – he seems to work much better when he’s separated from Peri. But again, he felt disconnected from the story. It obviously had to end in a face-to-face meeting between him and Davros, but that meeting didn’t amount to much more than an amputated hand. The main plot was still happening around him, and would have played out much the same had he not been there at all; his sole contribution to the resolution was to make Davros turn his back on Orcini so that he could grab the bomb.

Nevertheless, it was an exciting conclusion, particularly the Dalek infighting, and Davros hovering around like it ain’t no thing. Much like Caves of Androzani (but obviously nowhere near as good), it relies on a rich and complicated back-story to create an interesting tale to tell regardless of the Doctor’s presence, with a large guest cast to back it up. It’s almost a little too densely packed at times – Eleanor Bron turned up out of nowhere, and I struggled to see how she fitted in until quite late on, but it all works if you give it a chance.

Orcini and Bostock were a lot of fun, and Clive Swift did a good job of portraying a completely unlikeable bastard, which can’t have been much of a stretch. I do wish the show would stop using being creepy towards Peri as way of defining their character, though, as it’s usually quite uncomfortable to watch. I spent all serial wondering what to make of Jenny Tomasin as Tasambeker – she clearly can’t act for toffee, but I couldn’t help but like her, and I was totally on her side as she plunged that needle into the odious Jobel.

And then there’s Alexei Sayle. One of my favourite performers of all time, in one of my favourite shows of all time. But his role is so weird. I couldn’t stand it the first time round, and the disappointment was a key factor in me writing the serial off as a stinker. I liked it a lot more this time – I’d forgotten about the bits where Peri comes to see him, which fleshes him out a lot more and gives his presence a clearer purpose, but I do still find him highly incongruous prior to this point.

But hey, it’s something new and original after over twenty years. There’s been a few little things like that among the dross of this season. This story is clearly the standout, and it was the most I’ve enjoyed watching Who since Colin took over. But I don’t think I’ll ever truly adore any story with this Doctor, written and performed in this arrogant, patronising and smug manner. With the knowledge of what’s to come, this serial is most likely the closest any Colin story comes to greatness.

Oh, and I thought there was some sort of DVD error at the very end, until I read that it was an inadvertent cliffhanger, brought about by necessity. “All right, I’ll take you to… an eighteen month hiatus!”

RATING: 8

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 6.33

  • Seasons/Series watched: 22 of 35
  • Stories watched: 142 of 263
  • Individual episodes watched: 639 of 826

To get me in the mood for the next fortnight of joy (I’ll be dealing with each section individually, btw, even though I’m counting it as all one story), I’ve just listened to Doctor In Distress for the first time, and watched the video. Jesus Christ. It’s not exactly Band Aid, is it? It’s not even Band Aid 20. It was slightly before I was born, but even so – I didn’t recognise anyone other than the various embarrassed-looking Who actors and the somewhat incongruous Faith Brown. You can really tell that the talents behind the song were the same as that for the K-9 and Company theme tune. We should be grateful the series came back at all after this.

Resurrection of the Daleks

I’m back, and so are they, and therefore so is he. I’m committed to watching the episodes as originally broadcast where possible, so I had to wait until I had enough spare time for 45 minute episodes (which thankfully won’t too much a problem for Colin’s first year), and this serial was well worth the wait. The extended running time, combined with brilliant production values, made this feel very special.

It would indeed have made a superb conclusion to the anniversary season, which was the original intention – it even had a montage of (almost) all the old companions, including Katarina and Sara. The story was suitably epic; in a similar way to Earthshock, it took an iconic baddy from the 60s and put them into an action setting. And it did that very well, which is to be expected when you see the name “Peter Wragg” in the credits. As well as the effects, the locations and sets were also top-notch.

The Daleks are used a lot more effectively than they have been for a long time, anniversary cameo aside. For the first time, the mutant itself is dangerous outside of its travel machine, which allows them to add a tense, Alien-style section to break up the standard Dalek stuff. We also see the first seeds of the Daleks breaking off into factions, thus providing further new avenues to explore next time.

Your man Davros is played a hell of a lot better than he was last time, but – having already seen Revelation and Remembrance – it’s now confirmed that they never came close to bettering his first appearance until Julian Bleach came along. Here, he could do with calming down a bit; his long sleep having seemingly made him very grumpy and shouty. Terry Molloy’s incarnation was definitely Davros’s Curious Orange phase.

It’s a shame that there’s only one scene between Davros and The Doctor, but it’s a belter. It’s neat that the Genesis dilemma is referenced, and interesting that The Doctor now believes his decision to be wrong. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but it makes for a compellingly tense scene between the two old adversaries, where you’re genuinely not sure whether the Doctor will pull the trigger or not, and in the end, the decision is taken out of his hands.

Davison’s Doctor is getting slightly darker as he nears regeneration, and this is probably the most grimly violent serial we’ve seen since the days of Hinchcliffe and Holmes. It’s not just the high body count – although it is pretty damn high – it’s the casual manner of many of the deaths. It was getting to the point where I was grimacing with (enjoyable) discomfort with each new killing, particularly that poor metal detecting man near the end.

It’s good that the show acknowledges all of this, which brings me on to the other big part of this story. It’s incredibly effective to have a companion wanting to leave out of disgust at what they’ve witnessed, especially as it’s partly The Doctor himself that’s caused it. It’s a wake-up call for him – people usually leave because he’s made them a better person and they’ve got a new calling, not because he’s actually making their life worse.

I hadn’t really thought about it, but Tegan has been around for bloody ages at this stage – her episode count is up there with Jamie, Jo and Sarah Jane, but I don’t feel like she’s anywhere near as iconic as those three. I’ve never really been sure whether or not I like her, but I must admit that her lonely utterance of “brave heart, Tegan” got me right in the heart. I’ll miss having her around, as from what little I’ve seen of the rest of the classic run, we’re not going to have a strong female companion now until the very last one.

I can’t let this one pass without mentioning the absolutely stellar guest cast. Rodney Bewes! Rula Lenska! Dirty Den! The guy who conned Del Boy by faking a heart attack! All of the above are great, particularly Bewes with his varied and conflicted performance. Some of the prison ship staff were not so good, but I did like Lytton – I’ve since learned that he’s coming back pretty soon, which is an unexpected addition to my recurring enemies list.

Do you know what? Fuck it, I was going to give this an 8 or a 9, but I’ve talked it up to a 10. It’s got pretty much everything I want from a Doctor Who story, and on-form Daleks are always worth a bonus point or two. As is an on-form Davison, and I’m sad that his tenure will be over so soon…

RATING: 10

Destiny of the Daleks

Right, first of all, let’s get it out the way. I didn’t mind the regeneration scene. I’d probably have preferred a proper regeneration, with Mary Tamm present and an actual reason, and I had a nagging voice in my head throughout telling me that the way she’s burning through those incarnations is sick and wrong, but sod it, it was funny, and Tom and Lalla are great together already. They instantly feel like a proper little team of friends, more so than with Romana I. She’s even got her own ridiculously long scarf.

Their first task is to explore an absolutely beautiful location, which is very well directed. Between the scenery and all the low-angle steadicam shots, Skaro has never looked so good. Some of the studio sequences let it down somewhat, with some battered looking props and unconvincingly bare sets. Why have the Daleks got so many studio lights knocking about?

But despite their casings looking a little worse for wear, it is good to have the Daleks back after such a long time – the gap between this and Genesis is almost as long as the gap between Evil and Day. I couldn’t help but grin when they smashed their way into the story. There really is no monster quite as good as them.

The drama ramped up nicely throughout the first two episodes, peaking with the reveal of Davros. But sadly, it all went downhill with his introduction. This is not the Davros I recognise. Quite aside from the complete lack of wit, machiavellianism or subtlety in the writing, he didn’t even have the right voice. Had the new actor not bothered watching Genesis? With the Daleks subservient to this rubbish impression of Davros, someone powerless to prevent the Doctor pushing him around like something out of Weekend At Bernie’s, the story fell apart fairly quickly. Although I did very much enjoy the Doctor telling some Daleks to “spack off”.

The Movellans were fairly interesting, and I liked that one of them was McClaren from Porridge. More could have been made of the idea of two computer-controlled superpowers locked in a logical stalemate – mirroring the mutually assured destruction aspect of the Cold War, just as that was all about to flare up again in real life. But ultimately they were defeated extraordinarily easily – they’re supposed to be on a par with the Daleks, but they keep their vital batteries loosely strapped to their hips?

I can’t help but come away disappointed after those first two episodes (yes, “episodes”, not “parts”, apparently) were so good. Also, any story that sidelines K-9 to such a degree is always going to put my back up. On the plus side, you can really see Douglas Adams’s influence shine through, especially with the Doctor reading a book by Oolon Colluphid, which made me laugh and applaud.

Oh, and here’s an idea. You know when Romana fakes her own death to escape from the Dalek mines? What if it had been Mary Tamm’s Romana up until that point, and she’d actually died from radiation poisoning, having been separated from The Doctor and his supply of anti-radiation drugs? Then she could have regenerated into Lalla Ward shortly after being buried. Damn, now I’ve thought of that, the actual regeneration just got worse in comparison.

RATING: 7

Genesis of the Daleks

I quite liked that episode. I thought it was good.

It is of course impossible to say much else that hasn’t already been said, and I knew that this would be the case, having seen this serial several times before. What’s added by watching it in sequence is the realisation of just how much it stands out against recent Dalek outings, none of which have been truly great since the black and white days. It’s also Terry Nation’s most original story since the Hartnell era – not a petrified jungle in sight.

I’ve also realised that it’s not until fairly late on that this serial becomes so remarkable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely brilliant throughout, it’s just that the rest of the series is also mostly brilliant. The first three or four episodes represent a fairly standard adventure, albeit one where the quality is a little higher than normal. But towards the end, when Davros and The Doctor start interacting… oh, man.

Davros has arrived completely fully formed, and his ruthless and complex machinations are so entertaining that you’re almost on his side as he arranges to utterly destroy Thals and Kaleds alike. He also looks and sounds brilliant, and it’s an astonishingly good performance from Michael Wisher. When he links up with Tom Baker, it turns into a tense, psychological and philosophical battle, made all the more effective by the mutual respect between both characters and actors. The chat about the hypothetical armageddon virus is perhaps the best individual scene in the series so far.

That is until the next episode, which has the “do I have the right?” scene. It works because it’s so ambiguous as to whether The Doctor is doing the right thing, and the show doesn’t attempt to present a definitive answer. The whole of the first five episodes builds up to that moment, with layer upon layer of moral ambivalence. It’s the very essence of The Doctor – he creates a possible solution to all his problems, then considers the morality of his actions for so long that he chickens out of making a decision all together.

But even aside from these huge moments, it’s just a brilliant story from start to finish. Nyder is such a perfect sniveling little shit that he’d be the highlight of most serials. The war zone seen at the start is one of the most gritty and realistic ever depicted in the show, and the Thals using Mutos as slave labour is equally grim. Plus, perhaps thanks to how sparingly they’re used, this is the best Dalek action we’ve seen for ages too – Zippy on top form as they hoist Davros with his own petard, with their emergence as the xenophobic maniacs we know and love had me grinning from ear to ear.

And as for Tom Baker, it’s hard to believe that this is only his first season. He quite simply *is* The Doctor, even at this early stage. Basically, this has been the highlight of my Christmas.

RATING: 10