Shada (2017)

When the rumours about this release started circulating, I wasn’t convinced that the world really needed another version of Shada. Then when the details started coming out about what it actually involved, and how ambitious it was, I decided quite quickly that yes, we did need this after all. Suddenly the pictures I’d seen on Facebook of Mike Tucker and Peter Tyler dressed in seventies clothing made a lot more sense.

I was surprised to discover that, unlike the previous attempts, the story is presented as one big two-and-a-bit-hours special, and not in its original six parts. With the opening Think Tank scene moved to before the titles, it’s clear that a decision has been taken to convert the original footage into a modern production, rather than a simple recreation of how it would have been presented in 1979. This is fair enough – I don’t mind deviations from historical accuracy if historical accuracy isn’t the main aim – but it was a little annoying for me, as I’d anticipated spacing this out over the course of six days.

I didn’t have time to watch it in one go during the working week, and I was buggered if I was going to lose five of my seven remaining viewing sessions at this stage, so I ended up consulting an episode guide and hitting pause whenever I reached what would have been the end of a part. It wasn’t too bad, the only issue being that some of the cliffhangers didn’t quite work in this format, with footage from either side of the break having been smushed together to form continuous scenes.

Despite this, this is by far the easiest version of the story to follow, and the most likely to engross. Regardless of the modern format, the attempts to make the material as consistent as possible really pay off. The music sounds like it could have been recorded in the 70s, in sharp contrast to the 90s VHS version, and the model shots are absolutely spot on. The location filming looks lovely on Bluray, and the animation is great – it’s a curious mix of 2D and 3D, which took me a few scenes to get used to, but it came into its own in the various spaceship locations, which were very impressive indeed.

Thanks to all of this effort, it’s far less jarring than you’d expect when they cut between old footage, new footage and animation. Well, the Doctor’s voice does noticeably age by a few decades every now and then, but that can’t be helped, and all the voice performances are pretty good regardless. The only shame is that they didn’t take the opportunity to get John Leeson in to dub over the shit K-9, but you can’t have everything.

The ending is of course absolutely lovely. I’m not convinced that it makes complete sense, but I don’t really care. This production is a labour of love, by the fans for the fans, and while an octogenarian Tom Baker, in his actual costume in the actual TARDIS, grinning like a loon down the camera might be an odd way to end a proper episode, it feels perfectly apt for this.


One episode to go. One day to go. Crikey.

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

This was, of course, the final component of our 50th anniversary party, and I remember it being somewhat of a surprise to see it appear on the red button during the evening. After everything we’d seen that day, we were all slightly delirious already, and so a surreal, fourth wall smashing mockumentary featuring pretty much every living cast member of the original series blew our minds.

It could so very easily have been awful, but it’s genuinely funny throughout, and the three main Doctors involved are all such endearing company. Everyone was more than willing to send themselves up in every way imaginable, from Colin forcing his family to watch Vengeance on Varos to Sylv gleefully boasting about being in The Hobbit at every opportunity. He’s the stand-out performer overall – the way he says “I’d like to go home now” so solemnly when he’s stuck in a TARDIS is exquisite.

The astounding amount of cameos are a joy, and are too numerous to mention them all; I loved the audacity of having about a dozen companions all appear at once, as part of a homage to Davison’s regeneration. Two of the most memorable appearances were the two showrunners – Moffat playing with his toys, and Russell “The” Davies with his “quel dommage!” catchphrase. Then there’s Frank Skinner and David Troughton turning up to be mostly-silent Dalek operators and – brilliantly – Rhys Thomas appearing as Gary Bellamy on Davison’s radio.

I make it six Doctors who make proper appearances, thanks to the tiny cameos by Smith and Tennant. Paul McGann gets a full scene, and it’s a shame that he’s not in it more, but perhaps he was busy doing his own fiftieth anniversary mini-special – I wonder if he knew that he’d be doing Night of the Doctor when they were making this. It’s also a shame that Tom couldn’t be arsed, but similarly, at least he did contribute elsewhere, and I wouldn’t swap the Curator for him turning up in this. And they dealt with it in the best possible way, with the same Shada snippet as used in the actual Five Doctors.

This was one of several wonderful meta-jokes, which culminated in the three Doctors breaking character – even though they’d been playing themselves – to make The Five(ish) Doctors itself the subject of the mockumentary, which leads to the aforementioned RTD stuff. My favourite meta bit was the music changing from 80s synths to 2010s orchestra when the guys stepped inside Roath Lock – and them noticing and going outside again.

At a full thirty minutes, it could easily have run out of steam, but it doesn’t, keeping up the pace of the gags, the cameos and the in-jokes throughout. My only criticism is that they spend slightly too long getting chased by security, but this does lead to the brilliant final reveal that they hid under the shrouds in the Under Gallery. I know it’s not real, but wouldn’t it have been wonderful if it really was them in the real episode? It would presumably have been feasible to make that happen.

Regardless, if you’re not going to feature all the classic Doctors in the anniversary special – and there are many reasons why that’s regrettably for the best, not least being that the anniversary special was perfect as it is – this is the best compromise. Something that’s officially part of the celebration, featuring as many familiar faces as possible, but that is doing its own thing, imbued with humour and love and joy. I adore it, and everyone involved.


Shada (webcast)

I had a bit of a mishap with this. After watching all of Real Time in one go, I was under the impression that this would be of a similar length, so I intended to do the same again. I therefore waited until an evening when I had enough time, only to discover that each part is in fact roughly the length of an average classic episode, so I had no choice but to treat it as an old six-parter. Consequently, there’s now been a fortnight between updates, and this project has needlessly stuttered for the first time.

As it turns out, I don’t really feel I have much to say now I’m back, as obviously I was already familiar with this story, but I must say that the animation was a huge improvement on the last effort. This was made just as web video was really taking off, and it’s probably only a couple of years ahead of its time. It was almost passable as full animation – nobody’s mouths moved and everyone glided around, but it was dynamic, busy and well directed within its limitations.

Lovely to hear Lalla Ward again, as an older and slightly wearier Romana. The presence of John Leeson meant that K-9 is a lot better here than he is in the abandoned TV version. Andrew Sachs made a great Skagra, but I don’t think any of the other guest cast matched the TV equivalent. Chronotis was nowhere near as loveable, and Wilkin really didn’t work as anything other than a posh old fruit.

I enjoyed Paul McGann, and as always I want there to be more McGann stuff to watch, but he’s at a little bit of a disadvantage on this occasion. For the sections that match what was filmed, his lines do little for me but conjure the memory of Tom Baker performing them. Tom and Douglas is a very special mix that’s hard to match.

Nevertheless, the continuity-mashing intro did a good job of establishing why McGann was taking part, and it was a very worthwhile stab at the story. The most interesting parts were obviously the bits that weren’t filmed back in the day, and it was great to finally experience any scenes that take place in somewhere other than the Professor’s room/TARDIS or the Think Tank. Interesting to note that a lot of the “location” sequences were dropped, but understandable considering how action-orientated they were. Well, if high-speed bicycle chases can be considered action-packed.

There were a few bits of the plot that didn’t seem to make as much sense this time around. I gave it the benefit of the doubt last time, because the thing was only half-finished, but even now I’m not quite clear on how exactly the Professor came back to life. Also, how come Skagra needed to sphere him on Shada when he’d already sphered him earlier? Ah well, Douglas’s plots don’t necessarily have to hold water; speaking of whom, I appreciated the little nods such as the Ford Prefect and the Nutrimat machine.

It was a fun thing to watch, although I am a bit fatigued by all this slightly crude animation. It feels like it did back in the day whenever I went through a telesnap-heavy patch. I must admit that the impetus to press on regardless has lessened now that I’m through all the proper episodes, but I’m sure it’ll come back as soon as Eccleston shows up. We’ll be back on track soon.


Dimensions in Time

Technically, the 1992 VHS version of Shada should come next, but I’ve already watched that, knowing that the animated version is coming up shortly. So instead, today’s treat is a rewatch of what would have been the first Doctor Who I ever saw. I was seven, and distinctly remember sitting down with those 3D glasses from the Radio Times. The version I watched today thankfully included the Noel’s House Party links, in which Jon Pertwee accurately predicts the success of Deal Or No Deal.

We all know that this is awful, but it was slightly more coherent than I remembered (not from when I was 7 – I last watched it at a gathering for the 50th in 2013). The Rani’s plan is not dissimilar to Borusa’s in The Five Doctors, and it seemed like the special was an attempt to do similar things to that story, but in ten minutes, which would have been a tall order even without the added element of the EastEnders crossover. The problem of certain Doctors being unavailable/dead is not handled nearly as well. I could see what they were going for with trapping the first two Doctors in time, but representing Hartnell and Troughton as floating, lifeless, disembodied heads was ill-advised.

Meanwhile Tom Baker phones it in, with his eyes never breaking contact with the page of script that’s clearly just out of shot, and the worst title sequence in the show’s history is sped up and accompanied by a “updated” (read: “shit”) theme tune remix. But once it gets going, it’s actually rather lovely to see just so many familiar faces taking part. It seems harsh to criticise the endeavour when all these people gave up their time for free, purely to celebrate Doctor Who whilst raising money for charity.

However, it’s obviously not very good. It’s impossible to disguise the fact that the story is cobbled together based on who and what was available, and almost every actor is playing a generic catch-all character, with no time to display any of their own traits. They whizz by so fast it’s hard to clock them all on first viewing, although obviously the fact that they’ve all aged by up to 30 years is a hindrance to instant recognition. It’s the same problem with the menagerie of random monsters that turn up halfway through – it was just a bunch of moving costumes, and none of them got a chance to do… anything, really.

I’m not particularly familiar with EastEnders, so I can’t judge how successful it would have been for fans of the soap, but Mike Reid chewing the scenery was a highlight. Obviously there are troubling continuity questions surrounding the likes of Mel and Leela turning up in Albert Square when they look so similar to people who’d live there in the future. And wasn’t Pauline Fowler dead by 2013? I think Kathy Beale was too, but she got better…

Inevitably, the flimsy conceit completely fell apart by the end. The Rani is suddenly back in her TARDIS after she was defeated by Mandy bumping into her (should’ve been Big Ron), and an attempt to clear up the nature of the time-slips ends up making the story much more confusing. When Leela tells The Doctor that she was in the form of Romana, that implies that all of this is happening to the Seventh Doctor and Ace, but that they’re reverting to previous incarnations at times. Aside from the fact that that doesn’t really make sense for the companion, what about when there’s more than one companion on screen? Or when Romana is on her own, hiding in the Mitchells’ lock-up? They even had K-9 turn up out of nowhere seconds after the explanation!

If this was an attempt at a full-on revival of Doctor Who for the 30th anniversary, then it was a fucking disgrace. But it wasn’t – it was a daft little comedy sketch for charity, and seeing such a huge number of characters from throughout the show’s long history all at once is obviously a joy. It’s just indicative of the show’s standing at the time – in an ideal world, a big anniversary would be marked by a blockbuster episode of a current series, but that simply wasn’t the case for the 30th or 40th. Sadly, Dimensions in Time suffers simply because it’s an emblem of the darkest time in the show’s history.


The Five Doctors

That was a load of silly nonsense that barely held together to form any kind of coherent plot. It was just an excuse to line up as many old faces as possible, for little to no reason other than to create a cheap thrill for hardcore fans. Basically, it was absolutely perfect.

I’ve probably seen it more times than any other classic story; I’d often turn to it as a way to get a quick fix of virtually all of Doctor Who‘s best bits. Placing it into context made the Borusa stuff work better; when you know that he’s one of The Doctor’s oldest friends, it means a lot more, plus his descent into full-on villainy makes sense when you see how he’s become a bit of a shit since becoming Lord President. I could buy it a lot more here than in Arc of Infinity.

It’s interesting that Borusa’s plan essentially has him doing the same thing as JNT, Saward and Terrence Dicks (surely the ideal candidate for this particular job) – creating a narrative by picking up a bunch of characters from the toybox and chucking them together in various combinations. Maybe the whole thing was an elaborate marketing ploy for a range of action figures.

It’s undeniably a shame that it’s actually only really three Doctors at best, with one refusing to play ball and another refusing to remain alive. In the end, they got around these unavoidable obstacles well; the Shada footage works fine alongside the specially-shot abductions, and Hurndall does a passable impression of Hartnell. I mean, it’s definitely jarring to have someone pretending to be the First Doctor, but there’s not much they could have done differently.

It was arguably even weirder to see Susan as an adult; her character was almost entirely based on being a childish liability, so she couldn’t really do the same thing here. Instead, it was interesting to see some unusual pairings of Doctor and companion; obviously you have the First going off with Tegan, but also the Second and Third are not the Doctors you’d most associate with the Brig and Sarah Jane respectively.

I could have done with more scenes of the various Doctors together, but what we had was so much fun. I loved that the Second still thinks the Third is a bit of a dick, after last time. It was also interesting to see the Fifth Doctor acknowledge the First’s attitude towards women, it the same way people react awkwardly to a racist grandparent. It was apt and pleasing that the Fifth should remain the protagonist; all the others were resolutely guests in his story, and he outshines them all.

There were so many returning companions and villains that it’s hard for any of them to stand out; I just enjoyed them as players in a series of vignettes. It was a celebration of all things Who, and not of any particular character or era over any other. My only gripe would be that Sarah Jane was written as fairly slow-witted, which she just isn’t. The Brig was reliably excellent and I enjoyed seeing glimpses of some less obvious returnees, such as Yates, Liz and Zoe.

As for the villains, the little Dalek cameo was more than welcome, and The Master was on pretty good form. It’s the first time since perhaps Logopolis that he’s been written with any particularly grey shades; he’s always much more effective when you’re not quite sure of his motives. The new addition – the Raston Robot – threatened to steal the show, with a great design and a formidable style. The way it dispatched all those Cybermen was like a version of Robot Wars where it’s men in costumes fighting with explosives. Weird that platoons of Cybermen got their asses kicked on two separate occasions, but to be fair it’s probably the best way to use 80s Cybermen.

Elsewhere, the Hartnell clip at the start was a lovely touch, as was the slightly modified opening theme. The amalgamated closing theme was less successful to my ears, but their heart was in the right place. Also exciting to see a glimpse of a brand new TARDIS console. I was mightily impressed by how new and different it looked in the opening shots, but I went off it a bit the more I saw it. I’ll reserve judgement for now.

All these touches combine to make this feel like a real special occasion. Me and a big group of friends watched it as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, and even tonight, my girlfriend and her brother couldn’t help watching along with me. It feels like a film, with its extensive and sumptuous location work, and the picture quality is superb.

I loved it so much that it took me until half an hour after it finish to notice that Kamelion wasn’t even referenced, despite having watched his introduction just yesterday. I’m aware that I’m about to delve into a very difficult period in Who‘s history, and I’m hurtling ever closer to the end of the original run. But whatever happens next, this stands out as a near perfect celebration of the first twenty years, and indeed the journey I’ve been on for nearly two years. I love Doctor Who so much.


Warriors’ Gate

Two very long-serving companions have just left, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Although, I definitely seem to care about their departures more than JNT and/or CHB did. That goodbye between Romana and The Doctor was far too hasty considering all they’ve been through, and poor old K-9 didn’t even get to speak, being unceremoniously carried from actual pillar to actual post.

I was absolutely fuming when K-9 was put out of action once again during Part One, knowing that this was his last serial as a regular. Would everyone please stop killing K-9? For the amount of screen time he’s had this season, John Leeson needn’t have bothered coming back. It’s a disgraceful way to treat a character that was so brilliant at his peak, even though the last time he hit those heights was during The Key To Time.

But that little coda with them both happily walking off into a monochrome sunset did a lot to smooth things over, and to provide an emotionally satisfying conclusion to their travels. I love that they’ve immediately got work to do, and that it’s such noble work. And leaving the TARDIS at this point makes sense for both characters – Romana so that she can escape Gallifrey, and it being the only place K-9 can function properly. Both of which easily beat marrying some bloke you’ve only just met.

I’m sad to see them both go, but I can see that it’s probably for the best. This season makes it perfectly clear that the current team are not fans of K-9, so there’s no point him being there if he’s going to get blown up at the start of each serial. At least there are further guest and spin-off appearances to enjoy, where hopefully he’ll be back to his best. With Romana, it’s a shame to lose the chemistry between Ward and Baker, but he’s leaving soon anyway, and I like that all the cast changes are being staggered over the course of a season. It’s becoming a whole new show, but not rushing it.

Meanwhile, this was a cracking end to this strange little trilogy, and one of the most imaginative stories in a long time. Admittedly, I had no real idea what was going on half of the time; I thought at one point that The Doctor had gone off to shag a sexy lion lady. But it was pleasantly baffling rather than just confusing, and like The Deadly Assassin before it and Heaven Sent afterwards, it all makes perfect sense in retrospect when you know how it ends.

I’m always a fan of moral ambiguity, so I particularly liked that we were kept guessing as to the motives of both factions of guest stars. The ship’s captain was clearly a prick throughout, but you ended up sympathising with some of his crew, despite them being slave traders. The two engineers were a great double act, reminiscent of Parker and Brett from Alien.

The Tharils, who I’ve now decided to rename The Timey-Lioneys, were even better in terms of grey areas. They’re slaves, and that’s obviously bad, but they were absolute shits beforehand. The moment of violence when a past Timey-Lioney hits a serving girl is genuinely shocking, and The Doctor’s furious reaction captivating. The highlight of a consistently brave and bold story.


PS. Just realised I didn’t mention Adric once. Oh well, being totally non-noteworthy is a clear improvement.

State of Decay

The E-Space adventure continues with a story that shares a hell of a lot of similarities with the last one. Three rulers preside over a populace that descended from survivors of a crashed ship. There’s a band of rebels that fight alongside The Doctor, and nothing ever gets done due to chronic procrastination. Is this a theme, or bad script editing?

The similarities were a bit of a distraction in the end, along with the fact that The Doctor and Romana spent ages figuring out that the baddies were vampires, despite it being obvious just from looking at them. They’re pretty tame vampires too – all creepy fingers and no fangs. The Doctor got bitten by a bat really early on and suffered no effects whatsoever.

I rarely get along with stories that are based on fantasy and mythology, and although this one was decent enough in itself, it does feel out of place amongst the heavy science of the season so far. The bits that focused on exploring the old spaceship, and the rebels rediscovering technology, were the most enjoyable. They had teletext and everything!

Adric was a little better here, which is encouraging. It was interesting to see his duplicitous side; I enjoyed him tricking K-9 into letting him out of the TARDIS, just because that’s a far better use of his intelligence than just using it show off. But he has the air of a bastard about him, to the extent that I didn’t bat an eyelid when he declared he’d sacrifice Romana in order to become a vampire. When it was revealed that it was mere subterfuge, it was kind of undermined by how pathetic and useless his rescue attempt was.

I’ve a feeling that this is a story I’ll struggle to remember clearly, despite a few very good moments. I really liked The Doctor being so nice to Romana when she remembered that the crucial information was on the TARDIS – you know that the Fourth Doctor is just as fond of his companions as any other Doctor, but he’s rarely so open about it.

That reminds me – was this the episode that started the cliche about everything from Gallifrey being called “The X of Rassilon”? It certainly seems to be an early sign of the preoccupation with mythology that I’m aware is said to be a particular trait of JNT. I’m starting to see the name Ian Levine mentioned a lot when I do my reading up after each story, so I assume he’s got a hand in it.

One last thing: the vampire that was dressed like a king really looks like Mark Heap. I think specifically Mark Heap as Ming The Merciless.


Full Circle

Ah, The E-Space Trilogy. It’s one of those little landmarks I’ve always been aware of, simply because three serials in the middle of a season having its own umbrella name is an unusual and noteworthy thing. Before watching, I vaguely knew what it was all about, but none of the specifics of how it all unfolds. I know that by the end of this boxset, Romana and K-9 will have gone, with Adric taking their place, but I didn’t know when exactly these changes would take place, having deliberately tried to avoid lists of first/last appearances.

This serial plants the seeds for Romana’s departure well, especially in reminding us that she was only supposed to be there to help with The Key To Time, and the nice continuity nods to the last time The Doctor was on Gallifrey. I know that the JNT era is notorious for its obsession with the show’s past, but neat little references like this are very welcome. I’m guessing/hoping that Romana doesn’t end up going back to Gallifrey, and will continue adventuring in some way.

Then as soon as we saw a bunch of people in pastel-coloured pyjamas, I figured out that we were on Adric’s home planet. It’s a nice idea to have the companions gradually overlapping, especially as so many things are in the process of changing. I’ve seen bits of Adric before, and know how he’s viewed by most fans, but I’m trying my best to approach his presence with fresh eyes and an open mind. His background is interesting; neither belonging with the Elite or hardcore enough for the Outlers… but unfortunately, he just comes across as a bit of a prick.

His smugness when he proclaimed that his badge was for mathematical excellence was excruciating, and he can’t seem to do anything right – he accidentally lures the Decider to his death, then he leads the Outlers right to the TARDIS, before eventually failing to save his brother. If the intention was to provide an identification figure for nerdy teenage boys everywhere, the lesson is that they probably deserve to have their lunch money stolen. It’s apt that he ends up as a stowaway, as it’s not clear why The Doctor would want him.

Which is a shame, as the story itself is a very good one. The unfolding mystery behind the weird society is consistently interesting, whilst also making a great deal of sense, which wasn’t always the case during the Williams years. I liked the notion that the whole thing was about saving face because they’ve forgotten how to pilot the ship, but the eventual reveal that them and the Marshmen are different evolutionary stages of the same species – whilst being a little bit The Mutants – is thoroughly satisfying.

The Marshmen themselves are decent enough, if unspectacular, and Lalla was very good when Romana was possessed – as with Tom so far this season, it’s nice to see her given new and different things to do before she leaves. Paddy Kingsland’s music was particularly lovely, and K-9 even got his own little leitmotif, before some fucker killed him. Seriously, can everyone please stop killing K-9?

I also enjoyed the two lads enjoying a swim together in just their see-through pants. Damn JNT and his gay agenda.



You know the drill by now. I come to an episode that’s apparently one of the worst of all time, and I completely fail to see why. I guess it’s all a bit lightweight, and it’s not exactly original – we’ve seen doppelgangers of The Doctor before, and the science vs religion debate, and megalomaniacs with dopey mercenaries. But it’s by no means bad television, or bad Doctor Who.

The principal reason for this is Tom Baker. The defining characteristic of his final season so far seems to be putting him in make-up and getting him to give a different take on the character. It’s just great to see him get the opportunity to try something new, and it’s no mean feat after such a long time. Unsurprisingly, he successfully assumes the role of villain with great ease.

It’s not so convincing with Jacqueline Hill – and what a surprise it was to see her face on the DVD cover! – simply because she seems far too nice to be a baddy. All I could see was Barbara, specifically Barbara as Yetaxa in The Aztecs. But this is not her fault, and it was absolutely lovely to see her again, even though I’d have much rather seen what Barbara and Ian were up to nearly 20 years on.

The serial had a very odd structure – our heroes are barely in Part 1 at all, and then they get stuck in a timeloop. It’s common to see a quick glimpse of the guest characters before the regulars get involved, but this one kept going, and then it continued to cut back and forth between them and the TARDIS to the point where it felt like two parallel stories running side by side.

But that’s absolutely fine when both sets of characters includes Tom Baker, and the fact that The Doctor and Romana arrive to the story late means there’s no need for the pace to slack in the middle, aside from Romana leading the mercenaries on a wild goose chase around the planet. Otherwise, the story of The Doctor and Meglos follows the same pattern as The Doctor and Salamander – narrowly avoiding each other for ages while everyone gets them mixed up, while the solitary coming together is saved til right at the end.

It’s nowhere near as good as that doppelganger story, obviously, but it’s way better than the first one, and honestly, it’s not amazing but it’s all pretty decent. My only major quibble is that K-9 is once again barely in it, as I know that he’s about to be written out before too long. The Doctor has been summoned to Gallifrey (I’m enjoying these loose links from story to story, it’s like the black and white era), and I’m faced with a box-set that marks the start of an extremely turbulent time for my current-Doctor-and-companion(s) banner rotation, and lists of recurring characters…


The Leisure Hive

This is most definitely the 80s, alright. It seems to be a theme, intentional or otherwise, that huge changes have to take place for the first season in a new decade. The 70s saw the move to colour and a whole new format, and it even carried on in the new series when Smith and Moffat replaced Tennant and RTD in 2010. Here, a new producer continues with the old cast, but manages to change pretty much everything about the aesthetics in one fell swoop.

I was immediately sold on the new theme tune, which surprised me – I thought it would take some getting used to as it’s the first ever wholesale change. But I didn’t realise the old one needed changing until the new one came around. It’s a great interpretation by Peter Howell; I’m particularly fond of the big boom at the end of the credits, and of course the glorious return of the middle eight on a regular basis. One of my cats is not so keen – she’s been startled by the opening scream every time I’ve pressed play for the last four nights.

The title sequence is perhaps not as good as the one it replaced, and certainly not as iconic, but again, maybe the old one was a little tired in retrospect – it’s been around for even longer than Tom has. I’m not so keen on the new logo. While the others so far have been pretty timeless to various degrees, this one feels very much rooted in the style of the early 80s. I like the title font, though, so I’m pretty much happy.

I was very pleased to note that the Radiophonic Workshop are on incidental music duties – I love their sound from this era, as it instantly makes me think of the Hitch-hikers TV series. Another change is in the direction, with lots of noticeably long, developing shots, both live action and special effects. It’s a way of developing the story in a visual way, as well as adding tension whilst also allowing the dialogue to breathe. The weird Quantel transition from Brighton to Argolis via the title sequence was a stupid idea, but hey, these failed experiments are the price you pay whenever Doctor Who gets hold of new technology and strives for creative ways to use it.

The best change of all is more of a regression – K-9 has his proper voice back. Hooray! But he’s then immediately blown up. Boo! It’s the start of a pretty trippy story that lurches between intriguing and slightly dull in roughly equal measure. I love all the early stuff with the Recreation Generator as an entertainment device gone wrong, but it becomes less interesting the more it’s experimented with. The Doctor being aged into an old man is a fantastic cliffhanger, but an episode and a half of him just doing everything he normally does whilst walking more slowly isn’t a great pay off.

But I did like the Foamasi, and I was completely fooled into thinking they’d be the baddies in a base-under-siege story that never unfolded. Maybe that would have been more interesting overall, but I liked that The Doctor and Romana could identify them as being friendly, and the unmasking of the true villains was nicely done. When the ambassador gained the voice manipulator, he sounded pleasingly camp, especially when bursting into the final scene. “Did someone say… Foamasi?”

The guest cast was a strong one, with Adrienne Corri on fine form as Mena. David Haig was great throughout, but especially after revealing himself as being a warmongering shit. However, even in that make-up, and looking so much younger than anything else I’ve seen him in, I was longing for him to say “your cock up, my arse”. Oh, and the scientist bloke was the narrator from the first series of Look Around You! I recognised his voice immediately – his first line is narrating an experiment being carried out.

All of the aesthetic changes, as well as The Doctor’s conspicuous disdain for the randomiser as he deliberately gets rid of it, seem to be an emphatic statement of the intent to shake off the various vestiges of the Williams era – although I can’t tell whether The Doctor also dismissing the Black Guardian as a threat is further evidence of this, or foreshadowing for a forthcoming return (no spoilers pls). Either way, while this story is in itself a little all over the place, I come away from it with a warm feeling of hope for the show’s immediate future. It’s another bold new direction, and I’m very much on board.