Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

Tardisodes: First up, an intelligence briefing about John Lumic / Cybus that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the fact that he’s building Cybermen. It’s then revealed that the broadcast is being watched by Mickey, although it’s actually Ricky, except we don’t know that yet.

Secondly, an update from Cybus Industries urging people to upgrade from flesh, and lots of footage of some Cybermen marching about. Which I guess would have been exciting at the time, but I’m used to footage of Cybermen marching about by now.

* Urgh, new Cybermen. I don’t mind that there’s a new origin story – it’s a parallel world, it doesn’t affect our universe, so it’s fine. The problem is – and it’s something that I feel like I’ve mentioned every time the Cybermen have appeared from the 70s onwards – the concept that originally made them so scary seems to now be permanently lost. They work best when they’re recognisably human-but-with-extra bits, because the horror comes from how similar they are to us. When you make them uniform and regimented, they’re just generic robots – toy soldiers for The Doctor to knock down.

Transferring a human brain into a completely artificial metal suit just doesn’t cut it. A biological blob in a weaponised travel machine isn’t the Cybermen. They’ve basically just made shit Daleks. Besides which, if they’d have gone for the traditional augmentation of existing human bodies, it would have fitted much more neatly into the tech upgrade element of the parallel world.

* And then Trigger made a face. John Lumic is a ridiculous character, and Roger Lloyd Pack didn’t stand a chance with dialogue such as “and how will you do that from beyond the grave?” in the pre-titles. I quite liked a broad villain in the old days, but it doesn’t work with the gritty reality of the new series. He’s no Tobias Vaughn.

* Fishing a newspaper out of a bin to find out the date. They really don’t mind a tired old cliché, do they? But good things about parallel world include Rose being a dog (and The Doctor laughing about it), Lumic’s clever use of the ear pods to steal information, and the presence of an International Electromatics lorry.

* The Geordie boy from Byker Grove with the mid-00s haircut is rubbish. He seems like he’s having a lovely time pretending to be a big hero, but it’s not particularly convincing. Don Warrington as the President of Great Britain is a lot more like it, though you have to question why his character decided to go gallivanting off to a birthday party at such a crucial time for the country.

* Mickey has a point that The Doctor cares more about Rose than him, but a) Rose has been there longer, b) you invited yourself on board in the first place, doofus, and c) Rose is just nicer than you. His journey in this episode actually makes a lot of sense thanks to the dead nan element, and it’s in keeping with the progress he’s already made, but that line towards the start about “looking out for a better offer” just makes him sound ungrateful as fuck.

* Actually, rather than shit Daleks, when the ear pods activated and people started voluntary walking into the factories, I realised that what Lumic is actually making are just more advanced Robomen from Dalek Invasion of Earth. I must admit I do have a soft spot for the Lion Sleeps Tonight bit though.

* I like that Alternate Pete feels a connection with and an inherent trust in Rose, in exactly the same way Past Pete did last time. Alt-Jackie is a bit of a dick, though, with ridiculous knockers. More could have been done with her post-conversion; I seemed to recall a bit where she regained a modicum of control and aided Rose and Pete, but I might be mixing it up with a similar moment in a later episode.

* The Cybermen’s attack on the party and resultant cliffhanger is pretty bloody good, but it raises the question of what exactly constitutes “maximum” deletion. There’s no “next time” preview to be seen, either before or after the credits, which is a big improvement. The resolution, however is a pile of shit – The Doctor pulls out a magic weapon and the Cybermen are conveniently vapourised. It’s not a deus ex machina – the criticism that’s been misused so badly by Doctor Who fans that it’s become meaningless anyway – because we’d already established that he had this bit of TARDIS on him, but its newfound zapping ability had never been mentioned before, so it’s still a complete cop-out.

* Quite a lot of the second episode seems to concern lengthy scenes of people walking quite slowly. It’s not terribly exciting – an early example of something that’s plagued a handful of modern two-parters whereby the scene-setting and the build-up are a lot more fun than the main action.

* What’s the point of being the Cyber Controller if you’re still confined to a big wheelchair when you’re doing the controlling? The rest of the climax is better than I remembered, to be fair. The Doctor pleading his case by extolling the virtues of emotion is a pleasingly old-school method, and the stuff with the emotional inhibitors at least acknowledges that the traces of humanity within the Cybermen are where the interesting material lies. I seemed to remember thinking that the Doctor fixing everything by jamming Rose’s phone into a handy docking station was another cop-out, but it didn’t bother me at all this time – maybe it’s because we have NFC and wireless docking now, but the technologies being universally compatible made sense.

* Mickey’s departure was another staple of the classic series being dusted off – staying behind to help rebuild a world that they’ve been in for five minutes. If only the line about Ricky and Jake being a couple hadn’t been cut, he could have gone the whole hog and married a bloke he’d only just met. I did enjoy the dynamic of having a third traveller for a few episodes, but overall Mickey has been less likeable than I remembered, and I’ve just about had my fill of him. The timing was right for him to go.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Or maybe Lucy’s just a bit thick.” / “Well, it could be that Cybus Industries have perfected the science of human cloning, or your father had a bike.” / “I once saved the universe with a biiiig yellow truck.”

RATING: 6

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The Girl in the Fireplace

Tardisode: An unnamed generic spaceship enters an ion storm, and then the crew are attacked by unseen assassins who make a ticking noise. It’s a teaser for an entirely different type of episode, but then what could you do that wouldn’t give the game away? But then, rather than ending on a reveal of the villain, as is the custom, it cuts to a clock on a mantlepiece breaking, as if it’s something mysterious and threatening. Obviously I know the significance now, but god knows what I thought at the time, before I’d seen the episode.

* This is the best example so far, including the entire classic series, of Doctor Who using time travel as a plot device. I love this type of story-telling – Moffat has taken it to further extremes during his era, and this now feels like the first fledgling step into new territory, in the same way, say, The Web of Fear preempted the UNIT years.

* I mean, what happens with Reinette is basically a more gradual (and ultimately more tragic) version of what happens with Amy in The Eleventh Hour, with the Doctor being mistaken for an imaginary friend who then shows up, unchanged, when the little girl becomes an adult. Except this time, he ends up shagging her. “Dance with me”, indeed. Saucy.

* Other little moments that reminded me of later stories: The Doctor and Rose being separated by an impenetrable time barrier (this time it was only for a few hours, but it’ll be a lot worse come the end of the series); and The Doctor having to take the slow path with the woman he loves (this time it wasn’t through choice and it got resolved fairly quickly, rather than a voluntary 20-odd years with River).

* Reinette has got to be one of the all time great guest characters. Right from the very first time she turns up as an adult, her dialogue is great; she’s not just a confused or scared victim, defined by her relationship with the Doctor and the threat of the clockwork droids. She’s funny and confident, she’s got a life of her own, and she knows herself. Her lines about the Doctor being worth the monsters struck a chord. It is Valentine’s Day after all.

* Watching this back to back with School Reunion, it’s weird that none of Rose’s resentment regarding Mickey joining the crew has carried over – she’s happily guiding him through his first adventure, sharing the experience in quite a heartwarming way. It instantly makes Mickey better when he’s not a minor antagonist, and I much, much prefer this approach – again, something Moffat would later do with Amy and Rory.

* Although I have many favourite lines, foremost among them “have you met the French?”, these are the favourite lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Just a routine fire check… hope you enjoy the rest of the fire.” / “Mickey, what’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get some perspective.” / “And so’s your dad.” / “We do not require your feet.”

RATING: 10

School Reunion

Tardisode: Mickey Smith goes to a cyber cafe to do some more of his l33t hax0ring, only to be stopped by a big flashing “Torchwood – Access Denied” message. You know, that super secret organisation that the Prime Minister isn’t supposed to know about. Of all the companions with the surname Smith to give us a bonus episode with…

* In the pretitles, Finch eats a child, and thinks he’ll get away with it because she’s an orphan from a children’s home. “No parents – no-one to miss you.” Pretty sure orphanages keep records of who lives there, and where they go to school.

* “Happy-slapping hoodies with ASBOs and ringtones”. Between that and the giant VDUs in the classrooms, I think I’ve just pin-pointed the moment at which the mid-00s became “the past”.

* But anyway, Sarah Jane. Brilliant brilliant Sarah Jane. She hadn’t changed a bit, really – a few years older, but instantly recognisable as the same character. Her initial meeting with The Doctor, where she doesn’t know who he is but he’s absolutely delighted, is beautiful, and then I got goosebumps as she stumbled upon the TARDIS. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but there really wasn’t anyone else they could have brought back, was there? The Brig is the only one who can match her, but the story required a direct parallel with Rose, plus Sarah’s departure was tragic and needed to be addressed. For most companions, it would be “yeeeeah, I really should have stayed with you instead of marrying that bloke I’d just met, shouldn’t I”?

* And of course, K-9. Weird to think that if it wasn’t for a failed spin-off pilot a quarter of a century earlier, Sarah and K-9 would never have met, and therefore he wouldn’t have been in this episode or the subsequent more successful spin-off. Understandably considering the other returnee, K-9 sort of got short-changed for screen time, but having now watched his original tenure, that’s kind of fitting. Leaving him in the car with Mickey is just like what the Fourth Doctor used to do with him whenever the adventure featured a location with an uneven surface.

* Why does the big confrontation between The Doctor and Tony Head take place either side of a swimming pool? I’m sure it seemed cool at the time, but it just struck me as odd watching it tonight. It’s also weird that all the Krillitanes can switch between human and bat forms apart from Finch – he’s the boss, genre convention dictates that he should turn in to some sort of giant megabat.

* I found myself fighting back tears when Sarah-Jane and The Doctor said goodbye and I’m not sure why. I know that they’ll meet again, and that I’ve got a hell of a lot more Sarah Jane still to watch, which I’m looking forward to immensely. Obviously, it’s partly to do with the wonderful Lis Sladen no longer being with us, but also I think that this is what long-term fans must have felt when this episode first aired.

Through the microcosm of one iconic companion and her life with and without The Doctor, it’s a small scale celebration of the classic series and a moment of closure – a chance to finally say goodbye, but to move on to something new. Sarah Jane Smith effectively passes on the baton to Rose Tyler, and that’s huge. When I first watched this episode, I loved it because it gave me a glimpse of what the old series meant to people. Now that I am one of those people, it gives me so much more.

* That said, The Doctor leaving behind a new K-9 for Sarah, revealed when the TARDIS
dematerialised… what if she’d have taken him up on his offer and decided to travel with him again? Was K-9 just going to be left on his own on 21st Century Earth? Poor bugger.

RATING: 9

Tooth and Claw

Tardisode: A big egg falls to Earth. Three hundred years later, Tim the Enchanter from Holy Grail gets eaten by a werewolf.

* Pretty sure the pre-titles sequence of a slow-mo kung-fu fight in red pyjamas was a BBC One ident from the time.

* The Tenth Doctor can do a pretty good Scottish accent, can’t he? Tennant seems to alternate between his natural voice and a slightly posher version from scene-to-scene. One unfortunate side-effect of returning to this story in 2017 is that spooky tales being told in exaggerated old-fashioned Scotch accents now make me think of Athletico Mince. It’s lucky the werewolf didn’t have the face of Brian McDermott.

* What’s Samantha Briggs from The Faceless Ones doing posing as Queen Victoria a hundred years in her past? She’s very good indeed, and I like the idea of her being so clued-up about the paranormal, and streetwise enough to protect herself by shooting an evil bald monk. I sometimes forget about this one in the pantheon of celebrity historicals, but it’s a good example of the subgenre.

* I was not amused by Rose’s constant attempts to make Victoria say “we are not amused”. Or by them pausing the action to hug and laugh at the fact they’re facing a werewolf. It was around this point that Tenth & Rose’s larking about began to grate a little bit, and it was the first time that there’d been a development that I didn’t like. It feels like they’re not taking the situation seriously, which rather undermines the plot, and it makes for an awkward juxtaposition when the death and destruction starts happening.

* The werewolf transformation is very brief but pretty good. It’s all about the bone-cracking sound effects. There seems to have been lessons learned from the first series in terms of how to use effects sparingly in order to make them more effective; minimalism being planned at the writing phase and used to fuel creative directing, rather than having to improvise out of necessity at a later stage when they’ve realised they were too ambitious.

* In an episode that concerns an extremely bad wolf, we learn a lot more about this year’s buzzword, Torchwood. In fact, between seeing the Institute being founded here, and already having seen what they can do in The Christmas Invasion, I can’t recall what else there is to reveal ahead of the Battle of Canary Wharf. It’s by no means a Bad Wolf style mystery like I remembered, more of an in-universe trailer for the finale and the forthcoming spin-off series. Victoria spells out the entire back-story, and thinking about it, “beware of Torchwood” isn’t a bad philosophy to have.

* What was all that about Victoria potentially being bitten? It was set up to be the classic thing from any werewolf or zombie film where someone’s been infected but they soldier on for a bit before they transform, but instead it was just a set up for some ridiculously over-acted jokes about the Royal Family being secret werewolves. Yeah, Ten and Rose as a combo are really starting to get on my tits whenever they’re not in immediate peril.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Margaret Thatcher, eeeurgh.” / “I’m Dr James McCrimmon from the township of Balamory.” / “Well, that’s true of anything if you wait long enough.”

RATING: 7

New Earth

* Each Series 2 episode was preceded by a minute-long “Tardisode”. As this project covers everything, I will of course be watching those alongside each main ep. I hoovered these up at the time – this was the period where I was really into consuming as much Who as possible; I was at university and therefore had an incredible amount of free time. I even watched every episode of Totally Doctor Who on Friday afternoons. Anyway, this Tardisode was a little sales pitch for the hospital, and seemed to hinge on the notion that the cat people are scary. They are in fact just big old cats.

* I hadn’t realised just how many episodes Jackie and Mickey appear in, even if it’s just for a few seconds at a time as it is here. My memory was that they just turn up whenever the episode is set in the present day, but there’s constant reminders of Rose’s roots throughout other stories too.

* This was a self-consciously funny episode, which is code for not very scary or interesting or important. I liked the Doctor’s obsession with little shops, and the substituted swearword gags, but despite a decent performance by Billie Piper, as soon as Cassandra jumped into Rose’s body, it all felt a bit forced and self-indulgent. The kiss feels somewhat gratuitous, like they just wanted to have Tennant and Piper snog at the earliest opportunity after the minor hoohah when it was her and Eccles.

* This is also the episode where the Face of Boe is established as being all knowing and a bit magic, and they set up the big secret that he has to pass on. I lapped this stuff up at the time, but now that we know how it ends, why is it his big secret that The Master is alive? The way the cat nurse talks about the legend, it sounds like it should be a secret about Boe himself, but instead his identity is tossed off as a gag at the end of the following series. Maybe. Also, it was very rude of The Face of Boe to bugger off like that at the end of their conversation. It reminded me of the Cobbles victim from Look Around You.

* It’s just all a bit meh this episode, almost like a series of vignettes and set pieces with nothing holding it together. It’s the kind of thing that was done every now and then in the classic series where you’d have lots of little bitty plots going on, none of which would be substantial enough to sustain an episode on their own. It’s not awful – there are far worse episodes coming up this series – but it’s not one I’m ever likely to revisit again.

RATING: 6

The Christmas Invasion

* Christmas innit! Doctor Who has been the centrepiece around which the rest of my day is planned for over a decade now, and I’ll always remember how special the first time felt. I don’t think there’s been a better Christmas episode since – there have been good ones, maybe even great ones, but it’s hard to top the impact of the first time traditional Who idiosyncrasies were mixed with traditional festive ones.

I adore the killer Christmas trees and the flame-throwing tubas, but the joy is that the same show also contains 70s-flavoured spine-tinglers like the genuinely creepy blood control and the brutal murders of a UNIT major and a beardy civil servant. All on prime time BBC One in the most family-friendly slot of the entire year.

* Examining the trauma of regeneration from the companion’s perspective is yet another new avenue for the show to explore, and Billie is fantastic throughout. Mickey is still being a bit of a prick about it all, but he finally seemed to come to terms with things by the end, which tallies with my memories that he becomes a much more sympathetic character between series.

* It’s weird that “Torchwood” was subsequently used as an ominous and mysterious arc word in the same vein as “Bad Wolf”, considering that its nature and its purpose were quite categorically set up in the Christmas Special. It appears to be an all-powerful, scary, superweapon-wielding militia, and it’s odd to think of the organisation in such a way, considering the version we’re now more familiar with are nowhere near competent enough to bring down the Sycorax. They’d have accidentally hit The Moon or something, while at least two of them shagged and Captain Jack looked moody on a tall building.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “There’s an act of Parliament banning my autobiography.” / “Did we ask about the Royal family? Oh.” / “Blimey, it’s like This Is Your Life.”

* It’s certainly a gamble to have the new Doctor sleep through the vast majority of his introductory episode, but when he finally comes round it pays off beautifully. Rose misses him, the world misses him, and the audience misses him, until he bursts into life and is immediately brilliant. He’s rude and not ginger, he quotes The Lion King and he can sword fight like a little skinny Pertwee – that’s what kind of man he is. With hindsight, “no second chances” is such an apt motto for the incarnation who ended up as the Time Lord Victorious.

* “Oh, I haven’t seen X in years!” became a catchphrase in our friend group, thanks to this episode and Charlie Brooker’s subsequent impersonation in Screen Wipe. I loved Tennant throughout his original tenure, but given that I love Smith and Capaldi even more, I don’t remember his time quite as fondly these day. It’s therefore really nice to be able to revisit these episodes with an open mind, and be reminded of how positive I felt at the time.

* Aside from Tennant, the best thing about this episode is clearly Harriet Jones. She’s so funny, and such a strong leader to boot, that it’s almost a shame that she did what she did, as it must have been tempting to use her as a recurring Brigadier-style character. The key moment obviously parallels Thatcher and the Belgrano, but the lack of subtlety is justified by the show being bold enough to make a resolute statement that it was A Bad Thing. Which is not to say that I don’t sympathise with Jones’s decision – certainly a fuck of a lot more than I do with Thatcher’s – but I also agree with The Doctor’s retribution. No second chances.

* Fucking Song For Ten! I adore Song For Ten. All the old costumes in the TARDIS wardrobe, along with the earlier subtle callback of seeing Big Ben in scaffolding. And the orchestral theme tune! And the middle eight! Yes, the sheer joy of these moments came flooding back to me as I relived the euphoria of Christmas Day 2005 all over again, beat by beat. I love Doctor Who, especially when it’s this good.

RATING: 10

Children In Need

I remember watching this go out at the time, but to be honest I remember it being a bit more substantial than this. There’s a very lengthy recap and a full title sequence – which features the debut of David Tennant’s name but frustratingly no on-screen title – cutting in to the short running time. Obviously the whole point is to provide a five-minute glimpse of the new Doctor, so I guess that’s far less enthralling now that I’ve seen four years’ worth of him. But he is good here, even though his mannerisms combined with Eccleston’s leather jacket remind me of Richard Hammond.

Said mannerisms began to grate on me by the end of Tennant’s run, but there’s a certain freshness that remains in this early performance. We get a tender moment with the lovely reminder of how the Doctor and Rose first met, and then the pace picks up nicely when Tennant starts going a bit mental. But then it just ends, and it’s strangely unsatisfying now that it’s lost the novelty value. It doesn’t quite hang together, which I didn’t notice at the time.

There was a strange moment midway through when the theme tune started playing, and I thought it was over already. Turns out that the upscaled Bluray release I was watching contains the same slightly different rough cut – with different music cues and missing the Cloister Bell – that was accidentally released on the original DVD. They had NINE YEARS to fix this mistake.

RATING: 6

Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways

* Ah, Big Brother. When I first watched this episode, I was an obsessive fan, having not missed an episode since I discovered it in the second week of the first series, five years earlier. Since then, my relationship with the show has changed somewhat, having spent seven years working on it – that’s why so many entries in this blog were posted at two or three o’clock in the morning during past Summers and Januaries. I’ve since moved on, but needless to say after seven years, it will always represent something very special and important to me, so revisiting the time that it crossed over with another big part of my life was a joy. I love Big Brother, and I love Doctor Who, and fuck anyone who sneers at either.

* Naturally, I’m somewhat of an expert on the format, and the depiction here is more or less perfect. The guard of honour for the evictee is a fantastic observation, and the subversion of “I’m coming to get you” becoming “we’re going to get you” is testament to both RTD’s more subtle talents and the cultural impact of Big Brother‘s iconography. It was glorious to hear the full Oakenfold mix of the theme again, but the pedant in me wishes to point out that tension beds and crowd noise would have been a more accurate portrayal of an eviction night. Oh, and hindsight tells us that “the one where they all walked out” was much earlier than Series 504.

* Interesting that Big Brother is the only survivor of the formats portrayed – The Weakest Link finished in 2011, and How What Not To Look Like bit the dust within two years of Bad Wolf. I love the Anne-Droid, by the way – her cruel and slightly-too-personal banter was spot-on. But I got to thinking about what shows would be used if this episode were made today. I doubt it would be Big Brother, because it doesn’t quite have the same hold on the public consciousness as it once did. Instead, The Doctor would be in the Bake Off Tent, with a demonic Paul Hollywood urging him to make cakes for his survival. Rose would find herself with The Osmonoid on Pointless, and Jack would perform for a panel of robotic judges on Bad Wolf’s Got Talent, hoping to avoid the dreaded buzzer-saws.

* Anyway, this story is doing the “consequences of a previous adventure” thing again, for the second time in a row. However, this is obviously on a much, much bigger scale than Boom Town. The Doctor causes “one hundred years of hell” after destroying the Jagrafess, and by the end of this adventure, despite Rose’s time vortex antics, a hell of a lot of people stay dead – the Daleks destroyed continents at a time. And poor old Lynda With A Y. She was lovely, but she was cursed to death the moment she asked The Doctor if she could join him, about twenty minutes into a two-parter.

* Guest cast spotting: The Johnson! The man who would soon be touted as a potential Doctor for every subsequent regeneration – he’s probably being touted as we speak. Jenna Russell! Now finding fame on Eastenders, but for a number of us she’ll always be the woman who sings the Red Dwarf theme.

* Fave lines that I’d previous forgotten: “They’ve had to cut back. It’s not what it was.” / “He’s a plant, they’ve only brought him in to stir things up.” (these two are comments I read thousands of times on Twitter over those seven years) / “Rodrigo. He owes me a favour. Don’t ask why.”

* The Doctor’s reaction to Rose seemingly being killed by Anne Robinson – shutting down with grief as the chaos around him fades down in the mix – has always stuck with me, and it still brings a tear to my eye. “And with that sentence you just lost the right to even talk to me” is another one that’s never left me, nor his rant at the Daleks at the end of the first ep, complete with another reference to Davina’s old catchphrase. This is so, so good.

* And the Daleks are just brilliant too. The familiar heartbeat we hear inside their spaceship. The POV shot closing in on Rose, echoing their first ever appearance. “THEY SURVIVED THROUGH ME”. “DO NOT BLASPHEME”. The silent “EXTERMINATE” as they kill Lynda With A Y. Shivers down my spine on all of these.

* Eccleston is awesome as The Oncoming Storm. I love the way the Daleks recoil from him – he knows his enemies so well, and just for a moment he seems to be all-powerful, all-knowing and unstoppable. Then he locks himself in the TARDIS and has a little moment to himself, thus remaining relatable as the flawed hero we know and love. Like all the very best Doctors, you sometimes don’t know which way he’ll go when faced with a dilemma, but the “coward every time” line really landed. Oh, Chris. You *were* fantastic.

* For the record, Jack saying his goodbyes was the first time my lip wobbled during The Parting of the Ways tonight. Then it was the conversation about using the TARDIS to escape, and how it had never even occurred to Rose. Everything about Emergency Protocol One is just eternally sad, and by the time Rose was talking to Jackie about Pete, I was gone.

* The regeneration feels like an actual death, which is kind of the way it should be, but it hasn’t been since the Fifth Doctor carked it. After witnessing the various ways that regeneration manifested itself in the classic series, I like that this episode established the “arms stretched, explosion of energy” method as the way that regenerations work in the new era. A great moment to end a near-perfect series. It was enough to make me go from an interested observer to a devoted fan twelve years ago, and despite being in SD and some of the CGI starting to show its age, the stories, dialogue and performances are timeless, and still as enjoyable as ever.

RATING: 10

Ooh, it’s been a while since I did one of these:

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.4

  • Seasons/Series watched: 27 of 35
  • Stories watched: 166 of 264
  • Individual episodes watched: 709 of 827

Boom Town

* I’ve always been a staunch defender of Boom Town. It’s obviously nowhere near as exciting as the pair of two-parters either side, but if there’s one thing that this experiment shows, it’s that Doctor Who can be absolutely anything at any given time, and it certainly doesn’t require a minimum level of action or effects in order to remain entertaining for 45 minutes at a time.

* This is the new series doing what I like to call The Monoid Manoeuvre, exploring the aftermath of a previous adventure, Peladon style.  The emotional impact that being thwarted has on the monster is a new avenue, and it’s a psychological thriller at times, made possible by an excellent performance from Annette Badland. The dinner scene gets the drama and the comedy absolutely spot on.

* Ah look, it’s all the places I visited yesterday! We went to Cardiff for the weekend, primarily for the Doctor Who Experience, which was very good fun indeed. We also went to the Ianto Shrine, which is mental, and then to the very spot where the TARDIS lands in this episode, between the big watery monolith and the building with all the writing on it. I only wished I’d rewatched this episode before the trip, so that it would have occurred to me to go to the same restaurant as The Doctor and Margaret.

* It was fun to see the new series addressing the whole Police Box thing, and Mickey not knowing that such a thing was once a common sight in Britain. Sadly, that was about as good as Mickey got in this episode. I get that his role is to be resentful of Rose’s new life, but he goes beyond that to being completely unreasonable about it. Of course she’s going to run off to find The Doctor when Cardiff starts tearing itself apart – it’s not about you vs him, it’s her trying to save the world, you fucking plum.

* The bit where The Doctor finally notices “Bad Wolf” reminded me of how fun it was at the time to spot all the clues, explore the supplementary websites, and to speculate about what it all meant. Him dismissing it all as a big coincidence was very nicely done.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “What are you captain of, the innuendo squad?” / “It was a very icy patch.” / “She’s climbing out of the window, isn’t she?”. There was probably more, but I stopped jotting them down halfway through, as it was all pretty fresh – it’s not one that you’d particularly make a point of revisiting, and I evidently haven’t all that much over the years, but it’s a nice little pit stop before the big finale.

RATING: 7

The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances

* Apologies for the delay – I watched the first episode on Monday, then I was busy for a couple of days. And naturally, I spent most of the time just watching, failing to make any meaningful notes. It’s so, so good, easily the best so far. The RTD years seemed to fall into a pattern of having a silly two-parter and a grown-up two-parter each series, and the latter was always better.

* Cheryl Fergison! I’d forgotten she was in this. I’ve met her several times through work, and she’s very nice indeed. Also, Richard Wilson! “I don’t believe it”, he says. He’s obviously excellent, but nobody could overshadow the brilliant performance of Florence Hoath. In the classic series, it would have been Nancy who became the new companion at the end.

* “Excellent bottom”. An absolutely perfect introduction to a character. Much was made at the time of Jack’s provocative, unashamedly all-encompassing sexuality, but as The Doctor points out, for me it’s always made perfect sense for a character from 3000 years in the future. It helps that John Barrowman’s confidence is utterly charming. Well, when he’s being Captain Jack, at least.

* If we believe the theory that dancing literally = shagging (as in not just the characters using it as a metaphor within the dialogue, but that every time we see character’s dancing within the show, they’re actually shagging but we see it as dancing), Jack and Rose just did it on top of a spaceship in front of Big Ben. Fair enough, but it also means The Doctor and Rose did at least some awkward heavy petting whilst waiting for Jack to rescue them. And best not to think about what Ecclestone’s up to when he starts dancing on his own in front of Rose and Jack.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten? So many, but then it’s Moffat. “You’re not even in focus.” / “Those would have been terrible last words.” / “Well, I’ve got a banana and at a pinch you could put up some shelves.” / “Rose, I’m trying to resonate concrete.” / “Who said I’m not? Red bicycle when you were twelve.”

* I’ve always found Richard Wilson’s bit about being a father and a grandfather to be one of the most memorable moments of the first series. The Doctor’s response indicates that Susan has become the first companion to die off-screen that we know of, or perhaps not, given Day of the Doctor. Anyway, Victor Meldrew’s transformation into a gasmask monster shortly afterwards is amazing too.

* Bananas are good. Good source of potassium. I wonder how many times those words have been exchanged within my group of friends? Basically every time anyone’s ever eaten or even mentioned a banana in front of any of the others in the last twelve years.

* The conversation between Rose and Nancy about how there really is a future after all, even if it doesn’t seem like there will be, really resonates now that the world has gone to complete shit again. Twelve years ago, I was the Rose in that dynamic, now I’m with Nancy, and I really needed that little chat, and the reminder slightly later that what followed the last attempted fascist uprising was the establishment of the welfare state.

* So yes, obviously I cried at the end. It’s perfect. Yes, there can be a day where everybody lives, and yes, The Doctor fucking deserves to have one of those days, even on the evidence of this series, let alone the previous seven hundred episodes. It’s absolutely beautiful, and then Richard Wilson pops up again to steal the show. “There is a war on; is it possible you’ve miscounted?” Faultless.

RATING: 10

* Back to the present day, and I was slightly saddened but not remotely surprised that Capaldi has called it a day. It makes sense for him to go at the same time as Moffat – though it’s a shame that there’s one less reason to be optimistic about the Chibnall era, taking the total reasons down to zero – and three series is the average. The Twelfth Doctor is/was one of the best of all time, but I’ll get on to that in due course.

* Now, however, there’ll be a short gap before I join the Ninth Doctor on his trip to Cardiff, because I’m going on a trip to Cardiff, to see the Doctor Who Experience this weekend. Looking forward to it, and to seeing if the Ianto Shrine is still there.