Saturday 23rd January 2021: The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky
Welcome back everyone to another term spent entirely online. Yep, things are still pretty bad but now that Trump (and the diet coke button) is out, hopefully 2021 is going to be a lot brighter. To keep everyone’s spirits lifted, our council decided to screen a feel-good two-parter that for some reason is really low rated on pretty much every Doctor Who episode ranking list, despite the fact its got Wilf and Donna beating up Sontarans with a mallet and its got one of TV’s greatest crossovers ever: Doctor Who and Tommy Zoom (look it up)!
In this two-parter, the Doctor, Donna and Martha work with UNIT to investigate ATMOS, a new navigation system developed by genius
Mark Zuckerburg Luke Rattigan which is responsible for 52 simultaneous deaths. But an old foe lurks behind the scenes, preparing to unleash a more sinister plan. What I love about Doctor Who is it’s attempt to hide its villains in the opening episode so as to build up an air of mystery and suspense, despite the fact said villains are in the episode title. In the first (and last) good Sontaran episode of the modern era, the Sontaran stratagem hides the warrior race behind screens and covers them up with a nerd school run by Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, which is pointless considering the episode is called the SONTARAN stratagem. If it was called the Rattigan stratagem, maybe it would have surprised up when they show up, but hey, the Sontarans have never been subtle, so why should this episode? Anyway, its great fun, with the Doctor, Donna and Martha all trading quips and a bunch of fun UNIT characters being thrown into the mix, including my boi Ross (“he looks like a potato”) Jenkins. This episode also features everyone’s favourite companion, Wilfred Mott, who once again steals the episode with his genuine excitement at shaking an alien hand. Even Sylvia has her moments in this episode, particularly when she breaks Wilf out of a car using an axe (what an incredible way to resolve a cliffhanger). I’m trying to think about negatives in this episode but honestly, its just a really fun story. The return of the Sontarans is great, with their new costumes and prosthetics looking amazing (especially compared to the classic era sontarans) and any scene with the Doctor and the Sontarans is phenomenal (“I am General Stahl, of the 10th Sontaran Battle Fleet. Known as Stahl, the undefeated” “Oh, that’s a shame, what if you do get defeated? Stahl the not-quite-so-undefeated-anymore-but-never-mind?”). Speaking of villains, Luke Rattigan is a character you can easily hate, despite the fact he’s probably the closest representation Cambridge students will ever have in Doctor Who (although it’s a bit problematic when he culturally appropriates the Sontarans by joining in their Sontar-ha chant. That’s their word Luke, maybe don’t do that). Anyhow, the episode ends with a gender-reveal party gone wrong and a slight bit of workplace misconduct, marking the last time we’ll ever actually see the Sontarans as good villains on TV (fingers crossed for series 13 Chibnall. Don’t just give us a cameo or put Strax in one. I mean, I won’t complain about more Strax (unlike Felix), but I’d like to see the Sontarans actually be a threat again). Overall, the Sontaran Stratagem/the Poison Sky is a bit of a guilty pleasure, with amazing companions, great lines and some cheesy villains. But hey, isn’t that Doctor Who at its best?
Saturday 30th January: Having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card
I must admit, I do miss a good library. I’m sure all you lovely readers have fond memories of combing through your local libraries, determined to find some form of Doctor Who book to further fuel your passion for our beloved show, as well as stopping your parents from nagging you to read instead of playing on those damn gadgets all the time. Ah, libraries. A place of comfort and imaginative adventure! Unless of course, you’re a Doctor Who writer, in which case, a library is a terrifying hell-scape filled with all manner of monsters, ready to devour you and parade your corpse around as a puppet. Ok, I’ll admit the theme for this week was a bit of a stretch, as we really just wanted to watch Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, but felt they wouldn’t last long enough to sate the ravenous hoards, so we had to link another episode to them somehow. After much deliberation it came down to two choices: Tooth and Claw, or Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. Thankfully, common sense and good taste prevailed, and we finished our library night with a screening of Tooth and Claw, chosen solely because there’s a library for about a minute at some point in the episode and for the fact that it isn’t absolute crap (unlike the aforementioned Journey episode (see previous entry for reminder of how crap it is)).
Picture the scene: you’re the showrunner for Doctor Who, but you’ve been doing this for about 4 series now and feel like moving on to other projects. You need a replacement the audience will like, and fast. Enter good ol’ buddy ol’ pal Steven Moffat, whose previous episodes have gone down a treat (and have also traumatised thousands of children). He’s got a great idea for a two-parter, involving a character who knows the Doctor, but he doesn’t know her! “Intriguing..” you say. That sounds like a solid plot device that can potentially carry multiple seasons of varying quality, whilst never quite surpassing your own. “Give it a shot Steve”, you cry, “but make sure it contains a reference to obscure CBBC show Pedro and Frankensheep!”. “Erm, ok?” replies Stevo, who quickly set to work crafting an intricate story set within a library, all just to promote BBC channel synergy. Of course, I’m talking about Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, the excellent series 4 two-parter that introduces and kills River Song, gives us a terrifying Steven Moffat villain that he doesn’t drive into the ground by reintroducing, and blesses us with some iconic Doctor/Donna dialogue. Now I’ve spent quite a bit of time going over that terrible Russell/Steven exchange, so I’m going to save you some time and not recount the entire plot, as I’m sure it’s been permanently seared into your brain from countless rewatches anyway. What I am going to do is just highlight the many joys of this episode, namely, the Doctor and Donna tearing up the Lux contracts, Donna’s adventures through an episode of WandaVision (which is genuinely quite unsettling when you get to the park bit), River Song being herself, and of course that iconic moment at the end, where the Doctor races through the library as his theme music swells triumphantly in the background, making us cheer him on as he attempts to save River. God, I get chills every time. It’s a phenomenal episode, which is just perfect to rewatch over and over again (which we may be forced to do if this lockdown extends any further), really driving home why Steven Moffat was chosen as showrunner. It’s kind of a shame we had to watch something after this, as not many episodes really compare to this one. However, we are bound by society law (and we have nothing better to do with our lives), so continue further into library week we must.
Alright, no-one asked for it, but we screened it: An Alien Werewolf in Scotland (better known as Tooth and Claw). Is this episode dumb? Yes. Like, really dumb? Again, yes. Is it so stupid that you wonder how Doctor Who continued past its second season when someone pitched the idea of a werewolf running around Scotland trying to bite Queen Victoria just so she can become a werewolf, thus allowing werewolves to run the British Empire? Absolutely. But is it still more fun than Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS? Without a doubt! So yeah, this episode is a bit ridiculous (what with karate monks and all) and the CGI isn’t really up to scratch, but let’s admit it, this episode would have looked atrocious in the Classic era and probably would have joined the Myrka in the reasons for Classic Who’s cancellation, so thank god it was made now. So what’s wrong with this episode? Well for starters, it has some absolutely ridiculous villains with mistletoe wielding monks straight out of a Samurai Jack episode and a surprisingly slow Werewolf, which lumbers around when the plot requires it, but when a gruesome murder is needed, suddenly puts on a burst of speed, much like that crappy Sonic game. The plot also revolves heavily around Queen Victoria, who is presented as a rather lovely old lady (and not a ruthless empress who didn’t care about the suffering inflicted by the British Empire) and the Koh-i-noor diamond, a definitely not stolen gemstone that I repeat, was definitely not stolen during a horrifying and pointless war. On the plus side, we get David Tennant, a Scottish actor, playing a character with an English accent who has to put on a Scottish accent that isn’t quite as authentic as his actual Scottish accent. Worth it. So, once again, is this episode dumb? Yeah it’s really dumb. But is it fun? You know what, yeah it is. Plus, it has a library in it at some point, so we were justified in watching it this week. Take that people who didn’t show up to the start of term meeting and therefore had no say in the episode we watched!
Saturday 6th February: A Rose by any other name
It’s not often we watch something good in this society. It’s even rarer that we watch two amazing and completely distinct episodes back to back. However, we feel like you lot have earnt it. After all, we’re still locked down and Oxford still wants to have a Varsity quiz despite last year’s attempt which left us all questioning if God had abandoned us (based on everything that’s transpired over the past year, the answer is obviously yes and I’m willing to bet He/She/They fucked off quickly after humanity was created, only reappearing to sprinkle in light relief, such as WandaVision, every so often (based on my previous entries, I probably shouldn’t be doing theological rants, that’s more Tom’s department)). As a lovely treat, we came up with a very thinly stretched excuse to watch Rose and Rosa, two outstanding episodes that help to demonstrate what Doctor Who is really about, and how this show has the power to tell truly incredible stories (before immediately following it up with absolute crap (cough, cough Arachnids in the UK).
Ah Rose, what a gem of an episode. I mean, it would have to be, otherwise it wouldn’t have been able to launch the modern series. This episode features the return of classic monsters the Autons, and introduces fans both new and old to the 9th Doctor, who differs from his predecessors by absolutely despising every moment of filming whilst arguing behind the scenes with the BBC big wigs. Oh and he also has a Northern accent. Because lots of planets have a Manchester apparently (I propose we rename the Doctor’s home on Gallifrey to the Manchester of Rassilon and no, I will not be taking suggestions at this time). Despite the behind the scenes trouble, Christopher Eccleston gives us an absolutely fantastic introduction to the new Doctor, quickly winning over the audience with his charm and one of the greatest speeches to ever grace our television screens (the one about the feel of the planet turning. Honestly gives me goosebumps every time). Billie Piper also quickly cements herself as one of the greatest DW companions ever (fight me Tom) even though she can’t tell that her boyfriend has been replaced by a plastic facsimile after she’s just met the man who has the world’s largest Big Finish collection. Ok, we’ve got to talk about it, what the hell is up with plastic Mickey? His hair looks like it’s been spray-painted on and he is unhealthily obsessed with pizza, to the point where the Ninja Turtles might tell him to get some help. The Doctor and Rose get away from him pretty quickly, but the true fans here know what really happened to him: K-9 had to awkwardly shoot him whilst bumping into multiple tables and using the various conveniently placed ramps to roam around London. Does this episode have flaws? Yes, obviously. The Doctor’s plan revolves around a literal deus ex-machina called ‘Antiplastic’ which obviously got its own trading card. But despite the silliness of a few things, this episode stands out as an excellent series debut. The scene where the Autons burst out of the shops is shocking and effective, and the Doctor and Rose have great chemistry that carries on throughout the series. Rose does an excellent job of ushering in a new era of Doctor Who, and almost certainly is one of the reasons many of us in the society are hooked on this show. Good on you Russell.
Following Rose, we continued our theme of episodes titled after characters whose names begin with ‘Ros’ (admittedly there aren’t many episodes that fulfil that requirement but hey, we couldn’t think of a better link at the time) with Rosa, a historical piece about civil rights activist Rosa Parks and her revolutionary actions that led to a better world. This episode is extraordinary and it’s hard to find anything to joke about here. Everyone plays their parts to perfection, particularly Vinette Robinson, who honours Rosa Parks with her flawless performance. Emotions run high throughout this episode and the soundtrack helps to accentuate them, highlighting the raw feeling of hope that Rosa Parks inspired that day. The atmosphere of 50’s southern America is (unfortunately) captured perfectly, and the cinematography is *chef’s kiss*. On a lighter note, that Banksy joke also works pretty well. Now despite how incredible this episode is, there is still one very obvious problem that we all can’t help but laugh at. I am of course talking about the iconic and memorable villain, Space Racist. Good Lord this is truly one of the most stupid villains Chibnall has ever conceived (apart from Sex gas, allegedly). Despite coming from thousands of years in the future where presumably, humans have met various species of aliens and live with them peacefully, this guy has a problem with black people. His racist views lead him to attempt to stop Rosa Parks, which he can’t do by killing her (due to reasons) so he disguises himself as Mr Bus (CEO of buses) to disrupt the entire Montgomery bus system. As you can tell from his stupid plan, he fails and ends up being straight up murdered by Ryan, who never faces any consequences for this. Ok, look we all have a good laugh about space racist, but seriously, maybe the better villain would have just been 50’s America (or do you think that would be too on the nose and would probably piss off American audiences due to the obvious parallels to modern day America? Probably the latter. Americans are very touchy when you bring up their terrible past). Anyway, Rosa stands as the clear highlight of series 11, demonstrating the emotional weight and gravitas Doctor Who can bring to TV, whilst celebrating a true icon and hero. A tour-de-force, Rosa demonstrates the power of hope and reminds us that no matter how dark the situation may be, there is always light. Even when there are space racists involved.
Saturday 13th February: Taking out the trash
As is the way with this society, once we’ve watched something good, it’s only customary that we watch some absolute crap. I mean, we’d only be spoiling you if we constantly watched good episodes, so every so often we have to come back down to reality and accept that perhaps not all of Doctor Who’s ambitious ideas pay off, and sometimes we do have to slog through some real duds. However, it is said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and here, we welcome different opinions about the quality of episodes (this may come as a shock to Not-my-Doctor followers, but yes, people are allowed to have opinions that differ to yours). So with that in mind, we set about watching two stories that are generally acknowledged as quite bad, but we had someone fighting their corner in an attempt to convince the rest of the society to see these episodes as diamonds in the rough. Did it work? Eh, kind of.
First up is a two-parter starring a character that I absolutely despise. Yep, we’re starting the rant off strong. The Girl who Lived/Woman who Died are two episodes focusing on Maisie Williams’ character Ashildr/Me, a character who grows(?) from starry eyed dreamer to bitter, jaded murderer over the course of one very disjointed story. I really don’t like Ashildr (I would say Me but that’s a stupid thing to call yourself and also repeatedly taking about how I hate me may end up sending me to therapy) but I can understand what they were trying to do. Having an immortal character who is forced to live through all the crappy periods of history seems like an intriguing avenue to explore, but trying to paint her as a good guy is difficult when you make her such a dick. Seriously, the only reason she suddenly cares about people dying is because she got betrayed. Let’s face it, if Lion-O from Thundercats said she could still come with him to space, she probably would have started stabbing people left, right and centre. Alright I’m in too good a mood today to keep ranting about Ashildr so let’s talk about other parts of the episode (Last thing, come on. I know you have limited memory but it’s your name. Calling yourself Me is pretty dumb and lazy. Think of literally anything else). The Girl who Lived is a pretty fun episode, with the intimidating Mire and homage to the Magnificent Seven (or whatever Western inspired that episode of the Mandalorian where that village has to be taught to defend themselves from an AT-ST). Unfortunately, the villain was meant to be played by Brian Blessed, but he couldn’t make it and honestly, the promise of what could have been is too glorious to not be upset about. Whilst the first part is pretty fun, the second episode seems to be unsure about what it wants to be. It tries to tell a story about existential crises and the pain of immortality, but also throws in a ton of slapstick and a weird fire-breathing cat villain (who definitely isn’t Incineroar from Pokemon). The end fight seems weirdly reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy (with purple stones and alien armies) but at least Sam Swift gives a pretty good stand-up routine on the gallows. So, does this episode belong in Trash week? Yes. Without hesitation yes. I know Tom would say otherwise, but screw it, this is my website post and I’m going to tear into Ashildr/Me as much as I want dammit!
Alright moving on, we rounded off the evening with one of the worst named episodes ever. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (I had to Google it again) is remembered as a pretty lacklustre series finale that unfortunately fuelled a lot of the Chibnall haters’ rage. It brings back blue man group reject Tim Shaw and has the Doctor and fam attempt to stop him from shrinking planets in a plot that definitely isn’t just the same plot as the Pirate Planet from Classic Who. Once we played this episode, a lot of people dropped out of the call (awfully convenient) but those who remained were prompted by Felix to give this episode another chance. And do you know what? I’m glad we did. This episode honestly is a lot better than I remember it being. Sure it’s not the best series finale but it’s pretty solid and has a lot of good stuff in it. First off, there’s Tooth McToothface himself Tim Shaw. Whereas before he was a petulant child demanding to be seen by his people, now he has become a blood-thirsty warlord, only kept alive by his desire for revenge. The introduction of Tim Shaw is amazing, with a giant pair of mechanical lungs and a variety of tubes plugged into him giving off this air of someone with the cold, grim determination to survive at any cost. Honestly, gave me a very Darth Vader kind of vibe (and Taniks from Destiny, but less people know that one). The cinematography of the episode (like all of Chibnall’s era) is phenomenal and the soundtrack by Segun Akinola is breath-taking. Mark Addy also gives a wonderful guest performance as a soldier with amnesia, conveniently dispensing exposition whenever the plot requires it. But the best part of the episode has to be Graham. Bradley Walsh puts on an outstanding performance as a man determined to get revenge for the death of his wife, but struggling with idea of having to take a life. It’s not an episode where Graham spends the whole time going, “I’ll do it, I’ll kill him, I swear” and then gets stopped by one motivational talk. Instead, Graham shows that he’s unsure if he can follow through on this throughout the entire episode, you know, like an actual person with emotions would. You know what? I don’t believe this episode belongs in trash night. It’s not a great finale, sure, but it’s a pretty solid episode, with some good emotional stakes and a few nice pay-offs at the end. Maybe the only thing wrong with it is the Ux. I think we can all agree they’re pretty dumb.
Saturday 20th February: Someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing a (Cloister) bell
Ok the theme for this week is a bit of a stretch (as they are most weeks) but essentially, we just wanted to watch Heaven Sent without being forced to follow it up with Hell Bent. As such, we dedicated this week’s event to episodes featuring walls and people knocking on/breaking through them. Yeah I know, we really aren’t that good with coming up with episode themes. However, what this essentially allowed us to do was watch 3 absolutely outstanding episodes without prompting an hour long debate about the quality of Hell Bent (which I will forever call one of the worst episodes of Modern Who and I don’t care what Tom says, I would 100% yeet Ashildr into the void if I saw her at the end of the universe). For once, we were all in agreement about the choice of episodes this week, and we got a rare chance to sit back, relax and come together in agreement about the very best Doctor Who has to offer. Makes a nice change to arguing, although next week we’re watching Orphan 55 so don’t expect the peace to last that long.
First up is Steven Moffat’s magnum opus, Heaven Sent (part 1 of 1. No follow up required). What can I possibly say about Heaven Sent that hasn’t already been said by every single person who’s ever watched it? This episode is a masterpiece and stands as a strong contender for not just the best Doctor Who episode of the Capaldi’s era, but possibly of all time (yes I know, it’s even better than Horns of Nimon!)! Everything about this episode is perfection. Moffat’s writing is stronger than it’s ever been, allowing us to glimpse into the Doctor’s fears and logic as he tries to make sense of the maze he’s trapped in. Rachel Talalay also gives an incredible turn as the director, adding a tension to the episode and ensuring you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time. Despite having already composed some stellar soundtracks for the previous 8 seasons, Murray Gold decides to unleash his greatest work to date, with a rousing and inspiring score that emphasises the Doctor’s emotions and triumph. But of course, the true star of this episode is Peter Capaldi, who cements himself as one of the greatest actors to ever grace our screens. This is the episode where he became THE Doctor to me. For most of series 8 and series 9, I was defending his performance to my family and friends, telling them that he gives a good performance of a grumpy and weary time-traveller. In truth though, whilst I enjoyed watching him in the role, I didn’t really feel like he was as good as many of his predecessors. Oh how wrong I was. The first time I saw this episode, I finally became convinced that he was born for the role. His performance in this episode, without anyone to bounce off of, defines the character of the Doctor and shows us how this show became one of the longest-running and highest rated sci-fi shows of all time. Honestly, there’s nothing new I can say that hasn’t already been said by literally everybody. It’s phenomenal and easily one of the greatest stand-alone episodes of television ever. Only two things to add really. Firstly, when the flashback of Clara dying played, I’m proud to say that multiple people in this society cheered. God, I love this society. Secondly, the Doctor finds a dry set of clothes every time he repeats the loop, which are revealed to be his clothes that he left out to dry. Does this mean that the first time he did this, he just ran around naked for the rest of the loop? Try to get that out of your head the next time you watch Heaven Sent.
So how on earth can we possibly follow Heaven Sent, the first part of a two-parter? Well obviously, by watching another of the greatest episodes of Doctor Who, The Girl in the Fireplace, an episode from 7 seasons earlier (I hope you can tell, but I really didn’t want to watch Hell Bent and so we looked for literally any other episode to watch. Tom didn’t show up for the meeting where we decided what we were watching, so tough luck. That’s what he gets for working on his degree!). In this episode, the Doctor, Rose and Mickey travel to a derelict spaceship in the 51st century, where they find a weird link to 18th century France. But what could the service robots of this ship want with the mistress of King Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour? This was actually the second episode I ever watched and has stayed with me as one of the greatest episodes ever. Everyone in the episode puts on an outstanding performance and the concept of time travel where you can never end up in the same time as before is really intriguing. The clockwork robots in this episode are beautiful works of art, given an inhuman and soulless look thanks to their jerky movements and unchanging disconcerting masks. The finale is incredible and utterly iconic, with David Tennant perfectly capturing the cockiness and heroism of the Doctor (I know I said Capaldi became the Doctor last episode, but this episode will always reinforce that David Tennant is MY Doctor). Not to mention, seeing the Doctor pretend to be drunk and dance around the clockwork robots is one of the most underrated moments in this show. An episode that helped to hook me for life, The Girl in the Fireplace is a tour-de-force, showing us how Steven Moffat can craft truly phenomenal works of art, with great characters, terrifying villains and of course, iconic lines (“What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?” “Mickey, what’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get some perspective!”). Again, truly a masterpiece.
Finally, we payed an episode that might not be as great as the others, but technically it fulfils the requirement of having walls and knocking on them. In Knock Knock, the Doctor decides to investigate when Bill and her friends rent a TikTok house for a suspiciously cheap price, leading to a horrifying discovery about what really happens to the inhabitants. Now I believe Felix said it best (I know, very rare) in that this episode isn’t trying to be scary, but spooky. I’ll admit, that’s a pretty apt description for this episode, as the horrifying ways Bill’s friends are ‘bumped off’ aren’t exactly terrifying, but they are pretty gruesome and definitely add to the tension that builds up over the first half an hour. All of the actors put on a pretty good turn as excited uni students, but its David Suchet who truly steals the show as the intimidating and creepy landlord. He plays the part so well, creating a character who truly unnerves you whenever he’s on screen, and melts your heart when he reverts to his child-like personality towards the end. Now granted, the episode never actually answers how he worked out the ‘Dryads’ need 6 students in order to keep his mum alive, or how he can quickly move through the house, but honestly, he gives such a captivating performance, you really don’t care about little things like that. Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie are a wonderful duo as always, and seeing the Doctor pretend to be Bill’s grandfather is hilariously awkward and entertaining (I will die on this hill, but the scene where the Doctor doesn’t know who Little Mix is has to be one of the funniest scenes in Doctor Who ever), particularly when interacting with her friends, who give pretty realistic performances as a bunch of terrified students, who are definitely going to need a lot of therapy after this. Whilst the dryads are a bit weird, the wooden mother is an absolute corker of a costume, which is brought to life by the wonderfully human performance given by Mariah Gale. Seriously, without her, the costume looks absolutely awful (check the Wikipedia page and then look at the episode. Yeah, clearly this woman works miracles). So whilst this episode isn’t as iconic as the other two on this list, it’s still a solid bit of fun, with some great performance and snappy dialogue that keeps it moving, even if the finale reminds us that we may never see a party again (seriously, who remembers Fresher’s parties? God they were shit but I miss them now).
Saturday 27th February: If the kids are united
For once in my life, I’ve got something to say. I better say it now, for now is today. Come on, please say someone knows this song! Anyway, seeing as none of you cretins recognise this Sham 69 reference, I’ll get on with what might be my last ever rant on this website! I know dear readers, our 2 years together seems to have flown by. Have I achieved anything I set out to do as Keeper of the Matrix? You bet your arse I haven’t, but at least I’ve used my time to warn you away from the crap of Doctor Who with my weekly rants. Well, I’ve tried but no-one reads this so hey. Alright, so for my final rant, I’m here to cover our terribly named Child week, which honestly just sounds a bit creepy. For this week, we found 3 episodes of wildly varying quality, including the fairly good Doctor’s Daughter, the terrifying mess Night Terrors and of course, everybody’s favourite series 12 episode Orphan 55. Last week, I was only able to say good things about our selection of episodes, but this week I’m prepared to rip and tear into some absolute crap. So prepare dear readers, for an absolute bloodbath (what a great way to end my run).
Alright first up is the Doctor’s Daughter, the best of these three episodes and the story that created the most confusing family tree in Doctor Who history. Here, the Doctor, Martha, Donna and the Doctor’s newly created daughter/wife Jenny, must stop a war from erupting between the human inhabitants of a planet and the water-breathing Hath. This episode is very much the Doctor Who version of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with clones being born, immediately given a weapon and told to die for a cause they don’t really understand, whilst everyone harks on about how good or bad war is. Unfortunately, this episode is nowhere near as thought-provoking or entertaining as Dave Filoni’s masterpiece. Leading the bland human faction is Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, General Corn-on-the-Cobb, who immediately imprisons the Doctor, Donna and Jenny because they dare to say “War bad”. Once they’ve broken out of the dance hall that the Captain Jack episode of Torchwood was set in, the trio must make their way through a generic BBC corridor, complete with 21st century safety signs and equipment (seriously, it’s meant to be the future but there’s a modern fuse box just in view at all times. Very Classic Who there). Donna exhibits her powers of temping, informing the others that this war that has taken place over hundreds of generations has actually lasted only for 7 days; a pretty good twist unless you think about where all the dead bodies are and how no-one would notice that they haven’t decomposed yet. Seriously, they should be constantly tripping over bodies. Martha on the other hand, is hanging out with the Hath, a bunch of fish straight out of Chicken Little. Now, I think the Hath costumes look quite good, and they definitely have more personality than the human faction, but one thing I will not forgive this episode for is not putting “BLUB BLUB” in the subtitles whenever the Hath spoke. Come on, that would have been amazing! Hats off to Freema Agyeman, who gives 110% when the Hath soldier Peck dies. I mean she fully screams and cries when this fish-person she’s known for 5 minutes dies in a muddy puddle. Speaking of which, I have to address Tom’s email from last week. Granted, it is a weird idea that a fish can die from drowning, but as a Zoologist, I have to say that this is entirely possible. Technically the fish can suffocate from a lack of oxygen in the water, just as we can die from a lack of oxygen in the air. Based on the look of the water (well muddy ooze) Peck drowns in, I’d say it’s very plausible that Peck wouldn’t be able to obtain enough oxygen and therefore drown, but I understand where Tom is coming from. I mean he probably did it for humour reasons, but hey, I’ve got a degree that will never help me in the real world, so I’ll use it whenever I can. Right, I’ve gone on for way too long so I’ll wrap this episode up by saying it’s pretty fun (even if the incidental music is way too jolly for a war episode) but pretty flawed in a lot of ways. Still, can’t wait to see Jenny again in another episode! Maybe.
Alright, next up is an episode that I have attempted to completely repress from my mind. Night Terrors is an episode written by Mark Gatiss (I completely forgot about that) and focuses on the Doctor’s attempts to help a little boy, who’s fears and nightmares seem to be coming true. Now before I get into the part that absolutely terrifies me to my core, I want to give a quick shout-out to Arthur Darvill, who I believe gives the best performance in this episode. As always, he maintains a realistic performance as a man who is rightly frightened of everything around him, but he also puts on a spooky voice at one point that’s so different to his regular voice, it snapped me out of the episode and made me remember, ‘Oh yeah, Arthur Darvill is a proper actor and isn’t just Rory from Doctor Who’. Right, on with the crap. The episode really tries to build tension from the get-go, but anything outside the doll’s house is honestly pretty laughable. Whether that’s the old lady getting eaten by bin bags (If I had a penny for every time someone’s been eaten by a bin on this show, I’d have 2 pennies. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that that’s happened twice) or the grubby landlord being sucked into the carpet, everything in the real world just looks cheesy and cheap, which doesn’t really help set the horror tone the episode is going for. The rest of the episode is pretty forgetful, with a child actor who’s not the best and some rather uninspired sets, but there are two moments that stand out as truly horrifying. The first is obviously the Peg doll transformation scene. I fucking hate this. The long drawn out transformation forces you to watch everything, as a man is converted into a monstrous wooden creature whilst screaming and childish giggling echoes in the background. Did we learn nothing from the Empty Child? This isn’t fun, it’s just outright nightmare inducing. I had to look away and play the recent Diamond and Pearl remake advert just to prevent myself from screaming. Honestly, I hate this scene and I’m not afraid to admit that it scares me. Other than that, the most impressive part of this episode is when the Doctor and Alex realise that George isn’t truly human. The slow terror of ‘what the hell is sitting on the bed’ and the realisation that George has just heard all of this from his dad is jarring and tense, creating a much more intriguing mystery than whatever the hell is happening with the giant pink scissors in the doll house. Thankfully, everything is wrapped up with a neat little bow, as the Doctor takes Amy and Rory on to their next adventure, instead of you know, taking Amy to therapy after she was forced to turn into a Victorian doll. I’m sure that kind of event doesn’t traumatise anyone. Certainly doesn’t keep me awake at night, no siree!!!
Finally, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It’s been a long time coming, but at long last we forced ourselves to once again watch Orphan 55, widely regarded as one of the worst episodes of Modern Who, which I’ll admit is a hard title to earn. Out of the gate, the episode seems fine, with the Doctor and fam trying to take a relaxing holiday at a resort filled with quirky characters, including a hamster-hybrid apparently named by Gina from Brooklyn Nine-Nine (seriously who could look that their child and go, I’m calling you Hyph3n with a 3?), Jay from the Inbetweeners and his son, Roger from His Dark Materials (you broke my heart Roger) and finally, our favourite meme couple, Benni and Vilma, two elderly holiday goers who get into such hijinks as trying to propose and being brutally ripped apart off screen. Aww. However, the episode quickly devolves into a Caravan of Garbage, with the Doctor and a group of survivors trying to hold their own against the Dregs, pasty white monsters with awful teeth and buggy eyes (and before you say anything, yes I know this describes most British people) who are out to eat them. I think? It’s never really clear what the dregs are trying to do. Alright, so what’s bad about this episode? For starters, it kills Benni. Why would you introduce the sweetest character and then immediately kill him? I know it was for shock value, but could you not do it in such a hilarious way? The way Vilma screams “BENNI” just immediately sends everyone into an Elton John sing along and while the line “Secondly, could somebody please shoot me?” is meant to create a sense of terror, it actually comes off as pretty hilarious as it’s so out of the blue. The rest of the script is just as terrible, with too many plots thrown in and some absolutely terrible decisions made by nearly everyone (except Graham, obviously). There’s too much family drama, with too many characters trying to share the spotlight, creating problems that we really don’t get very invested in as we barely know any of the characters involved. The dregs are not only a pretty crap idea (say it with me kids, evolution doesn’t work like that!), but they also look terrible whenever they’re not in a heavily edited close-up shot. The suits look rubbery and uncomfortable and in wide shots, they’ve just copied and pasted about 3 different models all over the place, giving the appearance that EA Sports were hired to fill in the crowd. Worst of all is the awful twist that Orphan 55 was Earth all along, which we get hit over the head with twice in very ham-fisted, botched ways. The final message isn’t terrible, and again we have to remember that this series is aimed primarily at children, but it’s very on the nose and rather poorly worked into the episode, probably because they were trying to squeeze it in with all the other 57 plot arcs going on. So yeah, Orphan 55. It’s crap. That’s all there is to say really. You can’t polish a turd, and believe me, this episode fits that description pretty well.
So that’s the end of my run I guess. I won’t be able to keep this job as I’ll be leaving university this year. I just wanted to thank everyone in the society for firstly letting me do this and not care enough to check the website and tell me I’m doing a terrible job, and also for making this a wonderful group that has helped me get through the past 4 years. I hope my rants and ramblings have at least brought a smile to someone’s face at some point, and I’d like to give my successor some words of advice: never be cruel or cowardly, and never ever eat pears! Try to keep this website alive and make your mark on here, hopefully by continuing to rant about episodes like nobody’s reading (which they aren’t). Also, you may want to look up how a website works. Trust me, it’s harder that you’d think!
Thank you all for putting up with me, and good luck to the new council.
Sam Leonard, Keeper of the Matrix (2019-2021)
P.S – Don’t you dare go back and edit these to remove anything I’ve said about Clara! I’ve worked hard to try and show how much she sucked, so don’t go changing that if you’re some Clara-lover. I’m not letting Tom win after I’m gone.