Uh oh, I haven’t been doing weekly reviews of Doctor Who episodes this season. Spoilers below.
“Smith and Jones” – Good intro for Martha. Actual plot a bit of a side show but still more substantial than two years ago. Her family no worse than Jackie and Micky (first episode versions, before they got cool) except for the father and his girlfriend, who were just embarassing for all the right reasons and all the wrong reasons. 7/10
“The Shakespeare Code” – Full of fizzing dialogue and sexual tension. A nice take on the old “magic and science co-existed at the start of the universe, but science beat magic” myth that’s been part of Doctor Who for some time. But if the witches used words as their tools of power, why was there a big string of numbers in the speech they added to the play? 9/10
“Gridlock” – Total continuity-fest. Face of Boe. Macra. Gallifrey. Time War. As bad as anything from the 80s. But because it had a decent emotional core and was very well written, all the continuity seemed natural and worked. Except the Macra, who were just deliberately gratuitous. Really good fun. Boe’s message was exactly as everyone predicted. More interesting was Tennant’s comment in Confidential about how Boe is right but the Doctor isn’t wrong. 8/10
“Daleks in Manhatten” – Should have been brilliant. Looked good (up until the final reveal of the hybrid at least), but somehow feels empty afterwards. Some odd bits. The Doctor was a lot less talkative than usual. The Daleks were behaving like their 1960s versions. Yes, we get that the Doctor and the Daleks are now mirrors of each other, but please can we just exterminate some people and get on with it? 6/10
Meanwhile, I’ve watched “The War Machines” and “Vengeance on Varos” recently.
“The War Machines” is a very odd story, it’s the first story set in the present day (with the possible exception of Planet of the” Giants, but that doesn’t count) and the first to feature the British Army. But unlike all the UNIT stories that follow it feels too short rather than too long. The threat of the War Machines is never really made obvious and the climax is rushed. Also, Dodo gets the worst exit of any companion, and the Doctor is called “Doctor Who” on screen for the only time. It also has a superb performance from William Hartnell and provides agood introduction to Ben and Polly.
“Vengeance on Varos” looks incredibly prescient these days. Reality TV has almost caught up with it, all we need to do is move from mental to physical torture and we’re there. But the plot needed some major tightening – scrap the whole mad scientist / turning Peri into a bird sub plot and there would have been room to come up with a less contrived and rushed solution to Sil’s approaching invasion fleet. Doesn’t Owen Teale (he was the lead cannibal in Torchwood’s “Countrycide”) look young? The sixth Doctor demonstrates his callous streak here and poor old Colin Baker only gets a few bits of decent script with most of the good stuff going to Martin Jarvis and Nabil Shaban, both of whom excel.