|I am at loss to explain what the Doctor is doing here.|
This is held up as one of the best stories of Doctor Who. It’s quite good, especially if you can ignore McCulloch’s dreadful music and the appalling title which means absolutely nothing, but it also left me feeling a bit unhappy about a few things. McCoy, in my mind, still seems to be going through the motions and the way he deliberately rolls his ‘r’s and over-pronounces some words to be honest is a bit much and I really feel he’s not in character, but at least he’s a far cry from ‘Time and the Rani’ where he seemed desperate to be funny.
|Dursely McLinden as Mike Smith|
The Daleks are back, and following on from ‘Revelation of the Daleks’, we have two factions, one headed by Davros now going by the guise of the Emperor Dalek, and the other headed by the Black Dalek controlling a young girl. Why? Because why not I guess. There’s great pace and energy through the four episodes, penned by first-time Who writer Ben Aaronovitch. Pamela Salem (Toos in ‘Robots of Death’) is just one of many quality actors recruited for this tale with deliberate nods to the past and very much a UNIT feel. We also have Michael Sheard returning to who as the Headmaster.
|The Doctor with Gilmore and Rachel Jensen (Pamela Salem)|
We see Daleks rising up stairs for the first time, a space shuttle actually land on Earth without any CSO, and the biggest explosion in Who-history. I think if you don’t delve too deep below the surface this is an almost perfect Doctor Who. However, it’s not.
The character of the Doctor, for starters, is too dark. To intentionally programme the Hand of Omega, which he calls a ‘stellar manipulator’ (oh Pu-lease!) to destroy Skaro’s sun, taking Skaro and other planets along with it, that is not something the Doctor would do in my book.
|Inside a Dalek. Ewwww!|
I really liked the use of nods to the past. In ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ the nods to the past were convoluted and confusing, yet important to the plot. Here, Totter’s Lane, the Coal Hill School, mentions of Zygons and Yeti, and even what appears to be Doctor Who about to be aired on BBC One, are incidental to the plot so the casual viewer might not know they were even there, and if they did and didn’t get them, it didn’t matter. For the fan though, they were nice touches.
|The Black Dalek, Radcliffe and 'the girl'.|
Ace makes a good impression, very different companion even if she is a bit much at times. The series is the better for her introduction. This story feels a lot more like Doctor Who than any of the previous season which is an interesting choice. We seemed to be going in a different direction in Season24, but season 25 sees more of a traditional feel in its opening instalment.
|Where there's Daleks, there's always Davros it seems.|
This feels like just about the most expensive Doctor Who story to date. A Dalek shuttle which is actual sizes that was lowered by a crane, some pretty awesome explosions, a high proportion of the story shot on OB. It’s only let down by one or two things, such as the music (especially) and the use of a lightning ball as the ‘time manipulator’. And the idea that the Doctor set a trap for the Daleks prior to November 1963 even though in ‘The Daleks’ he had never met them before.
But Doctor Who tales aren’t supposed to make perfect sense right? And we get some awesome scenes of Daleks exploding and the organic matter that is inside. Oh another returning face – Peter Halliday as the blind priest, I wonder if the casting was deliberately nodding to the past. Moving the coffin with the Hand of Omega though, that seems unnecessary and perhaps was just an idea for a scene that Aaronovitch wanted included.
Andrew Morgan makes a much better fist of this tale too which is good for him. I do wonder about its status as an absolute classic though, maybe fans are just agog at the explosions and so many Daleks in London. Great story though.