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Some dos and don'ts upon meeting various Dr. Who villains by Mike Heinrich 28/9/05

A guide with some good general advice.

We all know the old chestnuts about aiming for eyestalks and how stairs won't protect you. But the Daleks are only one of the things you might encounter during your trip around time and space. Upon venturing out into the universe, it's handy to keep in mind some good general safety guidelines in order to prevent falling afoul of one of the many evil despotic (or at least highly antisocial) masterminds you might encounter along the way.

In that spirit, here's a handy take-along list of points to remember

Should you happen to meet...


DO- Casually mention how you've been looking for someone to obey and would be only too happy to do so. (Note: You might want to make sure that it actually IS the Master prior using this one, as this is probably an inadvisable thing to mention in other situations. Say - for example - you and The Doctor have found yourself in a strange and mysterious Galactic Hard Core S&M Leather Bar. Now, I'm not judging anyone's lifestyle.. All I'm saying is you should probably be aware of what you're getting yourself into.)

DON'T- Stand there whimpering like an idiot waiting to be turned into an adorable action figure replica of yourself

DON'T- Casually mention how nice your father's body is. (Actually this is just good advice on meeting anybody. It's a creepy thing to do, and no good conversation is going to come from it.)

DON'T- Stare at the shiny object swinging back and forth. No. Seriously. Don't. Just look away. Even though it's so shiny.. Sooooo shiny... Sooooo... Where was I?


DO- Grab the shiny silver vibrator off their belt.

DON'T- Ask them how it felt to have their Grammy taken away. It's an embarrassingly old joke, and the Movellan isn't going to get it anyway.


DO- Mention how against slavery you are and how you can't get enough of red meat.

DON'T- Shake hands.

DON'T- Deliberately expose him and all his kind to ultraviolet light causing the extermination of their entire race, because God knows you get picked up and sent to court for any little thing in the future and they're going to bring up the whole 'genocide' thing and then suddenly you're in ALL this trouble.


DO- Pretend to be a reincarnation of some deceased priest/god. If nothing else it buys you a little time.

DON'T- Screw up his whole 'Eclipse' thing. It's at the very least rude and at most life-threatening.


DO- Make a quick check to see if they're in their 'be courteous to you' period or they're 'tear off your head and stick it on a tallish pole' period. I can't stress how important this distinction is.

DON'T- Ask him to sing a chorus of 'Fascinatin' Rhythm'. Oh, and try to avoid sending his whole fleet into the sun if at all possible. You know, unless you have to.

A TYTHONIAN AMBASSADOR: (Note: not technically 'evil', per se.)

DO- Establish diplomatic relations with him BEFORE chucking him in a great big hole.

DON'T- Immediately try to put your mouth on his big dangling appendage. It's only polite to at least buy him a drink first. And if you DO decide to go ahead and do it anyway, you certainly shouldn't expect it to lead to increased communication, because it never, ever does. How many of us have made THAT mistake?


DO- Tell him how much you enjoyed his role as the AT-AT Commander in Empire Strikes Back. I'm sure he doesn't hear that nearly enough and he really was quite good.

DON'T- Ask how his family is.


DO- Compliment her leather pants, as it's only polite.

DON'T- Worry about being turned into a tree, as they have a much longer life span and it's not like you were going to DO anything with the rest of your life anyway, right?

DON'T- Eat maggots. Although, frankly, if that's the kind of advice you need then I'm not altogether sure that there's any hope for you.


DO- Safely lock and secure your time vehicle behind you.

DON'T- Worry about them being any kind of a threat, as they will inevitably turn out to have an incredible violent weakness for any old thing that you happen to have to hand, up to and including gay pornography. ("Ex-cell-ent! We have ac-qui-red the Time Lord's DVD at last. OH NO! It's Back Door Ban-dits Four! We are Doomed. DOOOOOOOOMED!")


DO- Keep an eye on how much Rouge you're applying at the time. For some reason the Mara's presence tends to make people go completely overboard on the stuff.

DON'T- Under any circumstances, agree to share your body. Again, get drinks first.


DO- Remember to keep it leashed and pick up it's droppings when taking it on walks through the park. It's the law.

DON'T- Immediately shoot it with a flare gun and kill it, as it will without fail turn out to be some young orphan's pet and she'll be all pissed about it. Not that she'll ever mention it again. Or even remember, apparently.


DO- Make an effort to immediately learn it's first name, as I have no idea at this point which species name is Wrong/Inaccurate/possibly racist.

DON'T- Stare at the third eye. Hey! My two eyes are down here, buddy!

I Hope that these simple guidelines will ensure a safe and happy tour through this, our Universe.

What I really want by Mike Heinrich 13/10/05

The other day I popped The Five Doctors in to the DVD player - primarily for background noise while I cleaned the house - and I found myself thinking (not for the first time) "Man it's a shame that we'll never know what this would have been like if Tom Baker had participated. Or if William Hartnell had still been alive"

At which point it occurred to me that there's no good reason why we can't.

OK, OK, I know that copyright issues would prevent this from ever really happening, but bear with me on this.

What I really want - is a five book set of five different versions of The Five Doctors. One with Tom in it. On based on the Robert Holmes script where Richard Hurndall was apparently a robot. One with Jo Grant. One with Sarah falling down a hill that has more than a fifteen degree slope to it, etc. etc. The Five Five Doctors. Come on, it'd be great! They could be Target size, Virgin size, Telos Novella size, whatever, I'm not fussy.

And while I'm at it, and bearing in mind that nobody seems to give much of a crap about maintaining continuity these days anyway, I want... Nay, DEMAND, a few books with the 7th Doctor and Ray as if she had been chosen as the new companion instead of Ace. I want to read a version of Dragonfire where The Doctor and Ray show up, have a rousing adventure with a nice waitress they happen to meet, and then leave together without bothering to learn her name.

And for that matter, what about that chick from The Faceless Ones. You know the one I'm talking about, the one in the amusing hat. How about a run with her, Jamie and Patrick Troughton taking in the universe. What about The Laird of McCrimmon? I wouldn't mind seeing how that was supposed to go. What about Battlefield where the Brigadier actually DID get killed? Oh, and where the villains and plot weren't crap...

Once I started thinking along these lines, the possibilities truly seemed endless. Could we one day read a version of Mawdryn Undead that contained not only Ian Chesterton but also Plot Coherence? Yes! Yes we could! And the original Robert Holmes ending to Trial of a Time Lord which at the very LEAST would be an improvement on what we actually saw. And Kamelion could function properly for Warriors of the Deep! And we could neatly excise the tacked-on bits with the Black Guardian and Olvir, exploring whole new areas of Terminus... And... And...

And I'm getting carried away with myself, obviously.

Stupid copyright issues.

It'll never happen, of course.

But still...

I demand possibilities.

Because Doctor Who has always led me to believe that I should.

What's Wrong with the New Series by Ron Mallett 20/10/05


My heart sank as I winced and cringed my way through the first episode of the new series. My wife got up at the end of it and declared: "I don't know what that was, but it wasn't Doctor Who." She can be described as a casual fan at best and it was glaringly obvious even to her that the new series had failed to deliver the return of a beloved institution. In this essay I have tried to break down my main objections into 10 points (not an easy task as one could write a book on all the flaws) but I have tried to keep this as brief as possible.

The Main Characters:

While Christopher Eccleston makes a good effort, it is clear that the majority of his characterization was transplanted from The Second Coming (another Davies project). No thought went into his costume at all. He now looks like a middle-aged rent boy. All the previous Doctors wore anachronistic clothing - with a decided bent towards the Victoria and Edwardian era - in order to emphasize the sense of him being of great age and learning. This was a critical departure and continues to undermine the series. The fact that Eccleston has just used the show as a career stepping-stone, had not helped the cause either.

Billie Piper could not act her way out of a paper bag. No wonder the character of Rose Tyler comes across as a two-dimensional cardboard cut out. I've been criticized for labeling her "character" as an annoying slapper. I'll just add that she's also a non-entity, a waste of space, cheap and a shallow moron to boot. It makes me weep that there are real actors out there who will not have the chance to build a fully rounded character such as Jamie or Sarah, where both growth and charisma are evident.

The Writing:

It has been overwhelmingly pathetic. According to some the blame cannot be laid at the feet of Russell T. Davies but how can it not? He has himself explained that despite the fact that he plans the seasons from start to finish, including a run down of character and tone, the writers have complete creative freedom (huh?!). Davies has officially written more than half of the stories in the first season, so any argument that he is not primarily responsible for the greatest line of all time turkeys in history is ill informed. The suggestion that we are only satisfied with stories that could have been made during the Hinchcliffe era is just a lie. It is more truthful to say that real fans have been let down by most of the stories that would not have been considered for production during twenty-six seasons of Doctor Who. Only two are potential candidates and they are The Unquiet Dead and The Long Game.

General Characterization:

While I've been accused of being a snob we have seen a parade of cliches pass before us that would have Dickens blushing. Rose's mother is the worst. She is played as the stereotypical British estate moron with a provincial accent, loose values and no brains whatsoever. I just get the feeling that Davies doesn't like people very much. Some of the wisest people I know have no formal qualifications at all. The aliens and humans we meet on the "adventures" are really very shallow due more to the format.

The Format:

The 45-minute format is too limiting for satisfying stories. All the single parters seem rushed and crammed. While some might argue that it is the padding that has been cut, there simply isn't adequate time for a story to unfold in a naturalistic way. It would be much better if all stories were two parters that would allow for proper character development amongst the guest cast of characters and more relaxed intrigue. As it is the story is secondary to the soap opera anyway, so that isn't likely to change. Another issue is the awful glimpses of what is going to happen next week... what is this, The Bill? It destroys any mystery about what is to follow and is really just a chance to show clips of Billie Piper and her jugs bouncing up and down corridors. The little preludes work a lot better but it is all ruined by the title sequences...

The Episode Names:

The names of the stories also reinforce the preoccupation with interpersonal issues: Rose, The Parting of the Ways etc. Gone are titles such as "Attack of the Autons" and "Invasion of the Daleks", after all 15 year old girls don't want to watch shows with titles like those. In the main, the titles have been very un-Whoish and generally unimaginative.

The Sex Opera:

The way in which the show has been marketed as a sexual-tension-filled soap opera is deplorable. In a crass attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator, the show has been topped up with cringeful moments that suggest some kind of relationship between the Doctor and Rose. At one moment a Dalek even declares that she is the woman that the Doctor loves! Gimmie a break! This is kind of like a man having an affair with a pet dog. All the hand holding and rolling around on the TARDIS floor would have Sydney Newman vomiting. The show has been advertised on the basis of who Rose may open her legs for this week rather than what situation the Doctor has found himself in. Honestly, it has Davies' finger marks all over it and I wouldn't be surprised if the name of the show was changed to "Sex and the TARDIS!" The influence is very strongly American of course and the slide started with The Telemovie. It is disgraceful.


Isn't it amazing that the old, limited but architecturally beautiful TARDIS sets were more effective that the new one. I thought the TARDIS interior from the movie was over the top. The set is a metaphor for the show in a sense, a concern with aesthetics over content. Bigger does not always mean better, only slappers think that.

The Opening and Closing Sequences:

Oh dear, oh dear, this is what happens when people cannot get a certain era out of their brains ie. 1974 to 1979. I thought the Hartnell and Troughton era fans were annoying with their insistence that such and such an episode was a classic and only they can remember them (until of course they are systematically discovered and debunked), please make way for the Tom Baker zombies. The vortex effect is nothing new and the theme sounds like the National Philharmonic Orchestra is performing it. The arrangement therefore has no aura of spookiness about it at all. It all really has a rushed feeling to it and looks as if it was been slapped together by fans aged 30 to 45 who think that only Tom Baker played the Doctor.


There has been a lot of unnecessary slapstick humour that to put it bluntly, has just been childish. The bin burp in Rose is a good example: it was animated plastic, it doesn't have a digestive system so why should it burp? The Doctor wrestling with a small child for control of a TV remote control was another of those moments. You can't expect much more when we have a crop of writers such as Steven Moffat who openly claim: "Doctor Who was never a seriously-intentioned program!" It was an abused program at times, and in the Williams production era it did not receive the respect it deserved, but when it did work well from day one, it was always played straight.

The Thought Police:

As far as the views of certain fans who shall remain nameless and others are concerned, I fully anticipated them. We've seen this kind of philosophy in action before in relation to the McCoy era. After the series was originally cancelled following season 26, no one was allowed to criticize anything about that era, not the writers, the actors, production crew, nothing. It was almost as if people were concerned that any negative criticism would impede the chances of McCoy and Aldred returning to television (and it really worked didn't it?!). There are always trumped up little fascists in every sub-culture more than ready to act as thought police. Real fans are not apathetic, they question and contribute - it is both our right and our responsibility. And in anticipation if their next comment ("Well why watch it then, just let us enjoy it"), it is our privilege to act as custodians for an institution that was created by many great minds and talents and we should not remain silent while that is perverted into something shallow and meaningless. I can see now that anyone speaking the truth is going to be labeled as boring old farts and ungrateful. The only thing that would make me grateful is if the show in its current form was taken out the back and put down.


Therefore there are some serious problems with the new series. The most frustrating is that there is a great show buried underneath all the rubbish trying to get out. When Roddenberry resurrected Star Trek into The Next Generation, he succeeded because he kept true to the core values and essence of the original. It's almost as if the BBC have decided to drive the final nail into the coffin by creating a show that is a mockery of the original, a method of finally alienating traditional fans from the series. If Michael Grade (champion of the shallow, corporate and all that is dull and amoral in the world) can become a fan, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. Wake up Whovians! Fight for your inheritance! That doesn't make us boring old farts, just traditionalists.

Where Old and New Do Not Converge by Adrian Loder 26/10/05

This is an article exploring the real, fundamental change that the series has undergone from 1989 until now, on television anyway.

I've written fairly recently that the rebirth of Doctor Who deserves to be seen as a legitimate continuation of the original series and have made my claim that the season just past is, in fact, Season 27 (and no, the audios don't contribute to this numbering because they aren't television seasons. That doesn't mean they don't fit into overall continuity, merely that they don't fit into the numbering system of a different medium). I stand by this, and believe that, though there are things I don't like about the series, enough of the old survives. Even emotional drama is not unknown in the original run - what of Hartnell's tortured codas to The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Massacre? When done right, without undue sentimentality and with real emotion, there is no reason why things such as these cannot be part of the ongoing evolution of the show.

The problem, however, is that most of the time in the season just past, sentimentality has been everywhere, emotions have been trite and unreal and as a result the heartfelt aspect of the show comes off as soap-like. I'm more than sympathetic with Ron Mallett's criticisms of the new season, and I certainly agree in part with most of his complaints. I also tend to agree somewhat with the people who say that new is not necessarily bad, that Doctor Who has always changed, and that this new direction has good things to offer, as well. I can see both sides, and I suppose I come down between them. Perhaps that is why I see something that others seem not to, the one major point of divergence between what has been and what is now, and will be, regarding Doctor Who.

And that is...? The difference between story-based, and character-based, drama.

In the old days, Doctor Who was definitely story-based. Characters were fleshed out over a series of episodes and, in the case of the leads, over the course of seasons. Evolution was slower and more gradual, but also more lifelike and subtle, because of this, which is the natural byproduct of story-based storytelling. Because of the primary focus being on plot, characters are not defined through lengthy emotional interludes, or extended expositions, so much as by the way they react to others, to events around them, the actions they take in response to others' actions. We are not told how a character is, either by others or the character him/herself, but rather we are shown how the character is through the unfolding of the plot. In this way characters are not shoved into pre-made roles that they then expound on at length, or revealed through constant emotional heart-to-hearts; they gradually reveal themselves, in a more slow, and subtle way. Aside from being superior simply in terms of not hitting people over the head with things, story-based drama is also better when the actors and actresses are not exactly Oscar material. This is not a jab at the fine men and women who have worked on Doctor Who, but rather an acknowledgement that then, as now, sometimes people aren't up to snuff. When you put someone like this into a position where they have to do one of the most difficult things in all acting, to realistically and powerfully portray deep emotion and feeling without being trite, maudlin or hyperbolic, and that person doesn't have the stuff to do it, you get disaster or, more specifically, you get Rose's mother.

The new show is far more of a character-based affair than the show was in the past, and the problem is that very few in the cast have the chops to justify it. Chris Eccleston is able to pull it off, and John Barrowman isn't too bad, but no one else is that strong. This isn't to knock them - as mentioned earlier, being able to consistently pull this sort of thing off is very tough. Furthermore, you can only work with what you're given, and the fact of the matter is that the writing in a character-based drama also has to be stronger on the emotional front, and capable of real, sincere emotion and words that ring true. Crafting a tight plot is quite difficult, but in a different way. I'm almost tempted to ask Russell Davies to try stories like that - sure, the ratings might drop (would they? audiences were just as "common" in the sixties, seventies and eighties as now and Doctor Who had several periods of multi-year ratings awesomeness), but the stories might improve.

Davies has been acclaimed for his writing on other melodramatic shows, and frankly I have to wonder if this is acclaim from the same folks who do not now see that most of the supporting cast of the new series, insofar as emotional depth is concerned, are not up to the task. I felt that Paul Cornell and Stephen Moffat actually did the best in welding a greater, but sincere, emotional element to what has been forged into what we know as Doctor Who over the previous 40 years. This is not to say that Davies is horrible; there are good moments, and it is my emphasis on the good that allows me to still see the Doctor Who in this and embrace it as a continuation of the past. But the stuff that he is best at is also what is usually not played up in the stories, at least not in my opinion.

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind, however, that the weaknesses that exist are largely due to this change from story-based to character-based drama. If you're going to do the latter you'd best have the absolute finest actors/resses and writers money can buy lest you risk unintentionally making fun of yourself. That the spirit of Doctor Who lives on even within this is a testament to its staying power. Perhaps I emphasize the good elements in Who a bit too strongly - if I were to rate The Web Planet, I'm thinking I might give it as a high as a 7 out of 10 ("Yikes!" go the McCoy fans) - though, unlike someone's suggestion that people who like everything have no taste, I do not enjoy everything equally.

Perhaps were I not so desperate for the dead old Doctor's adventures to continue, I would not view the new series as still retaining the breath of the original 26 seasons. I don't think that's the case, however; I think both sides of this argument are exaggerated, and that if this matter of character-based storytelling were remedied we would see an appropraite uptick in the quality of the program.

On the New Series' Episode Titles by Tom Berwick 15/1/06

Much has been said of the new series' episode titles, usually to criticise them for being entirely unlike those of what the BBC calls the classic series, with the implication that they are indicative of deeper problems with the new series. But are they? I'm going to look at them and see how well they fit with the classic series. That's the only criterion here: whether or not the title, or indeed the episode is any good, I will leave up to you. Or indeed the crucial issue of whether or not any of this actually matters.

(Not that I don't have opinions on those matters. I'm just not going to tell you. Not here anyway).

Firstly, though, a couple of points: lots of stories on the classic series had titles with the basic formula [The] X of [the] Y. 49 stories had a title with this formula after the introduction of story titles. But that is considerably less then half, so I don't think we can look for the title format as our benchmark. We need to look more closely at the flavour of the title, and what it's trying to get across.

Secondly, the titles of part twos don't count. They are not story titles. Perhaps the two-parters have unscreened titles, but I will assume that the title of episode one is the story title. Part two titles can only be compared to Hartnell era episode titles, and when you can have episodes called Small Prophet, Quick Return and Don't Shoot the Pianist, then frankly anything goes, which clears World War Three, The Doctor Dances and The Parting of the Ways.

Incidentally, if the last of these had been a story title, I don't think it would have belonged in the classic series, despite fitting the above formula. So that's another reason for ignoring it.

So, what can we make of the ten remaining titles? Firstly, there are, I think, four titles that clearly consistent with the classic series. There's little to be said about these:

The Unquiet Dead (Probably the most consistent of all. I really can't see any argument against it).

Aliens of London (Okay, lots of stories in the classic series were about aliens attacking London, and none had this title. It would probably only have worked if it had been used in the early days. It wasn't, but it could have been. Since these are the second early days, it gets in.)

The Empty Child ("The Empty Children" sounds a little more classic series-ish, but not much more).

Bad Wolf (A bit like Ghost Light: not exactly a conventional title, but not out of place either. Some classic series titles came a little out of left-field, and I don't see what's wrong with this one).

(I've just realised that three of these are the two-parter titles. I wonder if that tells us anything.)

So, what of the remaining six? Can a case be made for them?

Rose, on the face of it, hasn't a hope. No classic series story title so much as contained a companion's name. There are, however, two things that can be said in its defence. Firstly, the classic series episode it most closely resembles, in some respects at least, is the other Doctor Who Part One: An Unearthly Child. The title was at least about a companion. It wasn't called "Susan", but it could have been. Secondly, for reasons I hope to go into in greater depth elsewhere, Rose can be considered a part two, and hence enjoy the greater freedom enjoyed by part twos.

So, not very classic series-ish at all, but it's got an excuse.

The End of the World nearly made it into the "obviously okay" list. I just couldn't quite see it alongside the classic series titles, not even The Enemy of the World, which is obviously the most similar. Still, I suspect that's just me being a little odd. Objectively, I can't see why I don't think it fits, so I will conclude that it does, and I'm the one with the problem.

Dalek has been specifically criticised on these pages for what the new series titles represent. In response to that, I invite you to consider this plot idea:

A machine creature poses a grievous threat to mankind. Though dangerous, it is at the same time pitiable, and the Doctor's companion shows it kindness. The Doctor resolves to destroy the creature, but will the companion's sympathy be a more effective weapon?

Sound familiar? Of course. But enough about Robot. Isn't it interesting, though, how much the titles of Dalek and the classic series story it most resembles also closely resemble each other? For that reason, Dalek gets the benefit of the doubt.

The Long Game is the first title that I really can't see in the classic series. As has been said elsewhere, the title is incomprehensible until you see Bad Wolf. Therein lies the reason it wouldn't fit: the title is dependent on a season-long story arc that didn't exist in the classic series, at least not in the form it took here.

Father's Day is, to my mind, the least classic series-ish title of all, and not just because it's only the third to contain an apostrophe. Whereas The Long Game is at least a plot-related title, this says nothing about the Reapers, or time being torn apart. It's totally a character-based title, which really does not fit the classic series at all.

Boom Town can be defended, but I don't think the defence works. Compare it with Paradise Towers: there's a certain similarity there. Except that Boom Town means just that: Cardiff is on the up. Paradise Towers, on the other hand, is supposed to describe how the place it depicts should have been, in order to highlight the dystopian nightmare that actually existed. In the classic series, location-based titles (unless written by Mr Bidmead) tend to do more than describe the setting (and Mr Bidmead's do less), and certainly don't talk it up. As I say, there is a similarity but I don't think it's close enough.

So, that leaves three titles out of thirteen that don't fit with the classic series titles, or that at least have justifications that go back to the classic series. Indeed, to the charge that the new titles reflect the soapishness of the new series, only Father's Day is guilty. Overall, then, I conclude that the charge that the new series' titles don't fit with the classic series has been badly overstated.

An article dicussing the regenerative process by Lance Bayliss 27/1/06

We know as Doctor Who fans just how important the concept of regeneration actually was (and still is) to the survival of our programme. It is without a doubt up there with the Daleks as one of the primary reasons that the series stayed the course, and a contributing factor for why it was able to reinvent itself. Each time the lead actors change, we're arguably watching a whole new series of Doctor Who. It was why the children of the children of the kids who first watched in 1963 are watching it in 2005.

Sure, TV series had recast lead actors in the same role before (early Quatermass and Sherlock Holmes teleplays being case examples), but Doctor Who was the first to give it a mythology within the framework of the series itself. Where a character like James Bond will change actors between films, the Doctor changes before our very eyes, blending from one actor to another. It's magic, of the most old-fashioned kind. But rather than focusing on the production side of the changes, I thought the time might be right (given the start of a whole new regenerative cycle in David Tennant) to explore the concept from a fictional point-of-view.

So, what is regeneration? It's the buddist-like concept of a new life springing from the death of an old one. A pheonix rising from the ashes. Reincarnation. An ability natural to Time Lords like the Doctor, it also has several little quirks which make for some interesting analysis. What we know about it is that it's a very painful process, or at least it seems to be for the Doctor himself (more on that later). It results in a rapid metamorphosis: the body's height changes, hair grows or shortens, and we must imagine that several changes are made internally as well, such as the Doctor's skeletal structure changing shape too. This would be very painful, and it's no real surprise that he traditionally needs a rest afterwards. Time Lords are also only able to do this twelve times, giving them thirteen incarnations, after which they tend to fade away once and for all.

Regeneration also appears to give the Doctor "special powers", or at least a certain number of abilities within a certain period after the regeneration itself. The Christmas Invasion has been heavily lauded for introducing this concept, with the Doctor being able to regrow parts of his body after amputation. But it is worth noting that Robot also makes a big deal out of the Doctor's temporary super strength - he is able to chop a brick in half with a single swift chop, and his conversation with Harry Sullivan ("Both a bit fast are they?") indicates that immediately after the process it takes a while for the body to calm down again. When he tries to chop a brick in half at the end of that story, he comes away with a hurt wrist (clearly the process has calmed down by this point).

However, the opposite is often true. The Doctor's brain is left in a state of flux, leading to temporary amnesia and sometimes even a breakdown of cognitive fuctions. He refers to himself in the third person after his first changeover, he initially doesn't recognise Sarah or the Brigadier after the third, and the various permutations in Castrovalva, The Twin Dilemma, The TV Movie and The Christmas Invasion lead to him not "stabilising" until reasonably late in each story. In the case of the sixth Doctor, a good case can be made that he didn't stabalise until his second season, and due to the helter skelter nature of stories like Mindwarp we don't even see too much change in that.

Interestingly, the seventh Doctor seems to be an exception to the rule. He awakens in the Rani's lab in Time and the Rani with no apparent amnesia and in control of his faculties, it isn't until the Rani drugs him and dresses up as his companion that he loses his memory. Given that we don't actually see what caused the regeneration in that story, it's almost impossible to glean any answers as to why this might be so. Likewise, while Rose is open-ended enough to enable any interpretation of whether the ninth Doctor has recently regenerated or not, the fact that we simply join his seemingly first adventure halfway through makes it hard to call. The characterisation of this incarnation is ever so slightly out of sync with what we become familiar with in the following 12 episodes that I tend to fall on the side of it being a recent change, and not necessarily one linked with the Time War.

The process of regeneration seems to be one which causes the Doctor some pain, although it's possible that this might be because unlike other Time Lords he tends to only lose a life after a fatal accident. Yet it seems unusual that Romana can pick and choose her next incarnation in Destiny of the Daleks with ease, even making adjustments as she goes along. Is this some kind of intermediate phase? If so, why does the Doctor never display the ability to actually choose what he looks like? The only time this happens is when he is offered a choice of bodies by the Time Lords at the end of The War Games, and in that case he chooses none of them. Even the Master never seems to have trouble with regeneration, continuing to live on long after his thirteenth body has given way in The Deadly Assassin. So why does the Doctor have such trouble, even within the safety of the TARDIS? Is it because of his human DNA, mentioned in the TV Movie, which has been causing the hang-ups for all these years?

Whatever the case he clearly has to go through some agony each time. In Power of the Daleks he has to focus his mind on the task at hand ("Concentrate on one thing ..." he mutters to himself), in Robot he wakes up and starts to babble a number of phrases used by the third Doctor in his final few stories (trying to retain something of 'himself'?), and Castrovalva sees him using the Zero Room to regroup his thoughts. However, the Zero Room is jettisoned from the TARDIS in that story, and his turbulent sixth incarnation seems to be a result of not having this resource to call upon - he seems confused throughout The Twin Dilemma, as though he can't quite jog his mind back into gear. In The TV Movie the residual memories of the operation theatre are what anchors his eighth incarnation. And in Parting of the Ways he concentrates on the phrase (and the planet) Barcelona. His first instinct in Spearhead and Robot is to get back to the TARDIS as soon as possible. Again, this appears to be a need to find the comfort of the Zero Room.

For all this need to keep some link to his previous incarnation, the Doctor always seems eager to shed that persona through a change in clothes. He takes great delight in choosing his costume in Spearhead from Space, trying on different capes and hats until he finds just the right mixture. He tends to prefer taking bits and pieces of different ensembles and making them into something new. The fifth Doctor tends to clutch onto his cricketing whites as though they're the key to him somehow 'finding himself'. The sixth Doctor's costume itself is a visual indication of his state of mind. The fact that he never ditches these clothes leads to us never quite trusting that he's properly stabalised. The seventh, on the other hand, tries on all his predecessors costumes before finally finding his own feet. The eighth Doctor chooses a fancy dress outfit to go with his more stylised persona, and the ninth wears clothing with an intention of blending in. It seems as though after the trauma of the Time War he just feels a need to sink into the background and not be noticed. Blowing up a department store in the middle of London seems to be the worst way to achieve this anyway.

So, what can we expect from the tenth Doctor? Like the others, I expect that by the end of Series Two we will have a very different, (and vastly better) tenth Doctor than we begin with. Certain elements that we seen in The Christmas Invasion will likely be retained, but others might never rear their head again. Like the second Doctor's perchant for strange and exotic hats (not seen again after his first handful of episodes), I can certainly imagine David Tennant taking the groundwork of his debut and making it altogether darker. It is a rare case for a Doctor to remain the same as his first serial all the way through his era - although Tom Baker's fourth Doctor certainly still retained elements of his scatterbrained Robot portrayal to his very final season ("Arrest the scarf, then!").

One core element that seems to run through all ten Doctors is a darker undertone, a kind of deep emotional trauma that lies beneath a harmless exterior. It will be interesting, as ever, to see how this develops...

An Everyday Story of Time-Travelling Folk by Daniel Saunders 7/3/06

Much of the criticism of the new series has focused on its supposed "soap opera" nature. In my review of it, I argued that this is based to some extent on a fallacy and that just because a story concentrates on the emotions of the regular characters it is not necessarily trying to be a soap. Instead, I tried to draw the distinction between those stories where the characters respond primarily and directly to the unknown or incredible (the domain of non-mimetic fiction such as science fiction, fantasy and horror) and those which dwell on the mundane and domestic aspects of their life (the subject matter of realistic fiction, including soap opera). I think the new series has largely remained in the first of these two categories, although at times it has drifted into the second, most notably with the ongoing subplot of Rose and Mickey's relationship. This should not automatically feel like a criticism. Soap operas do not interest me, but I can see the function that they fulfil and can (just about) understand why people watch them. Why then do many fans have a dislike of this aspect of the new series and feel that at the very least it is the biggest difference between the new and the old and at worst a "betrayal" of everything the old series stood for?

Answering this question involves first asking a different one, namely what exactly is Doctor Who? What has the new series "betrayed"? The answer is "nothing". There simply is no single idea of what the series is and there never has been. For the first four seasons there was no clearly identifiable house style at all, with historical swashbucklers sitting next to outright fantasy. Science fiction usually predominated, if only by a slight margin, but even that ranged from worthy (if sometimes dull) attempts at hard SF to enjoyably (or childishly) pulpy sci fi. The early outline for the series written by C E Webber stated that the series was neither pure science fiction nor pure fantasy but that writers should "avoid the limitations of any label and use the best in any style and category as it suits us." In many ways Doctor Who was a strange sort of anthology series. A variety of different stories were serialised under the same collective series title, but were also linked by a handful of recurring characters, initially just the TARDIS crew. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that before 1963 most British TV science fiction not aimed exclusively at children had been in the form of one-off plays or short serials sometimes leading to sequels, but not regular series.

Over time the format began to establish itself, with certain key plots appearing frequently and a consistent style developing, but both of these were subject to frequent change, especially the latter. For example, the basic plots of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Sun Makers and Vengeance on Varos are the same: the Doctor helps a small band of rebels overthrow their oppressors. However, the tones are very different, ranging from the humour of The Sun Makers to the bleak world-view of Varos. Similarly, the themes are individualised to fit the period when they were made. Dalek Invasion reflects the residual fear of Nazi invasion still existing only twenty years after World War II, as well as hinting at fears of nuclear armageddon. The Sun Makers is the product of a society with a high inflation rate, heavy taxation and industrial unrest while Varos reflects the eighties' anxiety about video nasties. Varos' "Greek chorus" of characters commenting on the action without being directly involved in it also demonstrates the degree of stylistic variation that is possible. This is almost certainly the series' greatest strength. It allowed the show to play to the strengths of a particular production team for a while, producing a run of stories similar enough to each other for the audience to have some idea of what they were going to get, while at the same time introducing enough change to prevent the show becoming repetitive or outdated. However, it is also its greatest weakness. Every time the show changed direction it ran the risk of alienating viewers. And the most vocal viewers, the ones who care most about the series, who want it to fit an ideal (usually a childhood ideal) most carefully and who spend the time writing reviews stating why they think the series has gone wrong, are the fans. This explains why the main fan activity often seems to be complaining about the show.

However, there does seem to be something slightly different about the soap opera criticism. Usually the aspect of an era that provokes the greatest criticism from its detractors also leads to the most praise from its supporters, whether the humour of the Williams era or the "dark" seventh Doctor. The soap opera criticism seems to have crossed the divide, with some people who adore the new series seeing it as the main or even sole flaw. In short, if Doctor Who can be science fiction, horror, fantasy, action, comedy and allegory why does the very idea of associating it with the word "soap" scream "WRONG!!" to so many people? Part of the problem is undoubtedly the novelty of the situation. No doubt once we are used to the style of the new series, it will seem less unusual. However, I think there is a deeper reason. In an attempt to get an impartial view of soap opera, I looked up the term in several dictionaries to get a working definition free of my subjective impressions. Two adjectives that kept recurring were "domestic" and "sentimental" and I think this is the key.

Domesticity is not necessarily a problem. As far back as the first episode, Doctor Who established a recognisable, often domestic setting and subverted it. This provided many of the series' most iconic moments: the TARDIS' huge interior inside the police box shell, the Yeti in the London Underground, the many everyday objects that turned out to be Autons, the Slitheen spaceship crashing in London. The alien is more shocking when intruding into the mundane than when seen by itself. The danger is that the series could come to focus purely on the domestic at the expense of the extraordinary. After all, this is primarily an escapist science fiction/science fantasy programme. On the whole I don't think that this has happened so far, but Boom Town saw the show put Rose and Mickey's relationship on an equal footing, in terms of plot emphasis, as Margaret's escape attempts. This is not a problem in one episode, but if it became part of a trend across the whole season, then there would be a real danger of the show changing more drastically than at any time in its history, becoming primarily about the everyday relationship problems of the main characters.

Even if this does not happen, there is still the potential for such a series partly based on present-day Earth to become very cosy. While the alien can appear more frightening against a mundane backdrop, eventually diminishing returns will set in as the audience starts to think "what everyday object will turn out to be lethal this week?" and no longer be shocked. With the Doctor having a base on Earth in Rose's flat and a cast of recurring characters to help him, including contacts in the government and UNIT, the series could lose its sense of travelling into unknown and inherently dangerous environments. Many people would argue that this is what happened during the Pertwee era. I tend to agree with this interpretation (although I think it is overstressed sometimes), but at least the UNIT stories were told against a background of diplomatic crises, dangerous scientific projects, corrupt governments and ruthless industrialists, providing a large and at times surprisingly bleak canvas for the show to paint on. This has of course happened in Aliens of London/World War III and The Christmas Invasion, but overall the series gives the impression on being focused almost entirely on the effects of these things at a personal level, narrowing the possible number of stories.

The second problem is with the "sentimentality". Doctor Who has successfully introduced character-based scenes or stories before, but these tend to be low-key and reflective, such as the Doctor talking about his family in The Tomb of the Cybermen. This is far from the strong emotions endemic in sentimental soap operas. It is difficult to believe that characters who are presented as audience identification figures would not be psychologically scarred by the death and danger with which the average companion is faced, yet this can not be shown realistically in a family series. In the past, the audience has simply suspended their disbelief for the purposes of accepting the events of the series, yet this is not possible if the stories themselves draw attention to the emotional wellbeing of the companions.

The other tactic used by the old series to deal with realistic emotional responses was to introduce supporting characters specifically for this purpose, Fewsham and Poul being good examples. The fact that they did not have to finish the story sane or even alive allowed the writers greater freedom. In addition, the high stakes of the average Doctor Who story can make the problems of the individual characters seem irrelevant, even silly. The conclusion of World War Three sees Jackie worrying about Rose's possible death in stopping the Slitheen, yet as she will die anyway, along with everyone else in the world, if they aren't stopped, the entire subplot can't help but seem illogical and grafted on from an entirely different format.

It is worth noting that this problem has appeared before. The spin-offs have tried to examine the characters' emotions in more depth, but being intended for an older audience have had more freedom to show realistic responses (which doesn't mean they always succeeded!). On TV, the early eighties saw an attempt to move in this direction within a similar timeslot to that of the new series. This provides some hints as to how such a quasi-soap opera format could succeed. The main reason it failed in the eighties was that emotional storylines were introduced but not dealt with beyond the opening minutes of the next episode. Events such as the death of Adric and Tegan's possession by the Mara were presented as if they would have major long-term consequences, yet were rarely alluded to again, except as fan-pleasing continuity references. When Tegan leaves the TARDIS saying "it's stopped being fun" anyone seeing the programme as an ongoing narrative, as the production team are signalling them to do, wonders if the events of stories like Logopolis, Kinda and Earthshock could really have been described by Tegan as "fun".

Where the show did succeed in the early eighties was that even if the focus of the stories was the emotions of the regulars, these emotions were provoked at least some of the time by events that could not occur in mainstream soap opera, such as Tegan arriving on one of the last Earth colonies in Frontios. This is not something that the new series has neglected entirely, with The End of the World and Father's Day in particular standing out for the way they marry the science fiction to the emotions. I see no reason for the series to fail if it concentrates on examining the effect of events like these on its characters, rather than the more mundane aspects of their relationships. However, this aspect of the show should usually remain subsidiary to the science fiction elements, to satisfy the audience's desire for scary, escapist, science fantasy adventures. Skilful writing will also be required to put the characters through extreme stress without permanent damage, while keeping a reasonable degree of internal consistency in the presentation of a universe which has been created by taking very traditional, even cliched, Doctor Who plots and keeping them fresh by adding more realistic characters.

An article discussing politics in the new Doctor Who by Thomas Cookson 19/4/06

I've been having various random thoughts about the politics of the new Doctor Who for a while now, and have now put them together in a long essay in which I shall run through the thematic content of the new Doctor Who series, episode by episode.

Rose is a pretty apolitical story, of course, beyond some rather blatant allegories to compensation culture. Though even that bears some thought about modern feelings of either insecurity over being 'liable' or a sense of grievances being redressed easily with money.

End of the World, of course, is much more heavily about classism. In this environment of the haves and the have mores, the character of Rose is literally spat on, referred to as a common whore (Jabe's line about Rose being a prostitute for me was a crucial line about the perserverence of class exploitation well into the future) and is then condemned to death by the rich gangster Cassandra, who incidentally also killed the other working-class characters who were the only ones kind enough to spend their time and company with Rose.

Rose shows herself to be far removed from the council estate chav stereotype in her rather dignified talk with Cassandra about her snobbery and dehumanisation. She also is the voice of mercy when the Doctor proscribes to let Cassandra die. She is always trying to communicate a wide range of emotions of awe and horror and homesickness but she is talked down constantly by the very calloused and pretentious voice of both the higher classes and the Doctor, who is putting on his act to hide his own suffering.

The Doctor's dialogue with Cassandra about her ways of using her money and influence to escape justice is read as an extreme, exaggerated image of upper-class corruption but possibly made plausible by its futuristic setting. His final decision to, in effect, pull the plug on her because legal justice would fail does suggest a more radical attitude that the corruptions of society must be fought and purged ruthlessly. The end of the episode returns the story to contemporary London and in showing the sight of rich men in suits sharing a street with Big Issue sellers, it emphasises the current relevance of its themes.

The Unquiet Dead is rather explicitly about Charles Dickens and his devotion to raising awareness of the class issues of his day. Not only that but it ties into how being a radical artist can be a very strict discipline: Dickens refuses to be drawn into the Doctor's talk of the supernatural because he is concentrated on 'real' issues and will not let anything distract him from that. In some ways it suggests that being a radical can be hard and fruitless work.

It has been suggested that there is an anti-immigration issue at work here in how the Gelth prove to be deceitful in their appeal for sanctuary and ultimately have to be vanquished. However, despite that, the Doctor's trust and dedication to helping the Gelth is presented as commendable and really does give food for thought; he points out how our values system of selective entitlement is really crass in the face of refugees who are actually in danger, his line on how the Gelth reusing our bodies is like recycling wasted material reminds me somewhat about Bob Geldof describing the cruel irony of people in the Third World "dying of want in a world of surplus". To me the story shows the desperation of the Gelth just as much as their duplicity, and I find myself sparing a sad thought for the Gelth when they remain trapped in the rift and left to die out.

The episode also comments on modern attitudes. Rose represents the modern naive optimism of youth that is all-embracing and thinks that life has never been sweeter and that her values of liberal sexuality and irrepressible outspokenness, open-mindedness, recognition of a woman's voice and extroversion are values to spread and encourage in all people. But for all that this episode shows her and us to be quite arrogant (as does the conclusion of Dalek where she hopes that the Dalek will be converted). Whilst Rose always seems to have her heart in the right place and shows a boundless compassion that the Doctor sometimes lacks (and certainly disproves most critics who have labelled her character a 'chav'), her conversation with Gwyneth show up her cultural ignorance in trampling Gwyneth's more modest patriarchal values as though they need to be cast aside, as though the knowledge of freedom must be brought here.

The scene where Gwyneth reads Rose's mind belies any notion that people from more repressed backgrounds would really like our country if they were able to share in it and understand it. What the scene shows instead is an unexpected culture shock that can only see our modern society as something horrifying and degraded. This I feel is a direct criticism of our Western influence in other cultures and our belief in 'spreading freedom' and how we dismiss patriarchal and religious cultures as outdated and in need of shaking up. We believe it is the right thing to go and fight and get rid of the Taliban and liberate the women of Afghanistan. What this episode shows us is that we are deeply arrogant for assuming that our heavy-handed and self-righteous influence is wanted by those people when we go and fight the War on Terror 'for them'. Maybe our values system is wrong and degraded, maybe it is right, but it's something that the rest of the world isn't ready for and until then we should keep out of everyone else's back yard.

Aliens of London/World War Three is the most explicitly political of the Doctor Who stories so far. I have bemoaned the unsubtle way in which the politics are handled, I described it as witless to rely on dialogue like "These massive weapons of destruction" but I suppose the point is this is the kind of blatant lies that we did swallow whole, and that actually the consequences have involved a lot of deaths and the prospect of worse wars to come. I described it as bad taste for the references to 9/11 with the American newscaster saying "watch the skies" but in a way this has a potency for the way the American News tries to maintain memories and fears of 9/11 with its exploitative repeated images of the attacks and manipulative use of words. I described it as inconsistent for the Doctor to not anticipate that soldiers might shoot first and ask questions later when the pig goes on the run, and fail to shout out a 'don't shoot' warning. But the scene is aiming to start from scratch in terms of the Doctor's moral outrage, so that the audience can share in it, so he has to be surprised and shocked at the event, rather than cynically expecting it. In much the same way as we weren't expecting the Iraqi prisoners of war to be subjected to degrading treatment by our soldiers and were horrified by the events, the series is aware that our faith in the military to be responsible and keep the peace and treat all people with respect to win our favour with the rest of the world, is still high enough to be shattered.

In The End of the World, the sense of public frustration was based on being subject to snobbery and belittling degradation by people higher up in authority or prestige. Here the frustration, which is mainly voiced by the impatient Doctor, is based on a sense of incompetence and patronising from the people in power who seem to talk down to us and fail to take the country's issues seriously. The result appears to be a very frustrated people who feel they are getting nothing from the country or their input in it and are more prone to go with the government with a sense of relief when they finally do something drastic, like declare war or gamble with lives.

The opening moments of Dalek give credit to a vast number of America-centric conspiracy theories about Area 51 and the hidden man behind the presidential figurehead. Most importantly, it can be seen as an allegory for Guantanamo Bay, and in how within a secret base the most horrific of tortures and inhumane acts are being committed by the US Government. The use of the Dalek as the victim of this torture is important to this allegory, since the Daleks, much like al Qaeda, represent the evil enemy that some people believe are deserving of the torture.

The Doctor perhaps represents the rage and pain of someone who lost family in the 9/11 attacks. By this point we had gathered that the Doctor was damaged goods, his behaviour and mannerisms often described as chavvish: he was clearly more prone to feel quick contempt and a standoffish attitude to those he met. He seemed more impatient than previous Doctors: seemed to have little time for laboured talking and he always seemed to need to let off steam, whether by tackling Autons violently or kicking around littered cans. His mannerisms of robustly tight folded arms suggested he was defensive and pent up. Some could have seen him as representing a generation of men from broken homes, deprived and without a place in society to belong or participate in. In this episode he explodes into rage and yet the rage he feels is directionless and sporadic, even though for the first time since the time war, he has actually found a focus for his rage in the Dalek. One moment he is gloating over the destruction of the Dalek race, next he is horrified with himself and trying to explain to the surviving Dalek that he 'had no choice', and then changing again and throwing the switch on the Dalek. His emotions don't go in a straight line, that's how strong his trauma is, and he is a Doctor who has given up on anything other than the most violent of solutions. This is the trauma of war.

In Genesis of the Daleks, the Daleks didn't just represent evil, but they represented an enduring militancy that voices our frustrations with the state of the world. The image of war-torn Skaro was so chaotic and brutal that you understood the decision for drastic and eliminating action, the impulse to send the Daleks in and kill off all the madness. The same is true here in how the Dalek exacts its revenge on those who tortured it and scatters the guards who are trying to keep it trapped. DeMaggio tries to reason with the Dalek and commands it to return to its cage, making promises of negotiation, but only because it has been slaughtering its way out does the Dalek gain any respect or recognition and the promise of fair treatment. We champion the Dalek to not only gain its freedom but let the world know what was done to it behind closed doors.

In Rose, the Doctor described the modern British public as one that is living in a plastic paradise of TV, gossip magazines, the work routine, money and amenities, all blissfully ignorant of "the war", which to my mind couldn't be more true to modern life, because I don't think a people have ever been this immune and desensitised and perhaps self-deceiving about a real ongoing war that their country is involved in; it's like it never happened. Dalek is about the nature of perpetual war when a war, which has already left civilisations destroyed, is still being fought for the sake of vengeance and how victory is not possible when a vengeful people are so full of hate that they are never satisfied, no matter how much they punish their defeated enemy. As the episode goes on, the Doctor unwisely lets his incensed rage get the better of him when he tells the Dalek to kill itself, when he could have ordered the Dalek to stand down and cease fire instead. He must learn that the Time War is over and that a war against evil is never won when you commit the same atrocities as your enemy, because even if you defeat them, their 'evil' now lives on within you.

Rather like The Unquiet Dead, the episode shows up the compassionate qualities of the Doctor and Rose as being admirable far more than simply misguided and prone to manipulation; the final moments where Rose's hopes that the humanisation of the Dalek will be something wonderful only for the Dalek to turn suicidal, not because it is deviating from its own ideas of racial purity, but because it is having a culture shock: absorbing human thoughts that shatter the stable state of mind that the Dalek once had as it succumbs to a state of hopelessness at no longer knowing its direction or beliefs from the wide spectrum of emotions and ideas, which perhaps represents why our secularist society is so heavily resisted by fundamentalist religious cultures.

The Long Game is pretty blatant in its portrayal of media influence: where journalists have a job description that emphasises simplicity over analysis and exploration, where people are driven by ambition and promises of higher living, and where the media encourages hostility to aliens that are considered illegal. The scene where Suki ventures into the corpse-littered frost of Floor 500 is a garish image of the familiar brightness of the floors below being twisted to reveal the true ugliness behind the dazzling lights and distracting colours. But more than that it does in a way comment on the modern information age as knowledge is something that is easily read and then forgotten about, and facts don't quite stick - and that's why common important facts about the world today are reduced to jokes and stripped of their gravity (if I've ever described The Long Game as washout viewing, perhaps I missed the point that it was supposed to be), but an environment of conformity suggests to people like Adam that without this information highway technology, you are somehow deprived and below speed.

Both Father's Day and The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances are nostalgic views of the working-class community of yesteryear, but at the same time it's not so rose-tinted as to say that the working class were entirely the 'salt of the Earth' that they were often described as. On the contrary the people in this community are particularly kept in their place. Jackie represents, for the first time, the internal snobbery of the working class as she belittles the big-money dreams of her husband Pete, as well as his parenting skills and frequently grills him every time she suspects he's been unfaithful to him. The Doctor is surprised to learn that in the face of destruction, that these people don't value themselves as important. Which is similar to the times of war in The Empty Child where the runaway children can be seen as army deserters and the masses of zombies led by the empty child can represent the conformity of society which expects people to serve in the army and fight and die for their country, regardless of their emotional baggage.

Boomtown is the episode which I see as hoping to come to terms with the Doctor's cavalier actions in The End of the World. By doing so, I feel it loses the sharpness of his radicalism that he exhibited there. For the record I considered this story to be something of a guilty pleasure as one of Russell's more entertaining juvenile comedies, but I think that admiration will probably not last. It has been suggested that this is an equally tedious revisit of Trial of a Time Lord's material of analysing and challenging the Doctor's actions.

What it unfortunately shows up for me though is that as relevant as Russell's themes are, he is pretty terrible at turning them into dialogue, particularly when he labours his points in this way. So the question of whether the Doctor can carry out the delivery of Margaret's execution quickly becomes a pretentious talk about the Doctor being like a god. And unfortunately it's heavily reminiscent of how the Emperor Dalek suggests "If I am the creator of all things then what does that make you Doctor?", or Harriet Jones suggesting that the Doctor is "Just another alien threat." And he's really overdoing the "All I do is eat chips" moment when Rose is reunited with her family but worrying about the Doctor trapped on the gamestation, up against the Daleks. As I've said before it is the worst category of fan fiction and just completely belies the realism and importance of it. This is a shame because, as I said, the topics of Russell's story do often deserve serious consideration. The Doctor never really has been placed in a situation where his enemy is alive but harmless and in his custody, and where he adheres to very draconian judicial systems for the sake of washing his hands of the criminal. But ultimately that decisive radical edge to the Doctor is lost here when he is suddenly having to verbally justify himself, in much the same way as fan dogma turned the Doctor in the 80's into someone so loathe to violence that he became inactive and incapable of heroism and moral courage, whilst evil ran amok because he couldn't betray his principles.

Well now we get to Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways and I have heard plenty of discussion of whether it is a satire on Reality TV. Well I suppose Russell has stressed that this isn't a satire and that he actually enjoys Reality TV and so he is probably reluctant to mock it, let alone to suggest that it is the root of all evil; he even gratuitously writes in a line of dialogue that has the Doctor describing his love of the series Bear with Me in a manner that was clearly designed to irritate the fans as much as possible, and nothing more. So, to me, I find that if Russell has an angle at all, it is that Reality TV may pay lip service to people's judgemental and sadistic qualities with its public voting system and degrading content, but that doesn't mean it causes these attitudes. I believe what Russell was trying to do here is show how Reality TV reflects our unsavoury attitudes. So far Rose has been subject to a huge degree of snobbery throughout The End of the World and Father's Day, and her inability to quickly adapt to exotic situations makes people rash to judge Rose as therefore being stupid and soft (I am a firm believer that young people are judged to harsh standards from an early age, and aren't really given a chance by people; perhaps that's why they've turned so rogue). This is what happens here when Rose is on The Weakest Link and fails to answer all the questions about futuristic general knowledge. It seems fitting then that Rose should be the one to have the moral courage to save the day and the opponents who belittled her to be concerned only with their prize money and eventually end up exterminated on the bottom floor (once again the Daleks providing a few killings that we are all gladder for).

This is of course a wrap up of the themes so far. Contrasting the Tyler estate with the future hanging in the balance is reminiscent of how Aliens of London and World War Three showed our modern times to be deprived and dull, yet as politically and historically important as any other era: a time when big decisions would be made that would shape our future. The problem being that most people fail to notice any of this. "You lot, all you do is eat chips, go to bed and watch telly, whilst all the time, underneath you there's a war going on." The Doctor throughout the series has represented mobility in a world where people are stuck in unchanging locations - sometimes literally trapped, in the conventions of the base-under-siege formula. Wherever people are stuck in a rut, they become petty, competitive, jealous, suspicious, greedy, and territorial; if Rose touches her younger self, the empty child or the Dalek, all chaos breaks loose, and anything or anyone else she places her hands on that doesn't belong to her, might see her get sued by its owner. People like the Doctor and Rose are different because they live without money and can see the big picture, and they know that it's ugly and something must be done about it, and in this case the future is a brutal fascist place but with enough similarities to our own world that we know we can't just consider it abstract; we know this future is the result of progress and gradual change from our times onward.

I do take issue with Russell's suggestion that the Doctor would not know that the consequences of his media blackout in The Long Game would be so devastating to such a media-driven society. It seemed in retrospect an insult to the character for him to leave so quickly without making sure the society could get by once he left. Russell laboured the point that the Doctor frequently leaves without looking back, but it just came off as forced and artificial, and to me I find that this is actually wildly out of synch with the old Doctor, who even when he left quckly didn't leave in such ignorance. But nonetheless the Doctor has a chance to redeem himself here.

The Doctor's radicalism shows again here. To be fair, the moment where the Doctor holds the gamestation controllers hostage should have been far more seriously handled than it was. The fact that the Doctor tossed away his weapon without a conscious decision makes the moment look crassly manipulative, designed simply to surprise and fool the viewer without saying all about the Doctor's character that it should have. Similarly the controller awkwardly putting down the gun was played for comedy when it should have been a moment where the Doctor won him over with fearless willing martyrdom - "All right, shoot me then!" - and that would have really displayed the Doctor as a radical crusader, but one who doesn't live by violence but is somehow more courageous than those who do.

Then there is the issue of the Delta Wave, and I really admire this. Whilst in the points above I bemoaned the way that the Doctor has become dogmatically passive since the 80's, the fact that the episode builds up the Doctor as being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate demonstration of pragmatic necessary evil - to be the one to kill off millions who are as good as dead, to destroy the Daleks before they get the chance. As viewers we get a kick out of this display of moral courage, of violent actions committed for a greater good that we can justify intellectually. It is, in all honesty, intellectual masturbation of the most perverse and amoral kind; the problem is that it feels clean and sexy. So, to me, it is a wonderful sight to see those expectations turned on their head when the Doctor refuses to do it.

It seems like the summation of the series' themes about cultural arrogance in The Unquiet Dead, of militaristic self-righteousness in World War Three and the value of individual lives, no matter how meagre in Father's Day. The Doctor has declared that it is better for the people of Earth to die as humans than live as Daleks, and yet by the end, perhaps he has realised just how amorally arrogant it is to assume that they would be better off dead. To assume that those people on Earth who are out of sight would willingly welcome being sacrificed for what he sees as the greater good. The reason perhaps that this moment works is because for once Russell knows what needs to be said and what doesn't. It says a lot to me about the current War on Terror in which the American and British military is quick to dismiss the loss of innocent lives as collateral and give them a poetic lament to boost our self-righteousness, and still expects to win favour with the people of these countries that we have "liberated" without asking the people if they were prepared for the human cost. (For me it therefore makes sense that the deux et machine ending comes the way it does, as the Doctor's prayers for another way to destroy the Daleks without hurting the humans are answered.)

Of course we have only helped other countries when it has suited us. The rest of the time we have barred asylum seekers as unwelcome parasites. The series has commented on the asylum issue in The Long Game. To me there is a subtly-stated link to that here. The Emperor doesn't give too many specific details of how it used the Jagrafess to manipulate the media. I imagine that it involved downplaying the educational media's coverage of the history of humanity's encounters with the Daleks so that the Daleks could emerge on the scene with a faux benevolence and be believed. The Emperor also mentioned its ability to prey on the humans who were marginalised by the Earth empire, presumably in how the media played up right wing attitudes and draconian laws which left common people on the wrong side of those laws or economics and being unable to seek home or sanctuary due to immigration laws. It seems that the allegory is that the Daleks represent al Qaeda, with their own religious fanaticism central to their hearts, and with no distinction made between soldiers, governments and civilians when they kill. The point is however that if we close the doors to those seeking sanctuary, if we don't have them, then al Qaeda will have them, and will suck them into their evil belief system with its promises of hope to the hopeless and its anti-West propaganda that we have encouraged with our double standards - fighting wars of liberation when it suits us, but not wanting to know when individuals want our protection.

I have already looked at the politics of The Christmas Invasion in my review of it. To discuss it more would leave this article open to being edited for spoilers about an episode that is not yet a year old. But to summarise, I am aware of Russell's reputation as someone who loves generating controversy, but then takes flight when it gets too hot for him. Certainly this is reflected in his writing style that makes random points and then quickly retracts them, unwilling to argue them further. A classic example being the Bear With Me moment in Bad Wolf. So any issues seem to be paddled in briefly, but I am okay with that for various reasons. Firstly because the overall themes are, to me, stretched long enough over the season to hold water; secondly because having watched Hotel Rwanda, I've become quite disillusioned with the idea of building firm arguments in matters of politics if you're merely going to spend your discussion having to argue over whether the mass slaughtering of Tutsis warrants the use of the term "genocide" or not; and thirdly because when I was a young eleven year old, before I discovered by love for Doctor Who, I was drawn into an Australian children's sci-fi TV series called "The Girl from Tomorrow", and I see the modern Doctor Who as providing a similar role to young children as that show did for me when I was young.

It was made as part of Film Australia's educational shows aimed at teaching children about story narrative, and in this case to teach them about the science fiction genre and social issues. It was basically various elements grafted on, settings reminiscent of the cyberpunk landscape of William Gibson's novels and Robocop, a few borrowed paradox elements from Back to the Future, and a lot of material from Doctor Who; a time traveller trying to pass herself off as a modern schoolgirl (with the premise being, what if Susan and Ace had met and become the best of friends?), a future run by a fascist regime turning humans into robomen, and with its own Time Lords in the utopia of future Earth, and its own Master in the form of the bitter fugitive Silverthorne from the war-torn 26th century with similar pathos, moral ambiguity and love-hate relationship with the heroes, and the sonic screwdriver replaced by the transducer. To me it is very much what Doctor Who might have looked like, had it continued on TV into the 90s. Within all that grafting of generic homages, was plenty of topical material, which for me defines the period the show was made in: with the promise of multicultural civilisation, including school exchange programs, the horrors of Saddam's Iraq represented by the war-torn future, there were elements of witchcraft (the art of levitation) and other wiccan elements, particularly the eco-warriors, there were images of corporations with global rule that reflected the yuppie era and many more which made the show so of its time and so easy to reflect on my worldview back then whenever I rewatch it; perhaps it also played a part in breaking me into Doctor Who.

But what I'm saying is that the new series delves into topical content, and whether it does this with random statements, paddles in them for a second or grafts season-long themes around them, whether with subtlety or a sledgehammer, it is something that hopefully lingers with the youth as a reflection of the times we live in, and even for the older viewers I feel that Doctor Who's domestic aspect appeals as being closer to Ken Loach than to Eastenders, for it raises issues of class rather than degrades them to tabloid level. About how distracted we all are, but how important things are happening in higher positions that will shape our future, about how frustrated we all are and why. And that is why despite all the things about the new series that annoy me, when all is said and done, I feel compelled to bunch it up and love it for warts and all in words I can't express.

So there you have it: Doctor Who in 2005 is as relevant as it's always been.

Why the Doctor should be involved with a companion by Charles Phipps 24/4/06

This is essentially a statement to go against the grain and address an age-old issue with a bit more strength than normal. It's an issue that won't be resolved any time soon and certainly not by my article but I think it's important to address the thematic issues seriously that are on both sides. I shall address the pro-argument, the con-argument, and the middle ground honestly before moving onto my conclusions.

The Pro-Argument for being the Doctor involved is one where essentially the possibility is not being ruled out. The fans have their own 'shipping' with the constant flirting of the Ninth Doctor, the Third Doctor's attraction to Jo Grant (the writers flat out say it to be the case on the DVD so it's pretty much confirmed there), the Fourth Doctor's constant flirtation, and the grand-daughter of the First Doctor whom there is no implication that she is NOT his biological child.

The Pro-Argument implies that there is a great deal of un-mined story potential for dealing with past elements of the Doctor's life. If he was married, was it on Gallifrey and was it a mistake? Does he have a greater romance existing in his past that he wants to look beyond? The assumption of stories being limited to pure thinking with libido is a rather curious one. There also exists potential for an excellent foil as the Doctor has some individual who holds a form of power over him that is equal to the Master's former friendship or even exceeding it. What sort of character would the Doctor be willing to fall in love with and perhaps desire to spend the entirety of his existence with? These kind of stories are often written tritely and with no resemblance to actual world relationships.

Just as the Time War gains more power from the destruction of his personal family than just his world, so does the implication the Doctor could be a widower from even earlier make a stronger impression on the story. The very fact the issue is untouched only means that the storylines have not yet felt the need to deal with the issue but it does not mean that it might never be dealt with in the future.

The Con-Argument is based on a not-unfounded principle that the Doctor is somewhat unique from other characters in that he remains separate from other individuals in society. Plenty of shows have been ruined by the constant focus on sexuality or romantic asides when the principle of Doctor Who has been the pure love of adventure. There's also history backing up the storyline with the fact that there are no "direct" romances with any companions that exist outside of fan imagination. Aside from fan-fic there's no implication that Romana and the Doctor were anything more than good friends while the same could certainly be said for Nyssa/the Fifth Doctor and any other pairings that you might want to include.

Jo Grant and the Third Doctor never consummated their relationship emotionally let alone physically. Part of the issue though is that there's little textual evidence to support the implication that the Doctor could not find emotional satisfaction in a relationship (certainly the Doctor has never been portrayed as "too alien" for human emotions since he constantly shows he has those sort of feelings). Many fans also tend to confuse the implication of the inclusion of a romance with the main character with a romance being written BADLY. Arguments the Doctor is a sort of mechanistic figure above personal relationships do not wash either. The Doctor is occasionally vengeful, judgmental, needlessly rash, ALWAYS arrogant, controlling, and actually a bigot on occasion (Androgum scum!). These qualities do not overwhelm the heroic aspects to the Doctor and they add to his personality as a whole.

There is a middle ground that might be explored in this storyline. The Doctor does not necessarily have to be involved with a companion but it might be alluded to in order to accomplish as much as an active ongoing screen romance. Even were the production staff interested in pursuing a full-scale romance in the story, it would not necessarily need to occupy the screen time at all.

Honestly speaking, were it revealed that the Doctor had been involved with [insert X companion] that happened to have been living with him on the TARDIS then what real change would have actually been made in the storyline? The audience is left to the imagination of how the Doctor and she (or he for your interpretation) might have involved themselves. One could simply say that they exist in their bliss and that their storyline will end off screen in some manner between regenerations if you so desire to handle it. Timelords forbid, let's say the Doctor chose to involve himself with Rose. The Eleventh Doctor could well open with the implication he lived out his entire incarnation's end with her before moving onwards with no besmirchment on his character or the fans of said romance. The same could be that she was unable to deal with the personality changes or similiar matters. It certainly doesn't turn it into a story of Who-enders.

In conclusion, it is my belief it is a needless waste of storyline potential to avoid the possibility simply out of hand by suggesting "it is not that sort of story." Star Wars is not a romance in the traditional sense and it certainly contains the implications of such. Doctor Who is not necessarily 'lessened' by the lack of romance but the storyline could certainly be enhanced by it.

Why Rorvik And His Crew Had To Die by Tim McCree 16/5/06

When I first saw Warriors' Gate, many years ago, the ending left me kind of disappointed. I wondered why the characters of Rorvik and his whole crew were killed off like that. After all, they weren't evil, they were just a fun bunch of average guys, so they didn't deserve to die. I felt that the writer of this episode made a mistake in that regard.

However, the passage of time has made me realize that I was the one who was wrong. Rorvik and his crew WERE evil. True they were often funny at times, but they were still evil. The reason being is their treatment of the Tharils. As those of you who saw this story know, the Tharils were time sensitive beings who could navigate the time lines. It was for this reason that they were hunted and enslaved. Well, Rorvik and his crew were some of those hunters, this is how they earned a living. They couldn't care less that the Tharils were sentient beings, with a history and culture of their own. To Rorvik and the crew, the Tharils were just products, something to be used and discarded when worn out.

Even Aldo and Royce, the two crewmen who are the most comedic, show their true colours when they attempt to revive another Tharil, Lazlo. Lazlo is lying there, suffering and in agony, yet Aldo and Royce couldn't give a rip. They stand there cracking jokes and complaining about their own lives. While they are doing this, Lazlo writhes and screams in sheer pain. This is one of the story's most sadistic moments. Later, when Sagan tries to revive more Tharils, he fries one after another, not caring that he is killing them in the process. Ironically, Sagan gets his just desserts when Lazlo electrocutes him with the revival gear, before liberating the rest of the captive Tharils.

Basically, when you break it down, is there any real difference between Rorvik and his crew enslaving the Tharils and, say, the Daleks enslaving them? I say no. The big difference to the fans would be is that you would expect something like that from the Daleks. To them, they are the supreme race of the universe, while all others are to be exterminated or enslaved. So if the story had the Daleks being the slave masters, the fans would have not been surprised. Also, I don't think I would have been disappointed when the Daleks bought the farm at the end. They are evil, they deserve to be wiped out.

Well, Rorvik and his crew were just as guilty. They helped enslave and brutalize another race. For this crime, they had to pay the ultimate price. True they may have looked and acted like regular average joes, but I suppose that if you met a Nazi, without his swastika and black uniform, you would think the same thing about him. Evil comes in many guises, it seems, both in our real world and in the Doctor Who Universe.

Jumping the Shark: 1979 Was a Good Time To End It by Thomas Cookson 19/5/06

Inconsistency is something of a bedfellow of Doctor Who. Most Doctor Who seasons have the odd turkey, much of the continuity of the show doesn't line up... both of which makes it hard to retrospectively sort out the series into a nice form.

There's times when I wonder how much better Doctor Who would have been if it had only featured the best stories and if they had been in the right order: if City of Death had been the pilot episode, if Evil of the Daleks had been after Genesis of the Daleks rather than before, etc. Would Doctor Who have then been a leaner, meaner package?

But generally there's something about Doctor Who that makes me largely willing to accept the way it is (at least during its formative period) and to not give that much of a toss about bad episodes or continuity errors. In the long run those things aren't important really. Besides I've been known to enjoy the odd guilty pleasure of the show, such as Revenge of the Cybermen, The Three Doctors and even The Dominators.

But still the question remains of what would have happened if Doctor Who had ended its run earlier on, allowing Doctor Who to be a more defineable series by its brevity, with less accumulated blemishes. Following on from that line of thought, I have deduced that there are really only four other points in the show's history where it could have ended on a satisfactory note.

Firstly there is The Chase, which could have been a nice ending note. After all, up until that point the whole plot of Doctor Who had centred around the situation of Ian and Barbara. With them now returned home that was a perfect resolution to their story.

Secondly there is Inferno. The thought had crossed my mind previously that The War Games could have been a good closing story for Doctor Who, with his companions returned home safely and the Doctor's travels put to a stop, as well as his background being explained, and by this point the Daleks are finished off. But then the question still lingers of what will happen to the Doctor when he is exiled on Earth. Season 7 answers that question and avoids leaving the same amount of cliffhangers, by setting the Doctor nicely up with UNIT, and also allows for stories like The Silurians and Inferno that really convey the challenging aspect of Doctor Who, where lead characters turn shady and where we see a day where the Doctor fails to save the Earth (the Pertwee era has plenty of detractors and they might have preferred the era to have ended at its height).

Thirdly there is The Horns of Nimon, or rather Season 17. For me Season 17 did a good job. City of Death made an effective summing up of the human adventure that had been seen in the series from the pilot episode through to The Silurians and The Ark in Space. Destiny of the Daleks settled the Dalek threat by introducing the stalemate war with the Movellans, which contained their threat and suggested that the prediction made by the Time Lords of the Daleks conquering the universe would not be likely to come true after all. The Master - as seen in The Deadly Assassin - has not yet been vanquished, but the suggestion can be taken that he is perhaps still on his last days.

Fourthly and finally, we have The Caves of Androzani, which I'm sure a lot of fans would have happily accepted as a closing story, to spare us from the three mostly awful seasons following on (okay that's me involking a fan generalisation; I actually haven't seen Timelash or anything from Season 24). The Caves of Androzani actually works as a closing story, as it is preceeded by two stories which effectively settle the threat of the Daleks, Davros and the Master once and for all (only for them to be resurrected a year later).

Now, of the choices above: number one would be a terribly short-sighted truncation; number two has its appeal for writing out the bothersome Master, but I could never be happy with losing the Tom Baker era; number four has good potential; but the one that appeals to me the most is number three: making Season 17 the last season of Doctor Who. The thing is, up until that point, there are no such stories I've seen that are so bad that I wish they hadn't been made. Coming into the 1980's and that changes because now you start to get stories that are poor but which are simultaneously important to the Doctor Who canon in terms of continuity and setting up characterisation of the Doctor, and to me that's when it all started to go rather wrong.

If Doctor Who had run from 1963 till 1979, I think it would have told a good story of its lead character developing from incarnation to incarnation. The Doctor begins as a curmudgeonly character who is selfish and reluctant to get involved in any kind of dilemmas. Then he changes into being more of a crusader against the 'evils of the universe'. Then in his third incarnation he has become perhaps more compassionate and understanding of these supposed 'enemies of mankind', realising that understanding and negotiation is often the better response than the hostile action of his predecessor.

Then finally in Tom Baker, the character has reached perhaps his full development from incarnations past. He has Patrick Troughton's sense of heroic duty, but in Genesis of the Daleks he shows that he is aware that even evil has its place in the universe and decides not to do what Patrick Troughton's Doctor would have done. But he is a lot more cynical than Jon Pertwee and knows that faith and trust in peace is something that can be abused by nasty races, and he is less squeamish about taking violent action to stop them. Something he exhibits when he traps Sutekh in the time tunnel, ignoring the evil god's pleas for release as he is aged to death, or when he blows up the Zygons, or throws Magnus Greel into his own distillation chamber; all things that Jon Pertwee's Doctor would never have done.

He was in many ways the most violent of Doctors and is probably the only Doctor who would have killed Davros or the Master, and ended their reign of terror once and for all. Watch the scene where he taunts Davros before blowing up the bomb with his sonic screwdriver, or where the Doctor leaves Gallifrey declaring how relieved he is that the Master is supposedly dead "and there's no-one in the universe I'd say that about." But it fit with the hostile environment that the Doctor was in, showing how the Doctor had adapted to his circumstances.

And that is basically why I have such a problem with most of the Doctors since him. They basically set this development into complete reverse.

The Peter Davison era is probably seen as the problematic area of Doctor Who by some fans because of two reasons: one reason is that the Doctor is either superfluous to the plot or incapable of taking the violent action he should to save the day, and the other is that the era is swamped by the Master and other recurring villains. All things considered, the two problems were inexorably linked: the Doctor Who universe was littered with recurring enemies because the Doctor himself lacked the moral guts to finish any of them off.

The thing is, I actually like the idea of the Fifth Doctor as the 'new-age sensitive man' which was stressed in his relationships with his companions and his dealings with his enemies - and perhaps a nice change from the Fourth Doctor, who was quite violent. There was something effortlessly likeable and relateable to his outlook on the universe: he basically wanted the universe to be a nice, happy and understanding place where races could share peace and harmony with one another and where even the nastiest villains could redeem themselves, and he was clearly upset that the universe clearly wasn't such a nice place. To me he was the beginnings of stripping away the program's stiff upper lip and turning Doctor Who towards the new-age direction that welcomed writers like Paul Cornell. Had they pushed the envelope even further and had the Fifth Doctor actually shedding tears at the cruel state of the universe and I think we might have had the most defining scene in Doctor Who, ever.

So all that considered, what is my problem with the 'wet' Doctor?

Basically the approach was all wrong. I feel that if they were to emphasise the new Doctor as a more empathising character, they shouldn't have pitted him most of the time with old foes about whom he should have known better. To emphasise the qualities of the new Doctor, it would have worked better to have more stories where the Doctor was up against new foes: against something he'd never come across before, which made him eager to try and learn about and empathise with his new enemy, like in The Visitation or The Caves of Androzani, and from there it could show whether his attempts to empathise were wise or naive and at least make it seem like he was capable of learning from experience; or should I say, at least it wouldn't make him seem like it was impossible for him to learn from experience. But because the stories kept revisiting old enemies that the Doctor should have been shrewder towards, it made him look like an idiot and a hopeless cause as a hero, and to add insult to injury because the Master and Davros kept coming back over the years and killing people, it made me especially hate the Doctor for not finshing them off earlier.

Yes I said it: the Doctor became someone I sometimes hated; certainly in Warriors of the Deep I hated him for not stopping the Sea Devils from killing all the crew of the seabase because of his pascifist principles, and contrary to the opinions for the defence, I don't think that story is a good questioning of the Doctor's methods, because I see it as a poor handling of the character. Yes in The Silurians and The Sea Devils, the Doctor is trying to appeal for peace towards the reptilian aggressors, but there his appeals for peace made sense and furthermore his concern seemed to largely be for the civilians of the Silurian or Sea Devil race and that to destroy them would have been an act of genocide. This isn't the case in Warriors of the Deep, and I don't think Pertwee would have thought twice about wiping out an army of Sea Devil soldiers (and soldiers is the key word here) if they were all engaged in savage violence towards humans in a way that made them no better than Cybermen.

For that matter Pertwee eventually did seem to learn from his failure to make peace with the Sea Devils, and again for the Doctor to retread similar moralising a third time was something of a step back for the character. Now I'm sure plenty of people are asking why, all this considered, I don't therefore have a problem with Genesis of the Daleks for what the Doctor allows to happen in that story. Well, that's because Genesis of the Daleks was intelligent in its approach; in fact it is my favourite Doctor Who story. It showed the Doctor's attitude towards the Daleks developing. Throughout the episode, his methods are very hands-on in trying to bring down the Dalek project - even going so far as to shut down Davros' life support systems. The Doctor assaulting a cripple; that must be un-Doctorly behaviour in someone's view. But in the moment of truth he hesitates over destroying the Daleks, giving an intelligent justification of his decision to hold back, and then towards the end of the episode he is finally moved by the sight of violence committed by the Daleks and then realises what he must do and blows up the incubator room. This however changes little of the Dalek threat. But it wasn't something he thoughtlessly allowed to happen.

In the same way we can see how the Doctor's attitude towards the Master in The Deadly Assassin has changed since The Time Monster. Whilst in the previous story he still regarded the Master as a friend and couldn't kill him, by The Deadly Assassin, the Doctor has realised that the Master is too great a threat to not only the Doctor's family and Gallifrey but to the hundreds of surrounding worlds that would have been destroyed in the opening of the black hole. He thinks nothing of being instrumental in the Master's supposed 'death', because the Master crossed the line and the universe is far safer without him. Had they left the Doctor/Master rivalry there, it would have been perfect. Unfortunately since then the Master went on to destroy the planet Traken and billions upon billions of innocent lives and the Doctor still seemed incapable of violently tackling him (even the martial arts of the Pertwee/Delgado conflict was gone), or even laying a finger on him, to say nothing of finishing him off and making sure once and for all that the Master can never hurt anyone again.

Okay a few things granted. I think Peter Davison had plenty of outstanding stories that I'd be sad to see lost. I don't think the Fifth Doctor always had an absence of shrewdity against old foes, and certainly high tension stories like Earthshock and Planet of Fire, where the Doctor takes the violent action he needs to in order to vanquish evil and save the day, are glorious examples of what his character was capable of if he were released from restrictive character dogma more often, and even in some of the stories, such as The Five Doctors and Resurrection of the Daleks, the failings of the Fifth Doctor are well woven into stories that are centrally about moral courage and which allow us to understand the Doctor's fallibility and for the day to still be saved by the Doctor's allies.

For another thing I am not trying to argue that the Doctor should be Rambo and blow away every threat he comes across; for instance I wasn't that comfortable with the Doctor destroying the Zygons when he could easily have incarcerated them, or the sight of him blowing away Sontarans on Gallifrey, but at least he was doing something about a dangerous threat, and to then see him unwilling to violently settle with one villain who has caused so much destruction and genocide is frankly depressing. In a strangely ironic paradoxical way, when the Doctor doesn't kill Davros or the Master, it makes him look callous to me, as though he doesn't care for the lives that will be taken by these monsters if they're allowed to live. And that to me just doesn't jive with the Doctor's attitude in Pyramids of Mars or even in The Dominators, where he does everything short of and beyond killing to save the innocents from a grave threat.

To me the Doctor is a wonderful hero who combats evil but occasionally lets his better angels show, which often makes him endearing and inspiring. In Seeds of Doom, at the climax to the fistfight in the compost pulveriser between the Doctor and Chase, the Doctor escapes and then tries to pull his enemy out of danger too. Which to me speaks as many volumes as seeing the Doctor save the controller in The Mind Robber, or bars Tyler from shooting dead a Roboman, or his leap of faith as he ventures down in the diving bell to meet the Sea Devils to negotiate for peace, or when he refuses to kill Sir Reginald Styles simply on the word of the resistance fighters of the future. He reads between the lines and proves them wrong.

To me the quote "I never carry weapons. If people see you mean them no harm, they never hurt you... nine times out of ten" best sums up the Doctor's attitude, one that's positive and trusting and optimistic that common goodness is within all and will win out, but is also cynical and prepared for the worst of people. But to me when the Doctor lost his empowering edge of being capable of dealing with evil, it was no longer a hero's series, it was no longer about the inspiration of moral courage. And fundamentally it made the series pointless: if the Doctor doesn't take the threat of the Master or Davros that seriously as to actually ever get pushed to do something drastic about them, then why should we care either, if he doesn't think the story events are that important? Funny that often fan criticisms of the Master as a villain tend to work on a reversal of my point.

Actually I'd say as much that in the Fifth Doctor's era, the Doctor's pacifism was at least an explored, debated and fleshed-out characteristic. In many ways his character couldn't be accused of not taking the violence seriously or of being callous to its victims, because, on the contrary, he cared too much and often cared blindly. But unfortunately it allowed the writers a good clause for allowing recurring villains to return by stressing the Doctor's unwillingness to eliminate them. So from then on we were stuck with this Doctor's characteristic as stagnated dogma that no longer required analysis, because all we needed to know was that it suited the writers that the Doctor never kills their best and most frequently-used villain.

That's the problem with the Fifth Doctor era for me. Maybe in and of itself I like the era more than I've admitted here, but in the end it came to stand for more than just its own era, but the franchise as a whole. It set up the Doctor's character for restrictive dogma in a way that would exist and dominate long past Davison's reign. When the Doctor stepped out of this dogma and became violent, as he frequently did in the Colin Baker era, the fans suddenly hated it and branded it a blasphemy on the series' morality (whereas to me it was a wide character inconsistency for someone who could never kill the Master, being somehow able to poison to death as trivial a villain as Shockeye), and then Trial of a Time Lord showed up as a heavy analysis, indictment and redemption of the Sixth Doctor to quite brutally put the Doctor back in his place. From then on the Doctor's paralysing pscifism had become unbreakable throughout the books and audios (I'm thinking particularly of War of the Daleks, Blood Heat, Davros, The Juggernauts and Terror Firma when I say this), the legacy of a has-been hero, now tied to his own principles and often unable to save the innocent because of them.

So therefore, perhaps we could have done without the Peter Davison era for the dogma that it left Doctor Who with. And we could have done without the three seasons of awfulness that followed the end of Peter Davison's era, and the belated success of the final two seasons that found the show's feet once more. Hell while we're at it, we could cut out Tom Baker's last season that had kick-started the elements of Peter Davison's long-running continuity in setting up the new companions and the revived Master. Of course I would feel bad about a lot of the losses that this would entail, but somehow it would make me feel more comfortable about the show if that stretch of the show was purged.

Of course the main problem with purging the 80's is that in many ways, Earthshock, Attack of the Cybermen, Resurrection of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks are nostalgic homages to the 1960's Dalek and Cybermen stories, and since many of those 60's Doctor Who stories have been destroyed, those 80's stories are in many ways the best substitute for that lost visual dynamic of the 60's stories. But if those 60's stories weren't missing, then I could happily see the 80's go.

Imagine it. Doctor Who runs from November 1963 to January 1980. 17 seasons and as many years, and then it ends, but ends on a relative high. As the years go by it gets repeated often enough to attract new viewers. The video releases are in chronological order, allowing newcomers to more easily traverse the line of serials. Ending on the Tom Baker era allows potentially resistant people to come round to the series, with it in mind that whatever common criticisms could have been thrown at the earlier stories for their slower pacing or coziness and lack of gravitas, the Tom Baker years distinctly showed how the series had improved itself over time and might have been on the way to getting a whole lot better. There'd be far less of the alienating didactic continuity in the series, with perhaps The Web of Fear, The Sea Devils, The Invasion of Time, the Key to Time story arc and Destiny of the Daleks being the only continuity-heavy moments.

Okay we wouldn't have The Caves of Androzani, Revelation of the Daleks or The Curse of Fenric (and I venture that whilst Vengeance on Varos is pretty plotless, its topical content of TV sadism is majorly ahead of its time), but to my mind stories like Horror of Fang Rock, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons, Robots of Death and Pyramids of Mars fulfil their absence in portrayals of dehumanising and corrupt regimes, supernatural elements, psychological undercurrents and Robots of Death even covers the same kind of greed, callousness and social isolation as Androzani.

Maybe there would be novels, and hopefully less dogmatic or continuity-heavy ones based on the more sensible example set by the series, though audios would be rare, given that Doctors 5, 6, 7 and 8 never made it (personally I could do without the baggage of either novels or audios). Feasibly the 2005 revival could have still happened in this case, with Christopher Eccleston playing the Fifth Doctor. In many ways I think the 2005 series could have worked better as a follow-on to Season 17 than Season 26.

In Season 17, the Doctor was with Romana and K9. Since we are told that a lot of the unseen action between the old and new series centred heavily around Gallifrey, it would make sense that Doctor and Romana parted ways for reasons that probably revolved around Gallifrey, whereas to follow-on from Season 26, the absence of Ace leaves a worrying gap for those who don't consider the NA books as canon. Season 26 ends with the Daleks pretty much finished, which seems slightly at odds with how the Daleks appear in the new series, and for me Season 17 fits the plug far better with the Daleks clearly very much alive, if a little hurdled by the Movellans.

But then follows the urge to edit the revival series down to only its first ten episodes and call it a short revival. Now why on Earth would I want that? Why on Earth would I even say something so ludicrous and controversial?

Because basically I can already see the new series repeating the mistakes of the past. Once we get to Boom Town, the rot of the 80's begins to be revived here as arch villains return to make the Doctor look like a useless bleeding heart once again. Not only that but they begin to force the Doctor to analyse and question himself and turn him once more into a character who can't commit drastic action without having a conscience crisis about it for an episode's length. A shame really because I think the series had done well before then to make the Doctor a lot more radical and into something of a vigilante-bordering-on-terrorist, blowing up buildings, pulling the plug on dying criminals and hacking into computers and setting missiles off, which I really admired.

But then after Boom Town his behaviour is no longer able to go down this radical or even competent line of action. In the same way that New Earth completely negates and renders pointless some of the Doctor's more cavalier actions of Season 1 by resurrecting Cassandra - fans were up in arms about the way the Doctor let her die. Whilst that sequence has come under heavy fire by fans, I think it was very much a Doctorish moment. He actually spoke to Cassandra and charged her with being a murderer and it is likely that even after the death of Jabe, the Doctor would have rather seen proper justice done with Cassandra imprisoned. But when she points out how she'd simply use her money and fame to escape sentencing, the Doctor realises that if he saved her life, she'd only go on to kill more people.

It seems that Russell T. Davis resurrected her simply to exonerate the Doctor from his actions ("look! she's alive! He didn't kill her really"), which is a poor way of rescinding the envelope once it's been pushed (which is becoming a classic RTDism), and allows for another sympathetic villain story where character sentimentality takes over from character plausibility in a big way.

Then there's Bad Wolf and Parting of the Ways, and no I'm not going to go into a criticism over the Doctor's non-violence in that story, because generally that aspect is well handled. But the premise of the story is to basically show up the faults of the Doctor. To revisit a place that he left behind in a hurry and show him the consequences of what he did. To me it unfortunately shows up why such stories that challenge the Doctor's methods are not all they're cracked up to be, because they tend to base their material on exaggerating aspects of the Doctor's character, and perform a biased and degrading exercise in making their criticisms fit the character. Just like I can't take Warriors of the Deep seriously as a criticism of the principled Doctor's inactiveness, because I know from watching Terror of the Zygons, Pyramids of Mars and The Dominators that the Doctor is capable of killing to preserve innocent lives, but the writer of Warriors of the Deep forces the Doctor to be useless in order to make its point about the character.

Similarly the Doctor in The Long Game, who is in such a hurry to leave, doesn't at all strike me as being true to character. It certainly doesn't seem true to the character of the Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks or Remembrance of the Daleks who weighed up the potential consequences of his actions and watched events unfold to the very end. Even staying around for the funeral, which he did again in Black Orchid. For me, the old Doctor would have pondered the consequences of disrupting the media communication system of Earth and its allies, and would at least have got to know the people and trusted in someone to handle events in his absence. But even if the Doctor did always leave without looking back, the Doctor seems far too deliberately impatient and dismissive at the end of The Long Game, it doesn't read as being characteristic to him, it reads as forced.

To me the Doctor should be a character of inspiration and empowerment, who shows us the ways of being brave, but also compassionate and understanding and open-minded. I don't like the idea of making the Doctor someone to be subject to criticism within stories, because that is just belittling and degrading to his role model status, and after which he ceases to be a worthy role model of anything if his courage is gone and his devotion to peace is always naive and stupid and yet rigidly unbreakable.

To me, making the new Doctor Who into a series of 10 stories only would fit best. I think from Rose to The Doctor Dances is a good all-round season, showing a perfect collection of various motions to go through. As the Doctor and Rose adjust to each other through the first few episodes, midway they both have an explored background and are given a chance to grieve over their personal losses, and then The Doctor Dances is the perfect uplifting experience for them both. It's a perfect development, just like William Hartnell to Tom Baker is a perfect development.

Of course there would be imponderables from the series if it ended in 1980. Would the Movellans really contain the Dalek threat forever? Have we really seen the end of the Master? The events of the series would allow us to take the optimistic 'yes' as the answer to both questions. But the revival series would make certain of it. The new series pretty much would show us what happens to the Daleks after Destiny of the Daleks, and settles their threat, and by all accounts the new series suggests strongly, if indirectly, that the Master and Davros are dead by now, either of old age or because they might have been executed.

So the new series further settles the issues of the old, but also contains within it some more imponderables if the series is truncated by making The Doctor Dances the official ending. The 'ten seconds' goodbye scene at the end of World War Three nicely severs ties with Rose and her family and leaves an air of mystery in the air; i.e. will something happen to Rose in her travels that will make it impossible for her to return - a strong suggestion that has sadly been lost by repeated revisitation to the Powell Estate. The Bad Wolf mystery is allowed to be a subtle enigma and a treat for those who have been watching carefully. No one openly notices it, and for those who choose to, they can put it down to a great number of things: something to do with the temporal fallout mentioned in The Unquiet Dead, possibly based on some kind of race memory amongst the humans akin to that seen in The Silurians; in fact, I kinda thought it'd be great if the Doctor omnipotently knew what it meant all along and didn't see the point in commenting on it.

Besides, I like imponderables in Doctor Who. From the first time I saw Genesis of the Daleks, I was hooked to the imponderables of that closing episode, where the fate of entire galaxies lay unresolved. It made the galaxies of Doctor Who so much more riveting and magical and worth caring about.

I just feel that beyond a certain point Doctor Who, if allowed to carry on, begins shooting itself in the foot. It accumulates baggage of continuity and recurring foes, it tramples its own imponderables in a short-sighted way, it stops being about new possibilities and begins looking inwards and belittles its own main character, it sets its own rules and is unable to break them. I think the same is true of other continuity heavy, dogmatic, long running shows, such as Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and the later incarnations of Star Trek.

Of course, what I'm writing now is what allows me to see what seems like a better, more comfortable version of Doctor Who at the moment. It is more than likely that in tthe weeks ahead I will reconsider my view and decide that actually Peter Davison's first season was good. I might rewatch some old Peter Davison stories, or Sylvester McCoys, or see some David Tennant stories that will totally impress me (Tooth and Claw was one Tennant story that really made me warm to the series again after Eccleston's departure) and I'll be adamant that those stories were worth making, and completely changing my mind on everything I've said here. But at the moment what I've just written sounds like a far more promising setup than the one we've got.

The role of London in the Who mythos by Steve Cassidy 25/5/06

While watching The Doctor Dances the other day, I was pondering on how much of the episode's success depends on its location. The darkness, nervous populaton and constant peril of the bombs reigning down really adds something to this much-acclaimed serial. I got to thinking how much the British capital city has been used in Who. Granted, it is shot in the western districts around a well known planetary body called Shepherd's Bush but the city has been called to be the protagonist or conduit for a story more times then I can remember. It's been invaded by everything from the Sycorax to Pteradons, it's been blasted and bombed, lasered by Daleks, and set on fire by someone who should have learnt his lesson with Nero. In short, London has been the perfect location for Doctor Who.

A lot of this has to do with atmosphere. You can set happy beach movies on the beaches of Los Angeles, Miami and Sydney but those cities are unconvincing for a dark gothic tale. London has atmosphere in abundance; maybe it's that weight of history, maybe it's the climate, maybe it's the sheer ramshackle nature of the place - but it is a great place to tell stories. The feel of the place can build up menace: the narrow alleys, the mixture of peoples, the broody weather, the great icons still there after hundreds of years. The same can be said for Paris, Vienna, Venice, Istanbul and New York. When you have a moody location, half your storytelling is done for you.

So I'm going to talk about London in Who. How it, and the programme, have changed over the decades. How different parts of the city suit different eras and are used to enhance certain adventures. What is certain is that the Doctor keeps coming back to 'The Big Smoke'. He must like it here...

It all starts with the first episode of the William Hartnell era. From the first shot we see decrepit London: the junkyard at Totters Lane. Immediately we get the scene. There were still a lot of pockets of poverty around in the early sixties and in places the city looked very ramshackle with leftover bombsites and buildings due to be demolished. Here the mystery is built up: why are they in a junkyard? What is a police box doing there? Add darkness and fog and you have the mysterious beginning you are looking for.

Of course most of the Hartnell years was spent getting two Londoners back to 1964 London. When they think they are home in series two they have an enormous shock: a London destroyed and taken over by Daleks. The Dalek Invasion of Earth gives us an alternate London, an allegory for the Nazi occupation of the city. The sixties were not that far away from the end of the Second World War. Every European capital provided a template for what would have happened to London if the Nazis had got through in 1941. The population under the Daleks reflects the fragmentation of the population: the resistance fighters, the collaborators, the black marketeers, the looters, the daily grim aim of survival. London in TDIOE is a deserted, battered place where the population scurries like rats intent of not being noticed by the Dalek invaders. Comparisons of the cleansing of the Warsaw ghetto in 1944 can also be made.

On a more cheerful note we get to see London in The Chase. The landmarks are there as Barbara and Ian finally return home. It's warm London, homely London - welcome London. They are back in familiar surroundings. And finally, the London of The War Machines is one of my favourites. The swinging sixties seemed to have passed Who by (as they did Coronation Street). So intent was it in showing alien societies and planets that it forgot to show London becoming swinging and the fashion capital of the world. Except in this adventure, where the hip groovy Carnaby Street vibe of Polly and Ben even affects the crotchety first Doctor. The nightclub scene complete with sixties fashions is a hoot. And the Post Office Tower (now the Telecom Tower) is a bit of sixties white hot technology. In 2006 it looks a period building utterly dwarfed and ridiculed by the glass and steel of Docklands.

Not so many of Patrick Troughton's adventures survive as much. The Faceless Ones is set at Gatwick (which had just been upgraded from a tiny London airport). And The Invasion uses icons such as St Paul's as a backdrop to the Cybermen's attempted takeover. But interestingly enough a lot of the action takes place under London. The sewers and Underground provide ready-made tunnels and conduits. Deep tunnels make ready-made, scary, dark places to hide Yetis and Cybermen. London throughout the ages has been a place of shadow and menace.

But my two favourite London adventures take place in the Jon Pertwee era. The best has to be Invasion of the Dinosaurs. The first episode is a wonderful example of eeriness. Shots of deserted Whitehall bring back memories of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Something terrible has happened to the city and the audience doesn't know what it is yet. The military dealing with looters also adds to the paranoia and a sense of breakdown of order. Of course dinosaurs chasing everyone out of the city is the stuff of very bad B-movies, but it is done with such conviction. And every time I wander past Smithfield meat market I can't help remember this was where the terrible rubber Tyrannosaurus fought with the terrible rubber Brontosaurus.

Next is Amorality Tale, a tale of 1952 Shoreditch. The austerity of the fifties is brought brilliantly to life in this novel. Ex-pat New Zealander David Bishop brings the back-to-back housing, seedy clubs and ramshackle nature of post-war London to life. The sense of community so famous in the blitz is evocatively portrayed here. It's the kind of tough environment that threw up gangsters and turf warfare, a side of London that seems to work perfectly with Who. Amorality Tale gets as close to the soul and people of the city as any genre in Who

The Tom Baker years seemed to be more about exploring the universe than returning to earth (although Paris gets a good adventure) but he does get an adventure showing London at its most classic. In The Talons of Weng-Chiang we have Victorian London. It's almost as if the writer had a checklist of Dickensian/Holmesian cliches. This could be London done by Hollywood in the 1930's. But, surprisingly, it works. All the features - the music halls, foggy streets, Chinese opium dens and toothless old crones - add to the story rather then detract from it. London becomes just as much a part of the adventure as anything else. London becomes one of the attractions.

The Peter Davison years, believe it or not, never really spent much time on Earth (although the poor beggar had to endure an adventure at Heathrow). The Visitation is the only one that really works as the climax takes place in Pudding Lane. Jacobean timbered houses which dominated London before the great fire are confidently built here. But the most interesting is in Resurrection of the Daleks. The script called for it to be set in a crumbling docklands era. This was before gentrification when the warehouses of Shad Thames became million pound flats. Here they are used as a place of menace, a place where the Daleks would hide deadly cannisters. With its ragged feel and narrow streets it comes across as a negative place - not helped by the perpetual rain during shooting.

The Colin Baker years were really too short. Attack of the Cybermen tries to recreate the feel of The Invasion but it seems too obvious to be effective. And a Planet of the Apes moment occurs in The Mysterious Planet with the ruins of Marble Arch tube hinting the city's demise in the far future. Sylvester McCoy's tenure brought us more nostalgia for the tales of early London with Totters Yard being used in Remembrance of the Daleks. Although I have to admit there is some nice location shooting in the railway arch warehouses of Waterloo. But more effective is Survival and a different London. A London of twitching curtains, cut lawns and washing the car on a Sunday: suburbia. We don't often get to see comfortable London, affluent London and it is portrayed here as wrong. As a place where menace occurs behind every trimmed hedge. The tweeness of Perivale is used as character development: we now know why Ace rebelled against such an environment.

And finally we come to the new series.

Despite being shot in Cardiff, the production team realised that if you wanted iconography to sell the programme worldwide then it would have to be shot in the capital. The great icons of the London Eye, The Tower of London, the 'Gherkin', 10 Downing Street and Big Ben are all featured (and often destroyed) and are great audience grabbers. Viewers in Limoges, Kansas or Korea - all now seeing the series - can immediately latch on to the landmark of the city. And it gives a sense of scale and drama to see these things on screen.

Then at the same time it brings us down to earth. Audience identification has given us 'The Powell Estate' home of Rose and Jackie Tyler plus Mickey Smith. Here the less glamourous aspects of the city are shown to us. "Real people" to contrast with the Doctor's interplanetary adventures. The city is shown as grand and squalid in equal measure.

And the trend continues: in Rise of the Cybermen, an alternate fascist London is shown. A fantasy where the rich travel in the air in zeppelins and the poor are kept in line with curfews. And another icon, Battersea Power Station, now becomes a place of horror and mechanisation.

The city is shown as divided, moody, spectacular, awe-inspiring, squalid, exciting, shadowy and chock-full of atmosphere. London is a great place to tell stories.

The Consequences of the Time War by Thomas Cookson 29/6/06

One of the major defining differences between the Old Series and the New Series is that they were separated by an offscreen major event which saw the destruction of the Doctor's homeworld of Gallifrey: the 'Time War'.

One of the ways that this has enabled the old and new to be separated is the effect that the series has had on the show's continuity.

In the 80's Doctor Who became chained to its past. Even if one season tried to kill off the past, the following season would undo the damage. At the end of Season 19 we saw Adric killed, Tegan leave and the Master marooned. In the following season Tegan came back instantly and the Master soon escaped to plague the Doctor again. In season 21, we finally seemed to get some major change as Tegan and Turlough left, the Doctor regenerated, and not only that but both Davros and the Master were killed.

In the next season even that damage has been undone and in Mark of the Rani the Master is back from the dead, and even after the end of that episode where he was trapped in a shrinking TARDIS with rampaging reptiles he's back again next time, and so too is Davros. The past seemed unshakeable and impossible to kill off. It's no surprise then that 'unfinished business' became such a major theme of the McCoy era, when as the show was nearing its end, it finally tied up the Dalek, Cyberman, Rani and Master threats.

Then the nineties telemovie came along and gradually undid that finished business. Whilst the vanquishing of old foes during the McCoy years had given any future revivals of the show a clean slate to start on, the nineties telemovie just went along and brought the Master back on day one; hardly the best way to start a new series for a new audience. It also seemed to miss one of the most fundamental characteristics of the series, in that the Doctor is meant to come to worlds that are in need of him and save the day. In the TV Movie, the Doctor saves the Earth but had he not landed there with the Master's remains, the planet wouldn't have been in danger in the first place. I suppose that's part of the reason that I've never cared much for the TV Movie, not even cared enough to hate it; let's face it, it had some of the best production values the old show was never treated to, but I've just always found it to be ultimately hollow and empty beneath its melodrama and forced freneticness.

The nineties telemovie seems to share the same ground as John Peel's War of the Daleks in fandom. Both works resurrected the Master, the Daleks and even Skaro itself, and the fan reaction to both works is to try and disown them completely from the continuity canon. Now War of the Daleks did invite my hateful ire in a way that the TV Movie never did, the way it went to such convoluted and illogical lengths to make a point about continuity, and not to complement the continuity of the past, but to outright rubbish it and to vindictively undo the work of Ben Aaronovitch for committing the 'heinous crime' of destroying Skaro; it just seemed so petty, and everything else about the book was just unpleasantly heavy-handed.

I'm actually very glad that Terror Firma - the recent audio followup to Remembrance of the Daleks - completely ignores all the events of War of the Daleks. Its actually my favourite audio adventure for multi-layered and undefineable reasons I can't quite explain, but having the Doctor and Davros actually have a battle of wills rather than discuss continuity helps, as does a focus on confusion rather than clarity to make it a thoroughly involving nightmare of an environment. It also featured the Eighth Doctor's companion Charlie, who so far has impressed me as one of my favourite companions: the way she is so hands-on and smooth like butter, how she can be so chirpy and yet vulnerable too, and so humanly played by India Fisher (in case you're wondering my other favourite companions are Victoria (Shame on you Matt Anderson for listing her in your bottom ten), Sarah, Zoe, Harry and Romana).

But all these disparate mediums of Doctor Who have opened up a whole can of worms of continuity. What the Time War has done then is finally in one swoop to kill off all this continuity. The Time War makes doubly sure of destroying Skaro, Gallifrey, the Time Lords, the High Council, the Celestial Intervention Agency, the Prydonians, Susan, Leela, Romana, the Master, the Rani, Davros, the Dalek empire, imperial and renegade Daleks alike, all in one go. Even the few Daleks that survive the war survive alone and no longer have any imperial influence to draw on. But because it all takes place off screen the fans can join the dots as to what really happened and how it fits in with their own perspective of continuity, whether you take the TV Movie as canon, or the Big Finish audios or the books as canon or not any of them, or if you don't care about continuity at all as long as you get to enjoy some new stories.

Russell has used the Time War to wrap up continuity but has been very careful and open ended as to how it does this. Boom Town and Parting of the Ways both actually poke fun at the fan controversy over the TV Movie. Rose refers to the TARDIS chameleon circuit as a cloaking device but the Doctor corrects her as to the device's real name, winning over the fans who want to forget the TV Movie ever happened. Likewise the in-joke concerning the half-human Daleks declaring that "Those words are blasphemy" is to mock those same fans for being so uptight about the TV Movie (I'm ashamed to say that it was only after someone pointed out the punchline that I realised it actually was an in-joke), but at the same time it doesn't force those fans to accept that the TV Movie happened, or that the Doctor really is half-human.

In regards to the books, this supposed destruction of Gallifrey in separate events to the Time War doesn't necessarily contradict what we've been told about the Time War so far. It is likely that the destruction of Gallifrey by the unidentified 'enemy' in the books left plenty of surviving Time Lords. Perhaps it was these survivors that were rendered extinct by the Daleks who took advantage of the destruction of Gallifrey and attacked the surviving Time Lords' new adopted home. The Doctor generally is vague about the Time War which allows the destruction of Gallifrey and the Time War battle itself to be potentially separate events, and the closest he comes to suggesting that it was actually the Daleks who destroyed Gallifrey is when he says "The Daleks destroyed my home, my people", which could equally refer to an adopted home by the surviving Time Lords.

But by the same token any non-fan can follow the New Series without needing any backstory.

I suppose the reason why lately I've been concentrating my articles on the 'If Doctor Who had ended before it jumped the shark' line of thought is that in many ways the New Series has allowed such a line of thought to be realised. The New Series might as well be a follow up to an alternative version of Doctor Who that ended in 1977. The New Series acknowledges the past up until that point. Aliens of London acknowledges the UNIT years of the early 1970s, Rose acknowledges Spearhead from Space, and School Reunion namedrops only the episodes that involved Sarah Jane Smith's time as a companion and the creation of K9 in The Invisible Enemy. Even The Five Doctors escapes mention thanks to how the Time Lords erased Sarah's memory of those events and although K9 and Company from 1981 is alluded to, that too is unconnected from what has happened in Doctor Who since The Invisible Enemy. Similarly Dalek nods to Genesis of the Daleks in the creation of the Daleks by Davros but doesn't mention that he survived past that story. Van Statten's base also features a Cyberman's head that resembles only the 70's model. Production notes suggest that the current Doctor is the Tenth incarnation but the script never says so. Even when the Doctor tells Sarah that he's regenerated several times he might as well be referring only to two regenerations.

Whatever happened since 1977 is not really mentioned, no matter how pivotal. Nothing on Romana living in E-Space, or for that matter, her ever having existed as a character, nor the Rani or Ace (the Doctor was most likely to see or mention Ace when visiting 1987 in Father's Day but neither happened). Nothing on Fenric or the Valeyard, the Black and White Guardians, the Key to Time, the Movellan stalemate, the growing corruption of Gallifreyan society, the devastation of Logopolis and the use of CVE to destroy entire worlds by the Master, and even destroying Skaro has slipped the Doctor's memory.

Okay the computer codes in School Reunion may share origins with Logopolitan science but this is never said aloud, in the same way that the Cat People of New Earth are possibly unrelated to the Cheetahs of Survival. Even the similar design of the automatic TV cameras in both Vengeance on Varos and Bad Wolf are ambiguously only there to be noticed by ardent fans.

It is entirely possible then for disillusioned fans to follow the New Series as though it follows up Doctor Who after 1977, and to forget that many of Doctor Who's official turkeys since ever happened, such as The Invasion of Time, Creature from the Pit, Time-Flight, The Twin Dilemma, Timelash, Time and the Rani or Silver Nemesis.

In that regard, the open ended nature of Genesis of the Daleks and The Deadly Assassin would leave nice imponderables if the show ended in 1977, and it would be nicer still to think that they were imponderables that were wrapped up in the Time War immediately upon the New Series' return, in a far less tedious and anticlimactic manner than they were in the continuation of the old series with its Davros rematches and its Gallifreyan adventures that sunk even further into dullness.

I have actually thought from time to time that it was a shame the Time War was never seen, but as with the Doctor's scene in Genesis of the Daleks where he contemplates destroying the incubator room and with very picturesque dialogue actually makes us envision the worlds out there that will suffer to the Daleks, Doctor Who has nearly always done far better at telling instead of showing, and even with a big SFX budget, it still makes sense to do Doctor Who the old-fashioned way. In the absence of a visual representation of the Time War, we get the confrontation between the Doctor and the Dalek where he describes the war in vivid detail and where the two enemies share a fierce and vengeful battle of wills that seems to speak for that titanic struggle between the two massive forces.

Russell T. Davies was quite clever in sweeping away over a decade of continuity without actually blatantly saying that it never happened. Russell and his writers were mainly concerned with giving Doctor Who a fresh start and attracting as wide an audience as possible. They probably wanted no part of continuity and wanted to write Doctor Who without any ties to the series bible or timeline, like how it used to be back in the 1960's and 70's.

Unfortunately times had changed since then and Star Trek: The Next Generation had pretty much taken the lead in the conventions of how sci-fi must be done and how it must line up flawlessly continuity-wise. Along the way, other sci-fi franchises were catching the continuity bug, such as Babylon Five, Red Dwarf, Sliders and Buffy. Although Doctor Who had never really matched up continuity-wise, plenty of fans were working hard to make the show into a coherent timeline, and even several Who-related books were in on the act. And both the TV Movie and the New Series have caught the wrath of older fans who are outraged at the liberties that both have taken with continuity.

What the Time War does then is to rewrite Doctor Who's continuity but stick to the rules somewhat in the process. If we destroy Gallifrey and the Dalek empire then that means we don't get bogged down by having to portray either in a flawlessly authentic fashion (if ever such a thing existed). And if we can suggest that because of the Time War, time is now in flux then now we can contradict previous stories by saying "but history's been changed now". It is said in the recent Doctor Who annual that the Time War was fought in the time vortex and the discharge of fire between the battleships can somehow affect the continuum and change historical events.

To me one of the revolutionary aspects of the Time War is that it gave most stories a significant focus on the Daleks, which had never really been the case before. Usually the influence of the Daleks was never actually acknowledged independently of actual Dalek serials. The Daleks supposedly were a massive, all-conquering empire that had destroyed thousands of planets, and yet with the exception of the Doctor and his companions and perhaps the aliens in Carnival of Monsters (who have only heard about them), most other races keep pretty quiet about them as though they've never encountered them. Even vast empires like the Sontarans, Rutans, Cybermen, Autons, Dominators with all the vast areas of space under their territory, have seemingly never come to blows with the Daleks. The fact that once I showed Genesis of the Daleks to a friend and at the end of it she asked, 'so will we eventually see what this good that comes out of the Dalek's evil will be?' pretty much says it all. For all the Doctor's ideas of a galactic unification in defense of the Dalek threat, we never actually see any evidence of this coming to fore in other non-Dalek stories.

The Dalek devastation of Earth in 2167 and the subsequent bloodshed of the Dalek wars would suggest that humanity should have great historical awareness of the Daleks, but it's only in The Ark that they actually mention having any such history records, the futuristic humans of Robots of Death and The Caves of Androzani or even The Planet of Evil seem perfectly content and neither seem worried about how their frontier base may be vulnerable to Dalek attack. It does begin to seem unlikely that the Daleks actually have an empire, or at least one that is large and formidable; in any case it seems that the Dalek empire and any shared historical memory of them both conveniently appear and disappear with the Daleks as they come and go. In fact, by the time of Trial of a Time Lord, the Doctor openly says that the Daleks are still in the nursery compared to the Time Lords, which I was always dubious about since the Time Lords only destroyed... one planet.

It seems that the idea of universal ramifications was an idea that could only be entertained briefly. In stories like The War Games, Genesis of the Daleks and Logopolis, we are allowed to entertain the notion that there could be catastrophic consequences of what goes down here, and that all the races we've encountered so far in Doctor Who will be involved together in this crisis. But rarely did it get followed up this way. And in that I really understand this fannish love of continuity, this desire to think of the events in stand-alone stories having the capacity to extend beyond themselves into other stories.

I always thought it would be nice if the series did actually do an episode in which there were no Daleks in sight but they were mentioned or had some kind of devastating influence. If the Doctor landed in a future Earth society was that dealing with a particular unconnected dilemma, but if one of the humans he befriended referred to how they once fought in the Dalek war, or even better if the Doctor landed on a planet that was once under Dalek rule and now was descending into civil war between surviving factions who use Dalek weaponry to fight one another, and he had to settle the conflict, or in which the Doctor had to deal with a planet's immigration issues involving refugees of the Dalek wars coming to their world, or had to solve the curtailed freedom of a planet under martial law, but which was under martial law as a safety measure against the possibility of Dalek attack.

With the New Series it has finally begun to do something along those lines. In Rose and The Unquiet Dead, the ramifications of the destruction wielded by the Daleks leads to refugee races that now seek to take over Earth. Father's Day and Rise of the Cybermen attribute the key events of them to the destruction of Gallifrey by the Daleks. In School Reunion it didn't quite go as far as I wanted it to go, I must say. Sarah mentions the Daleks, quite predictably, but only to get one over on Rose in listing their respective encounters. But funnily enough I'd always thought that the Dalek threat would have been on the forefront of Sarah's mind and if she met the Doctor again, I always thought one of her first questions would be "Did you destroy the Daleks in the end or are they still out there?" so that she'd know if the future of Earth would be safe.

This was probably something of a Star Trek conceit actually. In The Wrath of Khan, events are put in motion that seem to affect everything that follows, right down to the Klingon and Federation peace treaty, even though The Wrath of Khan didn't feature a single Klingon in sight. The Borg were not seen that often in the series, but they were mentioned plenty of times as having a major influence. Some stories focus an episode on performing military exercises to prepare for the next Borg attack. One time when the Dominion were drawing up battle plans against the Federation, the fact that a recent Borg attack had been costly and had rendered the Federation undermanned and outgunned and vulnerable to attack was a highlighted point. The film Generations actually centred around a Borg refugee being driven to desperate measures by the death of his family; the Borg themselves were never seen in the film.

But I suppose that was inevitable with Star Trek since it involved a more fixed and linear environment, it was more likely to show and feel the ramifications, whereas Doctor Who has more freedom. Some might say that Doctor Who has adopted more Star Trek conventions because it has started to become tied down to particular settings like the Powell estate and Satellite Five and elsewhere rarely leaves the solar system.

An argument could be made that Star Trek tries to build up the threat of the Borg, even when it's an out-of-sight threat, because as Star Trek deals with an institution it embraces its propaganda about a perpetual threat and about everyone's duty to be aware and prepared to fight. Star Trek is more of a war-minded series, or at least became so in the 1990's. By contrast Doctor Who is not about the institution, it's about a man's free right of way, free from any propaganda or call-up papers or sense of duty, and when there are no Daleks in sight, the Doctor usually doesn't spoil the serenity by either mentioning them or the threat they pose. The Doctor doesn't like to be a propagandist and he doesn't like to live on the edge, as though having to be aware of any surrounding threat. He's a hero but he'd rather go on holiday in Paris or the Eye of Orion and forget the galaxy's troubles now and again. He might not answer the cries of war or the call to arms, even if the Daleks are involved. He doesn't like to fight and he'd often prefer to either leave it to the higher powers to deal with (The War Games) or the empires and allied forces (Genesis of the Daleks) or even simple fate and serendipity (Planet of Fire).

Of course in some ways the Time War has changed that and the Doctor has become something of a war-minded Doctor; he's often in a blind panic, belligerent, vengeful and chasing death, so the series has perhaps become more war-minded, much like Star Trek. In fact the New Series often points out his failings when he leaves it to the authorities to clear up the mess without getting involved in the clean up, as in The Long Game. A story like Dalek even seems to follow the Star Trek convention of having one of the main characters be a war survivor who then encounters a member of their enemy's race and has to learn to be more tolerant and less prejudiced or vengeful as a result, just like Kirk with the Klingons, or Worf with the Romulans or Picard with the Borg, now it was the Doctor and the Daleks.

The old series never really did this, even though it had plenty of opportunities to do so. One could perhaps take a subtle suggestion that maybe the reason the Daleks and the Cybermen were two of the few races that the peace-loving Doctor harboured a genuine hatred towards was down to the fact that he had only ever lost companions to both (though what the poor Androgums are meant to have done to him, I'll never know). Victoria, having lost her father to the Daleks had potential to channel some of this pain and rage should she ever encounter the Daleks again, but she never did. But even though Tegan and Nyssa frequently met the Master, none of their sense of grievance against the Master after he killed their loved ones ever came to the surface. Both of these instances can suggest both superiority and inferiority over the Star Trek model of dealing with bereaved characters. The vapidness of Tegan and Nyssa suggests that the writer has forgotten about them as characters, let alone how to draw full potential and development from them, which Star Trek would at least make an effort to do so.

But in the Doctor and Victoria's conversation about her deceased father in Tomb of the Cybermen, the Doctor's way of comforting her is to emphasise his alien methods of controlling grief and invites her further into the freedom of travelling through time. In a way this shows up the Star Trek model as lacking authenticity: when the Doctor comforts Victoria he is drawing on his alien character; if this were Star Trek or Buffy or a show that was similarly inspired he'd instead be reading out a therapeutic pamphlet about how to cope with grieving, that would be adapted into script form in a most unsubtle way. In other words it wouldn't be the character talking at all, but some real-world therapist speaking for him.

I suppose Doctor Who never really unlocked the potential it had as a journey in time and space, and this hasn't changed all that much. The Doctor now has Cassandra as a recurring villain in much the same way as Davros and the Master, and likewise despite the fact that he is a time traveller, every encounter he has with Cassandra will be linear. Just like the Time War will always be a past event, even if the Doctor goes back to Victorian times, he'll never encounter Daleks from before the Time War when they still had an empire, only Dalek survivors (it has been suggested by some fans that maybe the Daleks were erased from history, but the fact that the humans - namely Roderick and Jack - in Parting of the Ways remember the years of the Dalek empire rather rules that theory out). Ironically perhaps the only writer to be daring with the concept of time travel in Doctor Who is Terry Nation who ensured the Daleks' survival beyond their first story by taking us back in time to an earlier point in their history. No surprise that with a little prodding, he eventually went one step further and took us back in time to their creation; unfortunately from there the introduction of Davros brought us back onto a straight line.

The most curious aspect of the Time War is that in School Reunion, the Krillitanes knew that the Time Lords had been destroyed, even though they are on present-day Earth and have no time travel capabilities as far as we know... unless of course the Krillitanes had managed to absorb into their race actual Time Lord survivors who had retreated to an earlier time. Perhaps Mr. Finch, the leader of the Krillitanes really was the Master (as many fans had speculated), or contained a part of him. Maybe there's a story thread on the rocks there.

But what has the loss of the Time Lords also brought us?

Well it has certainly changed the Doctor into a less merciful figure, with a more macho posturing and a declaration of 'no second chances'. I'd also vouch that the Doctor's more slang-leaning vocabulary in the New Series might be down to the Time War. Perhaps his former fondness for literate and scientific terms became lost since this only served to remind him of the dead Time Lords and their prestigious culture, as well as of the clinical of vocabulary of the Daleks who brought about their destruction.

In a way it seems that with the Time Lords gone, something has become hollow, unprogressive and undignified about the universe. Comparing the future of man seen in The Ark in Space to the one seen in Bad Wolf and the contrast is quite something. The former portraying a future of keen intellects and scientists, the latter portraying a vapid and cul-de-sac society under fascist rule and driven by an amoral media. It seemed that the Time Lords were the centre of all things proud, sophisticated and dedicated to the fields of science. Now that they're gone it's as if those virtues have died with them. The future is no longer progress, but the same world of the same reality TV shows and the same kind of greed ruling our lives, and nothing about interstellar life seems to have broadened our horizons one iota.

There's something else as well: somehow when it comes to the emotional nature of the New Series, the destruction of Gallifrey comes to mind. That Gallifrey was a sealed-tight planet and its people were characterised by cold detachment, it seems that the destruction of Gallifrey has left us all rather emotionally unreserved and unguarded. It should be remembered that the Old Series had a sense of detachment from time to time. In fact to my mind it was mostly detached during the 1970's, after all it was from The War Games onwards that Gallifrey came into existence in the show. In the 60's things were a bit more passionate in the absence of the Time Lords, and the 80's likewise had an emotional aspect, which seemed to speak for a growing awareness of the faults and corrupt elements of Gallifrey making the once infallible planet seem very festeringly wounded.

I'd also suggest that the Daleks had a hand in conveying this emotionless nature. Not only did the detached outlook seem to mirror the Daleks, it also spoke for how guarded we were at the threat that could get through our barriers if our guard wasn't kept up. It should also be remembered that the most emotionally sensitive of companions - Susan, Victoria and Ace - tended to feature in Dalek stories early in their run as a companion and in Dalek stories that specifically suggested that the Dalek race had come to its 'final end', rendering it somehow safe again to wear our hearts on our sleeve, or in which we see the Daleks exhibit more sympathetic or human characteristics, and the same is certainly true of Rose's run as a companion.

The Doctor and companion of the New Series have learned to live with the vulnerability of losing the protectors of the universe and the "stiff upper lip" example that Gallifrey led. Now in the removal of the Dalek threat, the Doctor and Rose are learning how to open up and learning how to be intimate and emotionally honest and unguarded and to stop being bottled up, in this environment where it seems perhaps safe to do so.

"Science, not sorcery, Miss Hawthorne": an article on magic vs science by Hugh Sturgess 7/8/06

"It was all about disproving magic, finding the truth; which was what Doctor Who had always been about. In Hammer Horror, mummies are mummies - they are cadavers brought back to life. In Doctor Who, they're robots."
-Gareth Roberts, on the Hinchliffe era in "Serial Thrillers", on the Pyramids of Mars DVD.
Now, this statement is probably what many fans wheel out to prove how nice Doctor Who is. It's about a group of people, led by a man who is proud to be called a scientist (Jon Pertwee gets into a bit of a tiz when someone suggests that he isn't a scientist: "If I were a scientist? Let me tell you, sir, that I am a scientist, and have been for several thousand -"), who solve scientific problems with scientific methods. It's a show about empiricism, exploration and experimentation, which is what science is all about.

But really, if you watch it, you realise the series really isn't about science at all. As Lawrence Miles and Tat Wood realised to their horror in About Time 4, the entire medium of television, and Doctor Who in particular, is on the side of... well, magic. Yes, magic, that dreaded anti-Doctor, which the Doctor can always debunk with ease, and all adherents of which are deluded loonies. Magic is completely against the ethos of Doctor Who, isn't it?

No, actually. Really, "hardcore" SF only works in books, where you can stop the action half-way through and devote huge passages to cutting-edge scientific theories to explain certain McGuffin plot devices (Stephen Baxter, anyone?). On TV, you have to keep going, faster and faster, with little or no time to stop for scientific discussions (which is why Quatermass looks so shockingly slow to modern eyes). Really, it's much easier in TV to not explain events at all, to simply have them look right. TV's about images, not words, and science is about words, not images. Really, TV is about magic. After all, magic is just science taught badly. No, really; even magic tricks on stage, like the "disembodied-head-coming-out-of-table" trick uses laws of reflection to work, it just doesn't bother to explain this is the case. Doctor Who - and TV itself - has been using magic in its dramas since it was created, but no one felt like naming its own specific genre (magic realism, anyone?) because it made sense: magic performed in a medium made entirely of magic.

If I can just first consider the first season of Who (i.e., the 1963 season, not the one with old Chris Eccles), you can see this truth in action. CE "Bunny" Webber (no, I don't know why either) said that the TARDIS was "the dear old magic door", and people have been saying for years that it's basically the wardrobe from the smug Narnia books, and he also proposed all manner of bizarre ideas (such as proposing that the Fairy Godmother was Dr Who's wife pursuing him through time. Obvious, really.) to extrapolate on this. The much-maligned - and rightly so - director Richard Martin had the "theory" that the TARDIS interior was a force of will, which is essentially dressing up "an act of faith" in stolen pseudo-scientific robes. Sydney Newman calmly dismissed this as "nuts". However, the most famous theory of them all is the much-brought-up quote "[the Doctor] can get into a rare paddy when faced with a caveman trying to invent the wheel", which says, unequivocally, that the program is anti-science. And, if you're anti-science, you have to embrace magic at some stage.

But onto the season proper. 100,000 BC shows the TARDIS, as has been previously mentioned, as a magic door. No explanation is given as to the Ship's dimensional transcendence (and it'll be about ten years before the concept even gets a pseudo-scientific mask) or its remarkable abilities of time travel and shape-shifting. The phrase "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" comes to mind. The rather lame explanation "where does time go" is flagrantly saying "it's all so advanced that we can't understand it, so deal with it". They even make the next three episodes a case in point, juxtaposing the "primitive" Ian and Barbara's incomprehension of the Doctor and his bigger-inside-than-out box of tricks with the cavemen's awe of the Doctor's matches. Any science, poorly explained, is magic.

The Daleks shows the TARDIS to be just like any other spaceship, which is more scientific than anything Chris Bidmead says about the Ship, and yet we think it's just stupid nowadays. But it also shows magic food-bars that taste like eggs one bite, slightly-too-salty bacon the next, machines possessed by evil spirits powered by static electricity, evolution-as-a-force and reveals that the TARDIS relies on mercury for its flight, not simply because of its power to make intermittent connections, but because of its mysterious, "magical", properties. Really, the whole "Daleks-powered-by-static-electricity" thing, often wheeled out to show how scientific the series is, comes off as a magical "allergy", like silver and werewolves, dressed up as "respectable" science.

Inside the Spaceship is, essentially, an attempt to make the TARDIS magical again. The point of the story, rather than being "d'oh, the switch is stuck", is that the Ship has been communicating. It re-enforces the idea of the TARDIS, not simply as a means to reach more Technicolor jungles and trippy cities, but as a world in itself, where magical things can happen. People usually say that it's a haunted house tale, and they're not wrong; the TARDIS becomes, to all intents and purposes, for one episode only, a haunted house. Spooky silence, claustrophobic, pseudo-POV camera angles and, on one memorable occasion, even boom shadows looming over the characters all contribute to the idea of the Ship as a beast, a thing consciously conspiring to drive our heroes insane. Really, the title - with it's reference to being inside a spaceship - is ironic, as this story, more than any other, tries to prove that the TARDIS isn't one.

The rest of the stories really are just part of the formula, and the rather low quality of effects meant that there are few opportunities to include "magical" events, though some do stand out; Marco Polo's mentions of levitating mystics, and he is the sort of person, we are encouraged to believe, who always tells the truth. The Gobi Desert is presented as a creature, a single organism, actively trying to kill the characters. The episode synopsis included in contemporary copies of the Radio Times is unwittingly - or was it intentionally? - appropriate. It mentions the Doctor "outwitting" the Gobi Desert, and the desert is presented a thing to outwit, as if the passage through it is almost a battle of wills.

However, the last big thing is in The Aztecs, where Sydney Newman phoned up crying, and had the lines changed to "glorify the occupation, etc., of an engineer". The Doctor mentions that he is an engineer, and sorts out the problem by making a dodgy wheel and axle by hand. Now, this has to be considered key; the title "doctor" implies learning, but not scary learning, and is not as dissociated as a professor. Also, a doctor is someone who fixes things, while a professor just thinks and makes airy pronouncements about things he's never seen. So, rather than being a series about science, is Doctor Who a series about engineering?

The "magic" elements of the series remained prominent throughout the next eight years, and most notably surfaced in the Animus (husky female voice controlling slaves via gold, voodoo-like), the Celestial Toymaker (Oriental magician-genie living outside space and time) and the Great Intelligence (similarly disembodied - this time, male - voice controlling furry beasts with fangs and claws via crystal balls). But the Time Lords were the most magical element of all; wizards who watch over the entire universe, who made deals with spirits to travel anywhere and live forever. Gallifrey even looks like a wizard's castle. No one really made such a big fuss about science, and, as the Doctor played by magical rules, this never clashed with any other elements. It was doing what the series always had done; dressing up magic as science.

But, with the third Doctor era, and the removal of that pesky TARDIS, the production team (read: "Barry Letts and Robert Sloman") got it into their silly little heads that Doctor Who is about science, and that the Doctor is a scientist. However, no one listened to them at first, and, with t-shirt and mouthful of wires, the Doctor seemed more like an engineer than ever before. But, with Season Eight, this "science is automatically good" idea came in with a vengeance. The Doctor proudly claimed to be a scientist, something that he had never done before. This felt... well, wrong. Not just aesthetically - though the sight of the authoritarian Doctor as a scientist is, unconscionably, ugly - but in terms of ethos. The Doctor, really, is a chameleon, shifting what he believes in - magic or science - around whenever he needs to play by different rules; witness his acceptance of the Ship's sentience immediately after using scientific method to sort out the Daleks. And, similarly, it just feels wrong to have the Doctor going on and on about science when the medium he exists in is based on magic. Try watching The Daemons immediately after seeing the Brigadier and Jo take shelter from a nuclear explosion by hiding behind a jeep, and then returning to the danger seconds after the explosion.

The Daemons, is, undoubtedly, the very worst offender. The first scene is of a raging storm and thunder and lightning illuminating a churchyard with splashes of grotesque light. A man chases after his dog and finds it dead, and then sees something so terrible that he dies (it is never explained what it is, as Azal is safely locked in his barrow, Bok is still a gargoyle at this stage rather than a fat bloke in a body-stocking, and the Master is hardly that ugly). Then, in the very next scene, we have Miss Hawthorne face a freak storm which possesses a local bobby, and dissipates it with a magic spell.

After all that, the Doctor waltzes into the story, busily dismissing Jo's allusions to "the occult and all that magic bit" as nonsense and claiming that things with built-in technobabble are somehow automatically better. He feels like a sod, and a party-pooper, when he tricks Jo with his little remote control and says "science, not sorcery". It doesn't matter that the Doctor's unlikeable, misogynistic and an authoritarian, as the third Doctor's always like that. It does matter that he pooh-poohs magic, when he uses poorly-explained science as a crutch. And poorly-explained science is...? To fit Bessie with the means to be driven by remote control, he would have to take her apart and rebuild her from the bottom up. When he triggers the horn by remote-control, the horn bulb actually depresses, like someone is squeezing it. How does it work? It's magic.

The hypocrisy doesn't just stop there. One of the story's most memorable characters, the gargoyle Bok, is a scientific impossibility. How is he animated? Some kind of "psychic science". But how exactly? Stone is brittle, so to move that fluidly it would have to be red-hot. And Azal; how does he shrink and grow and so forth? The production team should be acknowledged for including the snap-freezes and heat waves when Azal grows or shrinks respectively, but we never learn how he does it. It's seemingly a mind-controlled process, but it's never explained. Also, Azal and the Devil's Hump are treated with occult reverence throughout the story; the Daemon will appear three times, and will destroy the Earth on the third, while the script makes sure that the Hump is opened at the heart of a raging storm.

Really, they could explain every element of the story with real science, but they simply can't be bothered. They could say something like "the particles in the stone are so agitated that it acts like a fluid", or say that Azal has a handy device that turns mass in raw energy and vice versa. But they don't. Now, a story that did this would have about three extra episodes of talking, and I'd probably be bored by it, but in a story that states several times that it's on the side of "science, not sorcery, Miss Hawthorne", you expect some real science. The idea of a living gargoyle is a great idea, but it's a fantastic idea, in the literary sense of the word, not a Hard SF one. Similarly, the programme-makers assume we'll see Azal as so powerful because of what he symbolises: the Devil, the oldest, most powerful villain possible (he is consciously set up as the biggest threat the Doctor has ever faced; see the Doctor's comment that he's more powerful than the Daleks and the Axons), and so simply becomes a big, hairy bloke who shouts a lot when you try to present him as an alien scientist.

Of course, I couldn't continue without mentioning the technobabble the Doctor uses to defeat the heat barrier. Even adherents of the story find it a problem, but explain it away as "the series was never about real science anyway". Well, someone should tell the scriptwriters that. But not only is the technobabble mesmerically meaningless, it doesn't even make grammatical sense, as many sentences are joined by completely the wrong conjugations. So, Osgood builds a machine that... does what? Oh, something to do with air particles and a nonsense word, diathermy. Why didn't the Doctor just wave the sonic screwdriver about and say abra kadabra? But let's look even closer at this; the Doctor says a series of nonsense words that don't seem to make any logical sense, which defeats an "evil" force. What does that remind you of? (Clue: magicians are justly famous for casting them.) Really, that's the story in microcosm: lots of people doing magic, but only some of them admitting as such.

Thankfully, as the series progressed, Letts and Sloman and their entourage moved on, and a conscious decision to be more "science fantasy" came in, and with it came a distrust of scientists. A look at the Hinchliffe era shows this: the Scientific Reform Society is a group of fascists; scientist Noah is shown as inhuman while engineer Rogan is personal and argumentative; experimenter Styre is a sadist; genius Davros created the most evil beings in the Universe; Sorenson tampers with the forces of creation in a bid for fame and recognition; Solan is a fanatic; Styggron is a warmongering bogeyman; Eldrad is a tyrant; electricity is used by the Rutan as a weapon; and the scientists in The Seeds of Doom and Image of the Fendahl are petty and insular.

The stories, too, took on a different bent; scientists aren't always right, and the mystical prophecies invariably come true. The Planet of Evil itself is a wonderful, horror concept, and antimatter makes an aesthetic sense even if it's scientifically loony. Sutekh may be an alien war criminal, and mummies may be robots, but take away his toys and the Osiran is still a demigod because of what he symbolises. (If we want to make things simple, we could think of science fiction as the drama of the relationship between humanity and its tools, while fantasy is the drama in the relationship between us and our symbols.) Here, tools stop being the issue, and it becomes about symbols.

The Masque of Mandragora is The Daemons 2, and works to the same rules (magic bad, science good), and while representing the Helix as inexplicable - because it symbolises superstition - may be aesthetically appropriate, there's a lot here that isn't: the Doctor mulling over the positions of the stars; Hieronymous's prophecies coming true; etc. and the pivotal moment comes when Guilliano - who's scientific and therefore "good" - suggests that Hieronymous has summoned up something from "beyond". He may have heard the Doctor's half-baked explanation of the Helix, but he's basically switching "demon" with "mass of ionised plasma". And if you think that's bad - and it is - the Doctor then applies "science" to defeat the Helix; basically doing something terribly technical and shorting the Helix out.

Image of the Fendahl's titular adversary doesn't have any toys at all. The Fendahl doesn't deliberate, or shout - it isn't Azal - but Death, ancient and inescapable. You know that the rules have changed when the Doctor ignores the scientists, asks local witch Ma Tyler for advice, and gives three explanations for the Fendahl: one pseudo-mystical, one scientific, and one putting it all down to an amazing coincidence. But what really shows that Doctor Who's about symbols now is the way standard nightmare-fare is paraded before us, as if for the first time: the Doctor is chased by something, but finds he can't move his legs; giant slugs ooze down corridors; and a glowing skull "proves" that a man who thought he was safe has been manipulated all along.

The ultimate "magical" element of the series, the one that makes very little scientific sense yet makes perfect aesthetic sense, is that of the Guardians. The Key to Time series essentially has the Doctor going on a quest for a series of "magical" artefacts, and has to outwit numerous "magical" and otherwise obstacles such as dragons and seers, walking menhirs that drink blood, Celtic goddesses and flashy spirits, corrupt lords and servants of the Black Guardian, clad in black robes and bone-masks. But the inspiration goes beyond Heroic - in the Classical sense of the word - quests, and into religion: the White Guardian responds to the Doctor's inquiry as to his identity with "do you really need to ask?", takes the form of an old man with a beard and can stop the TARDIS in a blaze of light, and, in The Armageddon Factor, when the Black Guardian drops his disguise, he seems to burn in black flames.

Season 18, rather than being "real science", is simply hooked up on aesthetics. Let's look at the stories; the Recreation Generator on Argolis can make you old, make you young, duplicate you, mix and duplicate multiple people, and even do all that and make them young again. It's essentially a great big shiny, magic wand, something that Bidmead apparently loathed. It might not make scientific sense, but it does make aesthetic sense: the Doctor was horribly aged in the Generator, so it's inevitable that when lots of masked men get out of it at least one is going to be his younger self.

Then we come to Meglos, and the much-feted chronic hysteresis. The Doctor and Romana may not apply rational science to the problem, but the way they escape makes perfect aesthetic sense, and fits everything we know about the hysteresis.

The E-Space trilogy is a great example of this: Full Circle presents evolution, as The Daleks did, as a force, constantly running in cycles, while State of Decay is just so sublime a balance of styles that the term "science fantasy" seems made for it: the Giant Vampire is presented as an ancient, inexplicable symbol of terror, but the Doctor can defeat him because he knows how to manipulate the controls of a spaceship, well enough to drive this colossal artefact through the creature's heart.

Warrior's Gate is probably the only magic realist Doctor Who TV story. The term "magic realism" has been bandied around quite a bit, but this is an honest-to-God example of the genre. Events, such as the cliffhanger to part three and the monochrome garden, aren't explained, which many people take to mean that the story is about hard science and the author doesn't bother to explain it; the truth is that the author is just making it all up as he goes. The crew of the Privateer are normal plodding folk: they don't want to take over the Universe, or work hard, don't understand how the space-machinery works, and just want to get their bonuses.

However, the cargo they have is hundreds of "leonine mesomorphs" as Romana calls the Tharils, "with a lot of hair" - lion-people to you or me - who want to escape to the ruins of a church so that they can pass through an indestructible mirror into a black-and-white garden. Any doubt where this story's origins lie ends when the Doctor compares talking to Binro to talking with a cheshire cat, and later alludes to "the right sort of nothing".

Later, the series became a little too scientific, though the fairy-tale kingdom of Traken, with its "Source" and an evil talking statue exploiting a maiden's sadness for its own ends, and Logopolis, populated entirely by wizards chanting spells to hold the Universe together, are stand-out examples.

But, at last, in the final two seasons of the original series, magic makes a triumphant return. The Time Lords become sorcerers once more in Remembrance of the Daleks, and the Hand of Omega bares a striking resemblance to the Ark of the Covenant from Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Silver Nemesis has a material that can cause "bad luck", and a medieval sorceress and her servant use a magic potion to travel through time. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy has the Doctor performing magical tricks, and a circus is revealed to be run for the entertainment of three stone gods in a netherworld. However, Season 26 has the greatest amount of magic: Battlefield has knights and witches coming into our world from a universe built from magic, and the Doctor is revealed to be Merlin himself; Ghost Light has dead beetles returning to life, and an angel awaking in a stone spaceship to burn the Earth; The Curse of Fenric has the Doctor battling an echo of evil - essentially fighting evil itself; and Survival has those two polar opposites - the Doctor and the Master - fight to the death with bones (and the famous image of the Doctor holding the skull aloft in strangely reminiscent of a similar shot in 100,000 BC) as the world tears itself apart around them.

Doctor Who works with magic, not science. It's a universe of wizards, goblins, evil spirits and heroes. So it's good to see that the New Series is playing to those rules, not feeling the need to explain how time works in Father's Day, showing the Gelth and the werewolf as magical, and the first series ends with Rose becoming, in essence, one with God, but is saved from burning by a kiss. The Satan Pit even has the Doctor battling the Beast - a full-blown demon with desiccated flesh and a caprine head - who was chained beneath the ground before the Universe began by "the Disciples of Light". You get the feeling, listening to all this, that the programme-makers are saying "we're doing Dante's Inferno meets Paradise Lost by the writer of Event Horizon: deal with it", and that's great. Because if everyone keeps screaming "look, this is science" at us at every turn, we'll invariably shout "no, it's stupid" right back at them.

If it were the end, how would the moment be prepared for? by Thomas Cookson 16/4/07

As just a bit of fruitless trivial fun, I wonder to myself how it would be if I were the producer of Doctor Who and at any given season, I was given directives that this would be the last season of Doctor Who and that I'd have to make amendments to it to give it a feeling of finality. This would put me at liberty to maybe add one or two stories onto the season but no more, and maybe add particular scenes or lines of dialogue or even change the outcome for certain characters.

Season One

If I was to end Doctor Who in just its first season, I think I'd make sure that The Dalek Invasion of Earth was tacked onto the end of it. It would be a grand epic to end the series on, and give the audience the rematch with the Daleks that they wanted. I'd also change it slightly so that Ian and Barbara decided that they had become so invested in their future world that they, like Susan were going to stay behind and help rebuild the planet (the fact that in episode one, we saw Ian noticeably heartbroken at seeing his home town devastated would make it work). The Doctor would probably still leave though. It would be a worthy conclusion to the story of Ian and Barbara, in that whilst we expected their story to end with their homecoming, it would instead see how travelling with the Doctor had broadened their horizons to the point where they had become new people ready to embark on a new life.

Season Two

A part of me thinks that maybe taking off The Time Meddler and having The Chase as the final story would be an appropriate finish to the show. After all, it gives us an entire season's worth of adventures in one serial, and it brings the story of Ian and Barbara to a close. The Time and Space visualiser I think would be a lovely postmodern touch as well. Then again I think The Time Meddler would be a nice glimpse at what happened to Steven and the Doctor after that, and there's probably no better conclusion than the Doctor duelling with another of his own mysterious race.

Season Three

Again I might not make any changes and let it end with The War Machines. It'd return Dodo home nicely and even having the Doctor addressed by his full name by Wotan might give it a sense of revelation, though I might decline to have Ben and Polly become companions. Season Three as a whole does have a sense of the climactic, with a twelve-part conflict with the Daleks, a duel with the Celestial Toymaker and the sight of Earth destroyed in a supernova in the far future.

Season Four

Again I see no real need to make changes. Evil of the Daleks is a perfect finish for the show, bringing the Doctor's conflict with the Daleks to its final end. But then actually a part of me thinks that maybe tacking on Tomb of the Cybermen to the end might work nicely as well to bring the same finality to the Cybermen menace. Plus, the talk of how sometimes the Doctor has to turn away from his curiosity and his talk with Victoria about how "Our lives are unlike anyone else's" would be fitting scenes for a last story.

Season Five

I really wouldn't change it at all. Yes Fury from the Deep might be more appropriate for a sense of finality, given its emotional climax with Victoria's goodbye scene. And I just might... might change The Web of Fear so that the Doctor actually does vanquish the Great Intelligence for good. But other than that, I quite like the thought of The Wheel In Space being a closer, as it shows the Doctor treating himself to a restful holiday after the ordeal with the seaweed, and Zoe's introduction to the TARDIS is a nice continuation of the adventure, giving the feel of an adventure that never really ends.

Season Six

No, I wouldn't even touch it. The War Games is a perfect conclusion. By this point, all the loose ends of Doctor Who have been tied up. The Daleks and Cybermen have been vanquished, his companions have been returned home, and the Doctor's origins are finally revealed. Having the Time Lords forbid him to travel through time anymore would be the right way to end the adventure. The War Games was actually written with the possibility in mind that Doctor Who might not get another season after this. If so, the final conclusion, where the Doctor is exiled to 20th century Earth and forced to change his appearance but we don't get to see his new face would have been something special for the young fans. A bit of food for their imagination, because they could wonder if that meant that the Doctor was now out there among us and could be anyone. What if the Doctor was some stranger on the bus? What if that tramp on the street was the very man who'd saved the Earth dozens of times.

Season Seven

Again, I wouldn't change it at all. Inferno would be a great conclusion to the series, given that it takes us into a never-explored region of time and space. It also has the virtue of being the story of what happens when the Doctor doesn't save the day and we experience the end of the world.

Season Eight

Another season that ends on the right note with the Master finally beaten and some revealing facts about the history of mankind exposed. The Doctor's speech to the Daemon about the beauty and ugliness of mankind would be fitting final words for his era.

Season Nine

Ah, from this point on it all gets a bit tricky again. Really, the only way to end it properly would be to change The Time Monster so that Kronos keeps the Master trapped, with the Doctor's pleas for mercy refused. It would still say a lot about the Doctor's morality but it would close the door on the Master's threat. But for the proper conclusion to it all, I would have to tack The Three Doctors onto the end of the season. It would be a good finish to have all three Doctors together and the Doctor's freedom to travel the universe finally granted.

Season Ten

For the most part there isn't much I could do to change it to a more fitting conclusion, save having the Doctor's solution to the Dalek army in Planet of the Daleks be something far more devastating that would actually annihilate their army for god, and maybe show some footage of the humans and Draconians invading the Ogron homeworld and capturing the Master.

Season Eleven

The only way this could have been a proper conclusion to the show is if Roger Delgado had survived and was able to make Planet of the Spiders into the 'final game' between the two Time Lords.

Season Twelve

Well, there would have to be some amendments made to Genesis of the Daleks to make its ending more hopeful, and suggest that the Doctor had made enough of a difference to save the universe from the Dalek threat. Maybe have the messenger Time Lord return again at the end to let the Doctor know how well he'd done... or maybe not. Maybe Genesis would be best left open-ended for its consequences to be mulled over and give Doctor Who a lingering potency before going off air. And of course it could never be a proper conclusion without Terror of the Zygons to return the Doctor and companions home.

Season Thirteen

Again I wouldn't change a thing about it. The Seeds of Doom? would be a nice finish to the show.

Season Fourteen

Well I could make a few amendments to The Deadly Assassin to give it some finality. Maybe have the Time Lords mention how the Doctor's intervention in Genesis of the Daleks has saved the universe, and maybe cut out the last few seconds of the ending so that the Master isn't seen to survive and his fate remains ambiguous. But if there was one thing I know I'd do, I'd tack Horror of Fang Rock on at the end of the season. Simply because, given the kind of bloodbath that goes on in that story, I'd love to have the audience on the edge of their seats, wondering if the end of the series means that this time the Doctor won't make it out alive.

Season Fifteen

I'd throw the last two episodes in the bin but take some of the basic ideas of The Invasion of Time and make a Dalek Invasion of Gallifrey story out of it, which would be perfect to go out on.

Season Sixteen

Well the best way to close it I suppose would be to involve the Master as the leading agent of the Black Guardian in The Armageddon Factor (given the state he was in in The Deadly Assassin he would actually suit the post-apocalyptic look) and see him end when the space station goes kaboom (if he had always been an agent of the Black Guardian it would also explain a lot about his motivations). Then I would tack on Destiny of the Daleks to the end of the season, sans the regeneration scene to bring the Dalek saga to a close. To my mind, Destiny of the Daleks is in themes a Season Sixteen story anyway (albeit without the robust plotting of that era) about the balance of forces of light and darkness bringing harmony and peace to the universe, and that would be a good way to show the end of the Dalek threat with them being contained by an equal opponent.

Season Seventeen

I would really love to have seen Shada finished, but if I was to draw it to a proper conclusion, I would tack The Keeper of Traken onto the end, albeit with Romana filling in for Adric, and with a happy ending where the Master remains trapped in the source. I've always said that Doctor Who could have ended happily with the Doctor and Romana, the two immortals, walking off together for more adventures, but with their main concerns of the Master and the Daleks having the book closed on them.

Season Eighteen

You could only really end the show properly if Castrovalva was at the end of the season to bring to life this new Doctor and vanquish the Master. If I were to end it here, I'd probably have the Doctor at the end, enter the TARDIS and survey the effects of the entropy, and make a similar speech about how "life wins" that he did in The Apocalypse Element. He could also reveal that the Dalek Empire was completely consumed in the entropy too. With the Daleks and Master gone, the universe is now a safer place.

Season Nineteen

I would probably make the same amendments to Castrovalva that I described above. I would chuck Time-Flight in the bin, except that I would take the first TARDIS scene where they are discussing the Doctor returning the freighter crew home and the death of Adric and tack it in a dissolve onto the end of Earthshock and end the scene with the Doctor replying to Tegan's "I'll miss him" by saying "As do we all" and then end it there before the crass mood-change takes place, while I would retain the closing title sting and music and not do the pretentious 'silent credits' thing. I would then tack on Snakedance onto the end of the season, simply because I would dread to leave that great story unmade. It would be a nice way to use the buddhist themes for the Doctor to work through his guilt over the death of Adric.

Season Twenty

The main difference I would make is to make sure that Resurrection of the Daleks got made this season, as was originally planned, just to put the close on the Daleks. Then I'd make The Five Doctors and end it with the Master captured by the Time Lords. I think "Why not, after all, that's how it all started" would have been brilliant last words.

Season Twenty-one

Y'know, this one is almost perfect as it is. Having the Doctor failing one last time to negotiate peace between the humans and the Silurians, then taking him to the very end of the timeline to witness the destruction of Earth, then with quick succession, the Master and Davros are killed and the Daleks end up on the endangered species list. Then just to cap it off, The Caves of Androzani sees the Doctor submit to the life of retirement. Except there's one thing I'd do differently, which is that I'd throw The Twin Dilemma in the bin and replace it with Attack of the Cybermen.

It's not a good story, but it's far more watchable than The Twin Dilemma and it's actually workable as a post-regeneration story in its own right and is more encouraging about this new Doctor if we're spared the sight of him trying to strangle his companion. The revisit to Totter's Yard and the destruction of Mondas, coupled with the change of the TARDIS's chameleonic circuit might have suited its end of an era feel. So too would the destruction of Cybercontrol and bringing Lytton's story to a redemptive conclusion.

That would be perfect.

Season Twenty Two

I would either remove the Master from The Mark of the Rani, or if I didn't I would at least have it implicitly stated that this is an earlier version of the Master. A way of having my cake and eating it too. The Master's death in Planet of Fire 'did' happen, but it doesn't invalidate meeting him again in a younger incarnation. I would probably throw Timelash in the bin and to be very greedy I would replace it with a remake of Evil of the Daleks, as that could follow on perfectly from The Two Doctors. I would then retain the 'blackpool' line from Revelation of the Daleks and follow it up with a tacked-on Nightmare Fair, as a re-match with the Celestial Toymaker might have made a great end-of-an-era story.

Of course by this point we've just passed the point of 'actually could we end it here before it can sink any lower?'

Season Twenty Three

I would go with Eric Saward's ending and I think I'd change it so that the Time Vent remains open and destroys the universe. Excessive but conclusive: no more universe, no more Doctor Who.

Season Twenty Four

I don't think there is much I could do with it. The whole thing is so divorced from what's gone before that I don't think I could give it an end-of-an-era feel. As a little whim I think I'd have a character mention the Dalek wars in Paradise Towers. Just for the hell of it.

Season Twenty Five

I really don't think I need to change it much, given that the Daleks and Cybermen are completely creamed in this season and Greatest Show would be a fitting final story about reaffirming the soul of Doctor Who.

Season Twenty Six

Again this was a season and an era that was tailor-made to wrap up unfinished business for the inevitable point that the show would be axed. I don't think I need to improve on the job they did here.

Season One

It is possible that the new Doctor Who might have been a ratings failure and been cancelled again. But if so, I don't think I'd need to change much about this season either. I mean Parting of the Ways; what a great last episode it could have been. A cinematic battle against the Daleks, some in-jokes at fandom (I never really got the 'blasphemy' and 'half human' gag until it was pointed out to me), the Daleks vanquished once and for all, the companion trying to get the TARDIS working, representing the fan in all of us desperately trying to bring the spirit of the Doctor back to life, just as much as the controller bringing the Doctor to the gamestation in an act of faith to a legend, and best of all is the magic moment where the Doctor is finally surrounded by Daleks but he closes his eyes and embraces his fate "Perhaps it's time!".

Again, a part of me thinks it'd be nice for the new series to have ended while it was good.

Season Two

I actually have a lot of opinions of how this season could have been done much better, but the only idea I have for ending it properly is to kill the Doctor in the carnage of Doomsday.

Non-Alien, Non-Historical by Sean Neuerburg 27/11/07

It's very easy to divide Doctor Who up into two simple categories: alien stories and historical stories. Often our qualifiers are a bit more complicated, but it will usually come down to these two classifications. Usually. Okay, not always. You see, there is a third category that I'm fascinated with, one which isn't always talked about as much as its own genre of Who. This is because it doesn't really act any differently than the "alien stories." It could also be because there isn't a really good phrase for it.

I'm talking about those modern day stories without aliens. I'd like to take a minute to talk about each in this context, as well as assess the Earth's chance of survival if the Doctor had never been around to prevent these entirely "possible" storylines...

The War Machines
As the first of its type, The War Machines provides very few surprises. Supercomputer goes mad and tries to take over the world? This is three years before HAL and 2001, mind you, but the idea isn't a very complicated one. In many ways, it seems to try to play on the fears of society at the time, the fears here being that of technology. Robots like the War Machines weren't too far in the future (I'm sure the good people of 1966 believed...), so this may have been an ominous prediction of what was to come.

The Earth's chance: Reasonable
The idea of WOTAN is very good, as is the idea of it "hacking" into and gaining control over the world's military. But how protected is WOTAN? Not nearly as protected as, say, Colossus (two points to anyone who gets that reference...). No, you couldn't approach the Post Office Tower without being hypnotized, but you could probably destroy the building with artillery or a small missile (a la World War II, perhaps). Actually arranging this without being killed by War Machines would be the tricky bit, but it isn't impossible.

The Silurians
First, I'll say definitively that Silurians aren't aliens. Monsters, perhaps, but they are as much from Earth as we are. The only reason The Sea Devils won't be on this list is because the Master is in it. In this story, we see the attempts at pacifism between Doctor and monster. In what could be interpreted as anything from an attack on war to an attack on imperialism, The Silurians packs a punch, and again toys with the feelings of society at the time. Indeed, from the perspective of today's current events, it sends a rather unnerving message about military action.

The Earth's chance: Excellent
Yes, there was the virus, but a scientist like Liz could understand the cure and arrange for it to be mass-produced. And the UNIT blows up everything at the end. The Doctor hardly needed to be there.

The Green Death
Here is our second evil computer, and arguably a more successful one. The messages are a lot clearer here: if you pollute, you will harm the planet. And allow the corporations to win and stamp out the thriving hippy-academia community. And breed mutant maggots that resemble condoms. And turn over far too much control to a machine that is confused by simple logic problems.

The Earth's chance: Excellent
Honestly, not much was really threatened beyond Wales. (And where was Torchwood-Three at this point?) In fact, the only thing stopping UNIT from coming in and kicking ass was red tape. WOTAN had hypnosis beams, and BOSS has bureaucracy. Not as evil by far, BOSS. All the Doctor really did was cut the red tape and blow you up without permission.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Everything seems so silly. Janitor closet elevators? Colony spaceships in the basement? No one noticing a top MP, a top general, and a top scientist teaming up to erase the world? Unlike some of our genre's predecessors, the message doesn't come across as clearly as it should have. We were told not to pollute and to respect nature... but instead, we respect the Whomobile. It is, in fact, awesome.

The Earth's chance: F---ed
Okay, so large parts of the story might be silly, but the Earth really does need the Doctor this time. No one has any idea what to do until he gets there. No one can track down Operation Golden Age except him. And when it comes down to the endgame, the Doctor only stops Whitaker and Grover because, as a Time Lord, he can fight being moved backwards in time. Without the Doctor, Earth had no chance in this one.

This story seems to borrow a great deal from the previous stories on this list. K1 is supercomputer like WOTAN or BOSS (just mobile instead). Think Tank and the Scientific Reform Society are pretty much left to their own ends as much as Global Chemicals was. And UNIT seems just as impotent as they did against the dinosaurs.

The Earth's chance: Marginal
Providing that there's a perky and enterprising young journalist that UNIT will bother listening to around, we might be aware of who the enemy is. Providing that we don't get a disintegrator gun and shoot it at K1, we might have a chance militarily. And providing that we watch and quickly dismantle the damn thing after it kills its dad and collapses, we'll win.

The Lazarus Experiment
The only New-Who to tackle the genre, this is not a complicated story. Sure, there's lots of talk about immortality and discussion about its pros and cons. But it's really all about human becoming weird-human. It's certainly a new take on what to do without aliens.

The Earth's chance: Pretty good
There's only one, and no one tried to kill it with a gun. In fact, the only thing they tried to kill it with was very loud noises. Luring Lazarus to a Greatful Dead concert would have worked just as well. He might have easily been the easiest monster to deal with in the whole series, it's just that no one tried.

Titles for the New Series' two-parters (and that one three-parter) by Emma Smith 6/2/08

First submission in the DWRG, and not only is the title probably grammatically incorrect, but it is slightly pointless. The general point of it is to decide what I think we should call multiple-part stories in the new series, because I abuse my forwardslash key enough as it is.


Aliens of London/World War Three
Both could work, and it puzzles me, but I believe Aliens of London sums up the story better. Plus, World War Three is a tad of a misnomer because there isn't actually a world war in the story. But there almost is, so it's still kind of logical. Aliens of London just tells us: There are some aliens. They are in London. Simple.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
I belive this one would be kind of obvious: It has to be The Empty Child. It is perfect for the story, and The Doctor Dances a) sounds a bit of a silly title, b) has very little to do with the plot of the whole story, so The Empty Child wins by miles. Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
This one puzzles me, but I think Bad Wolf is good title. Not only does it sum up the story, but the whole season. It's not a perfect title in my head, but The Parting of Ways seems to be entirely about the Doctor and Rose; not my idea for the best title.


Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel
Rise of the Cybermen is a perfect title for this serial, plus it sounds very classic series-ish which earn it brownie points. However, The Age of Steel is, in general as a title, very awesome. In my modest opinion. But for fitting the story well Rise of the Cybermen wins.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
The Satan Pit, as The Impossible Planet describes the setting, not the story. Though the setting is a crucial part of this story, The Satan Pit is just far better for the whole story is about that "devil" stuff.

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
Hmm, I personally prefer Army of Ghosts as an all-round, better-sounding title, but since the ghosts disappear and are replaced by Cybermen, Doomsday is far better for the whole thing.


Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks
Evolution of the Daleks. It's what the story's about, and is sounds good. It all happens to take place in New York, but Evolution of the Daleks is an all-round good title.

Human Nature/The Family of Blood
The Family of Blood describes the villains. Human Nature describes... not much about the plot. Or anything about the plot. It seems to describe a) the sub-plots, b) the themes. Which is nice and all, but I prefer part two's title.

Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords
The second episode gets this one. Utopia is hardly ever mentioned after the first episode. Last of the Time Lords is a bit too character-based for my standards (Rose? What Rose? I DO NOT KNOW OF THIS EPISODE CALLED ROSE OF WHICH YOU SPEAK). The Sound of Drums therefore wins, plus I now love tapping that rhythm of my hand. Because I am shamelessly nerdy. Well, no, I do have shame about my nerdiness when I am talking to people face-to-face. I bet you don't care.

Disclaimer: I am a nutcase and henceforth my opinions and suggestions should be taken with extreme caution.

Episodes and the new series by Mike Heinrich 6/3/08

Two parters/three parters/50 minutes not long enough to tell a proper story...

You know what just occured to me? Well... four or five months ago, but still. It takes time to find a moment to write these things down.

Two essential truths. From a certain perspective-

  1. The new series has in no way given up episodic storytelling
  2. We've only had six new Doctor Who stories out of the new series.
If you think about it - comparing the episodic storytelling of the early Hartnells to the current series and all things being equal - it seems fundamental that we've only seen six new stories, each episode of whivch has its own individual title, and the overall titles of which never having been properly revealed/decided upon/ or seeming important. Compare Season 1 (New Series Dating) to The Dalek Master Plan. A: Number of parts written by different people with one guiding-ish story being told which meanders through different styles and subject, B: Daleks.

Which means of course that thirty years from now there are going to be a number of drunk 40-somethings fighting very passionately in a bar somewhere over whether it's 'Really' called Bad Wolf (because that's the crux of the story) or Rose (because that's the name of the first episode) or The Tribe of Gum (because they'll be drunk).

So for the sake of these future barflys, here's what I think they're sort of called-ish:

1.1 - Bad Wolf

A thirteen parter about the return of the Daleks, the Doctor's coming to terms with the tragic events of his recent path, and the mystery of 'Who or what is Bad Wolf?' A pretty good story, when looked at as a sum of its parts. And Aliens of London becomes strangely palatable when looked at as a modern-day Feast of Steven. And looking at it as one story saves us from having to argue about whether or not Adam counts as an 'official' companion. He's a one-story incidental character with a bit of thematic relevance and that's that. Doctor Todd or Will Chandler, basically. It also bumps Captain Jack from 'companion' to 'recurring character' which basically makes him a fabulous camp Brigadier - which is either a good thing, a bad thing, or of no significance, depending on your level of pedantry.

1.2 - The Christmas Invasion

A one parter regeneration story/Christmas special. And a charming one at that, btw.

1.3 - I'm not sure on this one... Rise of the Cybermen? The Age of Steel? Something clever and hitherto not attributed like Parallel Lines, which at least brings Blondie into the discussion, which is no bad thing? I think I lean toward The Age of Steel as it sounds dramatic and doesn't announce the identity of the monsters right off the bat. I suppose we could call it Torchwood...

A thirteen parter which brings back the Cybermen and writes out Rose.

1.4 - The Runaway Bride

Which could possibly be considered the mirror image of 'Cyberman Cutaway' and could arguably be 1.3a, I suppose.

A one parter/Christmas special

1.5 - either Last of the Time Lords or Mr. Saxon

A thirteen parter about the return of the Master and with one-off companion Martha Jones - truly the Sara Kingdom of our generation. Or not.

1.6 - Voyage of the Damned

A one parter which I haven't seen yet and thus can say nothing about. I may start trying to convince people that it's called The Terror of Kylie Minogue, however, for no reason whatsoever.

Second-Generation Doctor Who by Daniel Saunders 20/3/08

I was wondering why I tend to prefer early Doctor Who, up to about Warriors' Gate, and I began to wonder if there is any particular reason why I can draw such a clear line between the stories before and after these points. I do not dislike all, or even most, of those made after that point; The Caves of Androzani, Revelation of the Daleks, Ghost Light, Dalek and The Girl in the Fireplace are all excellent, and that's just picking one story per (long-term) Doctor. From the eighties onwards, Doctor Who, including those spin-offs I have read or heard, seems very different to Doctor Who from before then.

The more I think about this, the more it seems to me that there is one main reason, which makes everything else fall into place. From the late seventies onwards, more and more people who had known the show as viewers for a very long period, who in many cases had grown up with the show, were working on it. As well as card-carrying fans like Marc Platt, Andrew Smith, David Tennant and many of the new series' writers, there were people who had watched the series and had strong, affectionate memories of it, even if they had long since "grown up" and stopped watching; for example, Douglas Adams, Rona Munro, Ben Aaronovitch, all the new series writers who aren't card-carrying fans and even Peter Davison and Colin Baker (stretching the definition of "growing up"; he was a student when the series started). Moreover, it wasn't just the writers who were in this position, but the audience. It was years since Doctor Who had been a new, experimental show; by the late seventies, it was a TV institution, almost a tradition.

This was bound to affect the type of stories that ended up being made. Most obviously, aside from the reboots of the series with Rose and the TV movie, the amount of explanation of basic elements of the show like the TARDIS, the Daleks and the Time Lords is reduced as time goes on. Ian goes into a daze at his first sight of the TARDIS interior, while Barbara seems to be on the point of a breakdown when pursued in the forest, but after this no companion will react to events in such an extreme way. Even Rose is more accepting of the TARDIS and time travel than they are. Quite simply, once "everyone" knew that Doctor Who was about a traveller in time and space, there was no need to stress this. Even viewers who had not seen the show before had some idea of the basics. If you want proof, as a child, I remember being taken to the Museum of the Moving Image in the 1991, some months before I first saw the show. One exhibit was a Dalek with no back so you could step inside and wave the gun and plunger around a bit. I remember doing that and saying "exterminate" and not being quite sure how I knew that that was the word that went with actions.

Incidentally, it is not just the basics of Doctor Who that are stressed less. In a DWM special a while ago, Davies wondered why Romana doesn't know what hyperspace is in The Stones of Blood when "every sci-fi doting teenage TV-watcher has heard the word a thousand times". That is true now, but before the post-Star Wars space opera boom, it wasn't the case (I think). Science fiction may have become ghettoised, but at the same time its vocabulary, standard storylines and plot devices have become more recognisable and so need less explanation (that is how it seems to me anyway; I admit this has not been rigorously researched).

With the conventions of both the series and science fantasy/adventure stories firmly established in the audience's mind, the writers could indulge in self-referential humour. There had been an element of this in the show for a very long time (The Mind Robber is almost postmodern) and with the advent of postmodernism around the same time, this was almost inevitable, but the series' longevity meant that the audiences would definitely be in on the joke now and that it would be a series standard. More important are serious moments of self-referential dialogue i.e. continuity references. Previously, these had been restricted to the events of stories of the last season or two, but from this point on they become much more far-reaching, referring back decades.

This self-referential dialogue was combined with more overt continuity in plots, foregrounding the mythology of the show. Indeed, the fact that one can refer to the show's "mythology" was new. "Mythology" implies a long-term audience who know the series' basic concepts (Time Lords, Daleks, Earth Empires etc) very well and will remember and understand them after a gap of several years. The use of old monsters who had not been seen for several years also fits this pattern. Earlier in the series' run, a return after a long absence would only be done if the creator of a monster wished to reuse them, an exception being made for the Daleks, who established their own place in the public consciousness very quickly and strongly. These days, the writers are turning to their own childhood memories of the show. Davies has said that his childhood memories of Spearhead from Space played a part in getting him to write Rose. Old monsters like the Daleks and the Cybermen have become a part of the series' format in a way that was never intended by its creators simply by force of repetition establishing them in the public consciousness as what Doctor Who is about: a Time Lord who fights monsters like the Daleks and Cybermen. Just consider why most, if not all, the attempts to revive the show in the nineties included either Daleks, the Master, Cybermen, Time Lords or all of the above. Compared to some of the ideas suggested, the finished TV movie was continuity-light, but it still had a prologue introducing the Daleks for no real reason other than that it was expected that they would "appear" at some point. Furthermore, despite the "clear the decks" attitude of the new series suggested by the destruction of Gallifrey, in the space of thirty-two (or thirty-three, depending on how you count Utopia) stories, it has already given us Daleks (three times) Cybermen (twice), Sarah, K9, Autons and UNIT (and that is without naming spoilers for the 2007 season, or things seen in the trailer for 2008).

When the series tries to move on, it invariably now moves backwards first, reworking the existing mythology into a new shape. I might be wrong about this, but the Guardians were the last significant addition to the mythology that I can think of who were not based in some way on a pre-existing part of it. The "dark Doctors" of the late eighties (both the unstable sixth and manipulative seventh) were at least partially attempts to return to the style of the first Doctor. The destruction of Gallifrey in the Time War invokes the continuity surrounding the Time Lords even as it removes itself from it (perhaps), as well as re-establishing the Doctor as the homeless wanderer he was before The War Games. Even the Time Agents mentioned at various points are based on a throwaway line in The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

All of which makes me wonder whether we don't have a very different candidate for the first new Doctor Who story. It has self-referential humour, it uses hyperspace and the TARDIS as important plot devices without much explanation, it was written by someone who watched the show as a child, in early drafts it even featured a Time Lord as the villain and it was transmitted after the Guardians were introduced in The Ribos Operation. Stand up The Pirate Planet, the first second-generation Doctor Who story. Well, maybe not, but my point is that the old/new boundary is much earlier than is suggested by simply looking at the first story made after the cancellation.

An article on Steven Moffat replacing Russell T. Davies by Thomas Cookson 24/6/08

So, Steven Moffat has been announced as the new producer of Doctor Who, and a large segment of fandom who've been unhappy with Russell T. Davies as producer (which I'm part of), have collectively celebrated.

I didn't.

I might have if the news was announced after Season Two, but by now I'd been resigned to Russell's vision being here to stay and the show being as awful as ever, in the main, with just a few false dawns of quality from guest writers. It's like when fan friends tell me that the JNT era was worth it for Seasons 25 and 26, where they finally got it right. All I can say in reply is 'too little too late'. And that's how I feel about New Who. As much as producer Steven Moffat will give the show a renaissance of quality, I don't care any more. Maybe when we enter into the Moffat era, the show will start impressing me, but that's a hiatus away.

Presently, the Russell T. Davies era has been pretty poor. At first, little things niggled me. World War Three offended me because, although Doctor Who isn't always the most intelligent of shows, usually it conveyed a sense of effort, a bit of extra work put in to overcome the show's limitations. Even The Twin Dilemma somewhat had this quality. And that speaks to me. But World War Three seemed so offensively, lazily written. There was no sense of extra effort or even wit. And maybe I wouldn't have seen it this way if it was made with the more challenging and limited production of old, so a sense of extra effort would come through. But instead it was as if Doctor Who had a big budget, put the expense on screen, wrote an easy-on-the-brain satire with cut-and-pasted Bushisms and said 'that'll do'.

The Long Game was next, and really had the issues above, but with an extra unpleasant edge of the smug, cliquey Doctor and Rose meanly mocking their tagalong companion. Something that unfortunately became the obnoxious norm in Season Two. But even back then it felt wrong, especially when the next week, the Doctor was a completelty different character, telling the married couple "Who says you're not important?". Yes, Adam was supposed to be unlikeable, but his opening teaser humiliation was immediately wrong and mean. The Doctor doesn't give Adam a chance, treats him as the outsider from the beginning so he can conveniently say 'I was right about him all along' when Adam stumbles unguided into the devil's lair. It's also that Bruno Langley just didn't have the acting chops to play the devious side of Adam.

So, already I was despondent about Russell T. Davies being head writer. The Christmas Invasion was the next knock to my faith. Up until then, I had expected Doctor Who to raise its game, but by now I had grown sick of Mickey and Jackie, and between looking forward to more adventures (hopefully offworld) and dreading more domestic drivel that surely had ran its course by now (and I was one of the few who quite liked the relationship trouble moments in Boom Town), The Christmas Invasion definitely tipped the balance and exceeded my patience. It was the first new Who story to not leave me looking forward to the next episode. Since New Earth was that next episode, and the first to really be guilty of an insulting deux et machina ending, it took a long while to regain the enthusiasm. I gained it with the Cyberman two parter, but lost it again with The Idiot's Lantern.

New Who seemed almost totally void of any maturity, and the accumulated bitchiness of the Doctor and Rose team poisonously lingered with me after Season Two and I gave Season Three a wide berth. Last of the Time Lords was pretty much the final straw. But various fan friends persuaded me to stick with it. They pointed out how Doctor Who has been quite a disgraced series since the 1980's. But we stick with it because now and again a good story amidst the drivel makes it worthwhile. An Enlightenment, or a Human Nature. And so, by low expectations, I've quite enjoyed Series 4 in a disposable way, with little of it offending me, and Planet of the Ood and Forest of the Dead standing out as highlights.

My real problem with New Who is that it seems so undignified and desperate; bearing in mind the memories of the 80's cancellation crisis, perhaps Russell's desperation is to be expected. But I'd say the JNT era was desperate too. I've often described the JNT era as a betrayal of the show, but really I'd say the problem was that it was neurotically loyal to the show's ethos, the preachiness, the pretentiousness, the moral ambiguity, and sense of danger and horror with a considerable collateral cannon fodder. It basically did what Doctor Who has always done, but did it without any dignity. The dangerous Doctor of An Unearthly Child was clearly done with more dignity than The Twin Dilemma, which did it so desperately and heavy handedly that it was nauseating and artificial. The worst moments of the JNT era are where the show is trying really hard to make some kind of point without the competence or even the coherence to do so well. So, basically, the violence we see in the era often seems meaningless or debasing; on the flip side, we'd get preachy stories like Warriors of the Deep and much of the McCoy era, that made an unappealing blatant point of being preachy, sometimes incomprehensibly preachy.

Maybe it went wrong when Graham Williams gave up and left, and arbitrarily nominated an accountant as his successor; if he'd stayed another season, he could have finished off Shada, perhaps used JNT's financial advice to make Season 18 look grand, and given thought to a more eligible successor. Then again, maybe it went wrong when the money fell through after Season 18, so JNT could no longer keep Bidmead as script editor, and had to rely on Eric Saward who seemed determined to turn the show into a poor man's Rambo.

Either way, I now wonder if I'd actually wanted Doctor Who back. It's not as if the series really went away, thanks to the New Adventures and Big Finish audios. Maybe the return of the show to TV, in and of itself, was a reopening of old wounds. When Doctor Who had the lid closed on it, it was easier to pick out the best bits and forget the worst. Now that it's in continuation, it feels like everything of the past has to be accepted again. And having frequented the 'negative' forums, I can see other fans using Russell T. Davies' 'ruining the show' as a platform to bring up old issues with Graham Williams or JNT.

In fact, I would have preferred it if New Doctor Who was a complete reimagining, and retelling of the show from scratch, a bit like the new Battlestar Galactica. Something that preserved the concept but discarded the continuity. Because, let's face it, ultimately old Doctor Who didn't work; it did arguably hit disaster in the 80's and that's in some way why it was cancelled. So perhaps it was better to admit defeat, admit that the show was disgraced, and start again with the concept rather than cling onto the corpse of the old series.

In some ways, I suppose Series One was nearly a complete reboot. The links with the past were tenuous, there was UNIT, Daleks and hints of the Doctor having history with them. But, in many ways, you could imagine this as a standalone series, only loosely based on old Doctor Who. A bit like Dalek Empire, which I still think would have made a great TV series, vaguely set in the same Doctor Who universe but clearly a different series with brand new heroes. The fact is, that this wasn't the same Doctor. Clearly he had the 900 year history of the Doctor, but experiences had made him a different man in manner and attitude. Probably for the better, since he was more pro-active and no longer the useless, moral cripple pascifist of old. Much as I hate to agree with fandom's biggest waste of oxygen, Lawrence Miles, he was right that Eccleston's Doctor immediately made nearly all his predecessors look naive and stupid.

It's only really in series two and three where Sarah Jane Smith and the Master show up that the links with old Who become more concrete. But even then, if the show acknoweldges any kind of fandom, then it seems made to appeal to the children of the 70's who watched Doctor Who casually, and stopped watching when Tom Baker left, since they had better things to do than watch Adric moaning. The only time New Who has acknowledged Doctors after Tom Baker were a brief clip of drawings in Human Nature, and an unofficial Children in Need special where Davison's Doctor had foreknowledge of the LInDA group, so definitely non-canon.

But still, you could skip from City of Death to Rose and feel like you'd missed nothing; everything in between can be ignored and gratefully forgotten. Of course, as a fan who wishes the 80's never happened, I think that's good. But a complete retelling would have still been more satisfying and more honest, given Russell's contempt for the fans. If you don't want to make it for the fans, Russell, then don't make it a continuation.

But, considering Series One again, maybe it was meant to be a standalone. The series' revival was a desperate gamble that could have easily failed, and Series One might have been the show's last. As I've said, the JNT era was an inconclusive, unsatisfying era. So Series One seemed to be about conclusiveness, ending with the Doctor facing death and saved by Rose's kiss of life. The Time War actually was a closure on the show, on the Daleks and Time Lords, the same way that the TV Movie was a closure on the Master. Perhaps that's why lately the Time War has started to seem increasingly half hearted every time more Daleks and Time Lords show up. Perhaps the Time War was simply there in the event that Series One didn't get renewed. Now that the series has continued, it seems the makers are undoing this, bringing back more Daleks and I wouldn't be surprised if the Time War was suddenly undone and Gallifrey was restored. Not that I'd care either way.

Maybe that's what explains the decline of New Who from Series Two onwards. The fact is that Russell's best work seems to be standalone series of a single season. Sequels aren't his forte. As far as I know, the Queer as Folk 2 miniseries didn't get much acclaim. The fact is that, for all my initial complaints of Russell's Series One stories, they do improve in repeated viewings. In later seasons they don't, in the main. New Earth, Doomsday and Last of the Time Lords will always be rubbish, and those later seasons just lack vision.

What nagged me about Russell's stories is that, for all his full-blooded character drama, it was very selective, almost elitist. The Doctor, Rose and family were fleshed out as fully developed human beings with emotions and intelligence, but the guest cast weren't. I wanted Doctor Who to really bring forth the humanistic idea of understanding the emotions and intelligence of others, that everyone has capability and worth, and spreading the idea of intelligence as empowerment. Not just a belief in what Doctor Who should do, but what TV should do. So I was dismayed at the dumbed-down, anti-intellectualist approach of Russell's stories. Generally, the guest cast were idiotic, cartoonish, mockable stereotypes and there was a whiff of contempt about them; when the Doctor and Rose mocked them from their elitist position, and the guest cast lacked the consciousness or dignity to assert themselves or gague sympathy, it left an unpleasant aftertaste. For instance, The End of the World gives such little consideration of its superficial cast of aliens that they're collectively suicidally stupid enough to stay in the room with the biggest window when the sun filters are failing.

And that's what rubbed me up the wrong way about New Who, and why I immediately preferred The Unquiet Dead to Russell's stories. Because actually The Unquiet Dead is quite existential, and every character in it has a pulse and a developed world view. Even Charles Dickens, who drew criticism for being rather unrealistically obtuse in the face of the irrational, does speak to a truth about the learning process and how we all reach an age where we stop being open to new ideas.

It wasn't any continuity errors, it wasn't humour per se, or innuendo, and no Lawrence Miles, it wasn't anything to do with the lighting not being dark enough. And that sense of contempt has lingered with me throughout the Russell T. Davies era. Mainly because I know that Russell can flesh out characters, the domestic dialogue of The End of the World and Aliens of London was incredibly authentic, with a beauty that sometimes lingered months after.

For the most part, Russell's downturn has been to do with trying to forcibly recreate that, with sickening schmaltzy results. Still, the goodbye scene between Tennant and Rose was a beautiful moment in the dross, and Love & Monsters was genuinely touching until the monster and the Doctor turned up and it all turned horribly sour. And, on that score, I am at least grateful the show isn't being written in the stuffy, portentous and unnaturalistic way of Star Trek. But still, my criticisms are met with increasingly desperate defences of 'I don't want to have to think as I watch' and 'it's not being made for the fans'. Indeed, criticising New Who often results in other opinion-fascist fans from the hierarchical scum of fandom bullying and hounding you (sometimes quite stalkerishly) and immediately judging your lack of worth on a personal level, with digs at your sex life and your fannishness and 'selfish' criticisms.

If you're pouring scorn on all New Who's achievements, then you're being obtuse. If you're suggesting room for improvement, you're guilty of coverting the series when it's not yours, or being 'made for you'. You basically can't win with that scum. They'll always resort to the cheapest 'Oh, you're one of those kind of fans' response and never let you live their snobbish judgement down. And they'll always dismiss well-thought-out criticisms as being repetitions of what your factional cult of haters always say, and therefore a mark of having no individuality. Instead of actually thinking "maybe if several people have the same criticism, maybe it's actually valid". But, then again, this is very much an 'I don't want to think' trendy crowd of proles who are incapable of seeing things from someone else's point of view.

Sometimes I seriously wouldn't wish fandom on my worst enemy.

Unfortunately, this isn't something that's going to go away once Steven Moffat takes over, though maybe if the show's quality improves, their defences will become less desperate. I unfortunately lay myself open to attack with my amateurish list of complaints in reviews which, looking back, seemed like a weak, petulent attitude of 'if the makers listen to what I say, I'll give it another chance'. Ultimately, that's a wasted attitude. The fact is that, with the Russell T. Davies era, we had to grin and bear it, along with its obnoxious, desperately felating fans. Doctor Who has long suffered a lack of support from the BBC, which often means that the wrong people get employed with its making, because no one else is available or affordable. If Doctor Who had the money to keep Bidmead on as script editor and the respectability to entice someone to replace John Nathan-Turner earlier, it probably would have survived the 80's. Russell is producer because the BBC didn't trust anyone else with its revival. So maybe this is the last lap until Moffat is finally in a position to put the series back on track for the first time since 1981.

Lawrence Miles raised concerns of Steven Moffat trying to live up to his reputation. But so far I'll certainly take Steven Moffat's confident, eager-to-impress approach over Russell's desperateness. What I'd forsee the Moffat era as is the McCoy era made palatable, the sublime made populist, with a similar excessive frivolity but done with wit, rather than slapstick, and a resourceful use of everyday props that any child can roleplay with. Just as Season 25 saw baseball bats, medallions and ghetto blasters augmented in the fight against evil, Moffat has used statues, shadows, gas masks and TV as harbingers of evil. Which hints that he'll make better use of the budget. It may maintain an elitist attitude - after all, Moffat's roots are in the cliquey Tavern - but with Moffat's intelligent writing, at least it won't be anti-intellectualist. The Empty Child and Silence in the Library are Russell's usual 'have a good life' schmaltz done right. Moffat actually can turn tragedy into happiness and make it beautiful, rather than cynical. But, best of all, his stories have shown a real despondence to Rose. His stories aren't interested in domestics or the Rose Tyler show.

And that'd be the most McCoyish charm. Steven's stories do feel like belonging to a different show: no domestics, insularness or fanwank. Basically, his stories feel fresh in the way that Season 25's stories felt fresh, for the first time in a decade. For once, Doctor Who was producing new stories, rather than unending add-ons to a depressingly old continuity. For the first time, fans could forget the ugly recent past and I think the same will be true when Moffat takes over.

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