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Season One
- Season Two - Season Three - Season Four - Season Five - Season Six - Season Seven - Season Eight - Season Nine

Watching All Doctor Who in Order

Season Six -
The Dominators

The new season kicks off with yet more spaceships and they come to land with rather nice model work.After a longish and quite difficult-to-interpret opening we have some deaths and a strange cut-away just before we nearly see something called a Quark...

We also get some laughably hideous boinging incidental "music". Just a single electrical note.The TARDIS lands in the same quarry and the Doctor makes direct reference to the mental images he's just been projecting, but Zoe can't be bothered to give her thoughts on The Evil of the Daleks. She obviously wasn't put off travelling anyway.The Doctor says he has been here before but we haven't been shown that adventure!

The explosion of Cully's ship is spectacular! If it hadn't shown the space ship I would have assumed it was stock footage.

The appearance of the war museum seemingly warrants a two-tone electronic boing. But the discovery of two bodies is only worth a single boing.Its a strangely whimsical story. The concepts are curious, such as the inhabitants taking everything literally and the aliens using all the radioactivity, but the execution is strange. I can't quite put my finger on it. Is it more amateurish?What does strike me is the stark contrast in style to the previous story at the end of last season. The Wheel in Space was short on incident and heavy on character, with lots of depth to the people. The Dominators is on the other extreme with almost every line of dialogue advancing the plot, or at least elaborating on the situation, and the characters just delivering information.The characterisations suffer due to this and the likes of Kando and Ballan are only loosely sketched out. They tell us about the civilization rather than themselves in a way that you wouldn't do normally. It's both clumsy and interesting at the same time. Its rather nice to hear all about an alien planet though with all its political history and cultural differences. You have to go back to The Macra Terror for the last attempt to describe a non-terrestrial civilisation.

Finally, the Quarks, which we have only seen through their view-point, are finally revealed! What a shocking cliff-hanger! We see they are two boxes with spiky footballs which speak in an almost completely inaudible way. Magnificent.In episode two, the Doctor is told by the aliens, "We are Dominators!", rather embarrassingly.

Strangely this story title sounds like one of those working titles that you read about and think, "thank God they changed that!" Except on this occasion they didn't...The scenes where the Doctor and Jamie are pretending to be stupid are somewhat farcical and the tests they are given so childish that you wonder why the Dominators carry such things around with them. These silly shenanigans occupy a lot of episode two.

I was about to wonder if this story was more comedic than the previous one, but then I recall the silly moments with Victoria not wanting to scream, and the action-farce scene in the helicopter from Fury. The Wheel in Space had various light-hearted moments with Zoe and Jamie, although I suppose it wasn't exactly a fun story. There were a variety of grim deaths in a fairly oppressive situation. But then again we've already seen that blonde girl have her face burnt off right at the start of this story. Cully becomes even more of a hero when he puts Zoe into an alien bikini and see-through skirt! Absolute genius costume designs. The exciting nature of Zoe's ensemble is slightly offset by the fact that Cully is wearing a very similar dress, plus Zoe is pretty irritating the moment she opens her mouth.

Episode two ends with her and Cully trapped in an exploding building. The explosions are so powerful they nearly blow Zoe's dress off at the start of the next episode, but she catches the shoulder strap and saves her modesty.

The Doctor and Jamie go to chat to the leaders of the planet, Zoe and company are put to work for the Dominators. The leaders chat a bit more. Oh it's Brian Cant. Jamie accidentally foils an escape plan and the episode ends once more with a companion trapped inside an exploding building. Yawn.

Episode four has a rather exciting moment where the two aliens argue amongst each other. This is interesting because it creates an unusual friction amongst the baddies, further emphasising how aggressive they are that they can't even agree with each other on things! The scene where the Quark is being fought over for control is really compelling.

Things are a little patchy in terms of pace. A long period of chatting and moderate tedium is then interrupted by a great sequence as Jamie and Cully give the Quarks the runaround and even chuck a boulder on one. There are an unprecedented number of explosions in this story!

But then we revert back to more chat. Until a Dominator bursts in and kills Brian Cant.

The Doctor is threatened with death at the end of the episode, but at the start of the next one more arguments with the Dominators save him. The friction between them turns into quite a big bust up.

Even more explosions!

The episode mainly features a struggle with Jamie trying to stop the Quarks from drilling, with some more arguments.

We learn that the sonic screwdriver which was introduced towawrds the end of last season works as a blow-torch too!

I feel very sad when a Quark is destroyed.

The Doctor gets the bomb but can't diffuse it. So what does he do? He plants the bomb inside the Dominator's ship, and rubs his hands with glee! Blimey! I know that the Dominators weren't exactly nice chaps but for the Doctor to merrily blast their bodies to dust seems so wrong!

The Doctor is clearly suffering from some mental problems though, as next he is caught happily standing in the path of a river of lava, and wouldn't have moved if Jamie hadn't pointed out the danger. Thinking about all the various near-misses, such as when the Doctor rewired the capsule in flight and nearly killed himself and Jamie in a crash landing, is this portrayal of the Doctor becoming more fallible and clownish than ever before?

They dash into the TARDIS and this odd little story comes to a close.

The Mind Robber

The adventure kicks off with some oddities.

Firstly the reprise is different. Instead of Jamie saying "But we happen to be on the island" and the Doctor saying "oh my word!", now Jamie just says "Come on, will you look!" and they go in.

Second thing is that instead of the rather dodgy stock footage of lava, we have rather dodgy model work of white foam rolling down a polystyrene hill. I don't know which is worse.

Third thing is that the TARDIS scanner is now in some odd frame work with strange circular anaglypta wallpaper behind.

The fluid links don't seem to be able to take the load. What on earth is wrong with the TARDIS these days? We've had weird landings, suspension in space, the doors opening in flight, problems with the time vector generator, and now this. What a shocking series of nearly-fatal problems in their supposedly safe ship. In this era you never feel like the TARDIS is the place to be.

Jamie rashly presses the emergency unit and the ship sounds even more sick.

The Doctor says they're "nowhere" and then wanders off. We've never seen the power room before, or that weird roundy thing on the wall which he passes on the way. Is that an open internal door?

Oh the power room!

Oh another tight-fitting costume for Zoe!

Gosh, the power room is boring. And that's the laser unit from the power room from The Wheel in Space!

There's a better view of this weird new corner of the console room. Yes, it appears to be an open door to more of the ship. A black bank of dials to the left and the scanner above it. Very strange.

The TARDIS starts showing images to tempt Jamie out. Then Zoe sees her home city. Interestingly this is the exact opposite of what it did a few stories ago in The Wheel in Space where it tried to show images to make them leave. But the Doctor thinks that these images are being used by someone else to tempt them out.

They wander out into an empty void, meet some robots, and then scream at white hallucinations of themselves which are being used to tempt the Doctor out too. This is extremely weird stuff.

I like the robots though. Someone should use them as their mascot for their website.

The TARDIS is white too now. They escape inside and take off but the weird noise follows them. Jamie has a dream about a unicorn and the noise gets more intense. It does smack somewhat of padding.

Then the ultimate shock: The TARDIS explodes.

Then an even bigger eye-opener: Zoe's bum as the console spins round. Those who are easily offended by scenes of an adult nature, please do not watch this scene.

The Doctor is spinning off into space!

What an absolutely surreal end to a bizarre episode. Is this genius, or has the show gone totally off the rails?

The Doctor is in a fairly cheap looking studio forest and soon meets a cheap cardboard Jamie and some cheap word word puzzles. Then in a black void this time they find a unicorn and the episode ends with this... threat. Are unicorns a notorious threat? I thought they were alright. Maybe I need to brush up on my myths.

Episode three has Jamie come back and this world of weird continues in the form of a mysterious tunnel meanwhile Jamie finds a futuristic castle. Its weird that despite all the odd goings on, the Doctor and companions behave quite normally, which kind of takes the sting out of the surreal nature of the story. If the TARDIS crew were behaving as if they weren't exploring an impossible world it would somehow be more strange.

Episode four brings the quite unbelievable Karkus. An unbelievable German accent, and unbelievable muscles accompany an unbelievable performance. "You will be mince-meat!" he exclaims whilst managing to do nothing except be thrown around by Zoe. "Lesson seventeen!" she shouts, as if that explains everything, before fluffing her line.

We finally meet "The Master". He was a writer apparently, stolen away to run this fictional place. He switches between nice and nasty, as the machine takes over. It's almost a complete copy of the old fella under control of the Great Intelligence last year during The Abominable Snowmen.

And there is a formless "intelligence" at the heart of the matter too.

Episode five sees things get a little less strange. We learn that this story, despite all its fancies, is just another good old alien invasion. The population of Earth is to be transferred to the land of fiction, leaving the planet empty to be taken over. By whom? Who is the invader who needs an empty earth? Is the land of fiction set up just to trap a replacement? How is anyone else suppose to stumble upon the place? It was an odd story before but suddenly it all becomes complete nonsense.

There's a battle of wits between the two great brains, and fictional characters (and Cyrano de Bergerac) fight each other. Finally the white robots blow up their own computer and our heroes basically cross their fingers and hope for the best. The TARDIS reforms and the credits roll.

It is a very surreal and unusual tale, but behind it all there's nothing meaningful. And the ending banks on a handy "reset" whereby destroying the computer puts everything back together. Who built the computer? Why was the land of fiction being maintained?

All very confusing.

The Invasion

It worked! They say, as if they had a great plan...

Wow, less than a minute and a half and there's already a missile on collision course with the newly reformed TARDIS!

Boom! Oh, and a space ship!

And a very weird TARDIS landing noise!

There's a hint of some enemy who already knows the Doctor! We've only just had the Cybermen three stories ago so it obviously can't be them... Could it finally be the Daleks returning?

The TARDIS has got yet more problems. But I suppose if you were exploded and put back together then you wouldn't be too well either.

A cow!

A joke about the weather! An actual proper joke!

Wow, there's some interesting music. With proper musical instruments, not just odd twangy boings, and not just stock music.

A man with a van. A mysterious company. This is all moving so fast.Travers has been substituted with Watkins, who in turn has his niece in his place. Slightly baffling.

The Doctor hates computers! I don't know why but it seems at odds with what we know of him. Doesn't he use one ever day for calculating journeys, locating faults and generally staying alive?

The mysterious Mr Vaughan turns to a wall which rotates up and reveals... A brain trapped in a chemistry set! Cliffhanger!

Surely not! It looks for all the world to be that planner thing which the Cybermen were always watching on TV only recently! There have only been two intervening stories since we last had cybermen. Is this the quickest return of a monster ever?

I'm amazed they have apparently revealed who the monster will be, but without showing it! Very strange.

Crikey that's a short skirt on Isobell.

The Doctor and Jamie are taken aboard a plane and introduced, arse-first, to an old friend, that rather prickly Lethbridge Stewart chap from The Web of Fear.

He's been doing a bit of sniffing as part of a new organization, UNIT.

The chemistry set has started chatting, but its not the same voice as the cyber thingy from before.

Hmm this thingy says his lot have never been on Earth. But the cybermen's first story was on Earth. Although that was in 1986 and the Brigadier says this is only four years after the Yeti. So when is this set? Mid-seventies? Christ that's confusing.

Gregory has been studying TARDIS circuits. A material more like plastic and connections which are totally illogical.

The chemistry set says he knows the Doctor from Planet 14. If the threat is the Cybermen then what on Earth could that mean? There was a planet near The Wheel in Space. Not Telos? Very odd. A missing adventure?

All four heroes are caught and there's still no monster reveal. That episode didnt go very far at all...

The Brig is having them tracked 'more discreetly' - via a whacking great helicopter which all Vaughan's guards look up at!

There's a very nasty line about messing up Isobel's face! This story does seem unusually brutal.

There follows a farcical escape into a lift, and then a stupid scene with packer listening to a speeded up voice coming from his watch. Packer is then even sillier, being both dim and pantomime.

The lift nonsense continues and we see Kilroy was here. An early mention on TV for him before his chat show days.Jamie climbs in a crate and something moves next to him!

Episode four and Vaughan all but confirms the enemy. He is going to use emotions against them and if they take over, humans face being completely "converted".

So, the Doctor and Jamie escape and manage to take Zoe and Isobell with them, affording plenty of up-skirt action as they board the helicopter.

So, Vaughan decides to head back to London. So what was the point of all that? It filled a couple of episodes is all.

The Doctor has learnt a tiny bit about the enemy but we havent seen it. I can't fathom if dragging out the reveal is good or not. The expectation is now huge but we're four episodes in, with not much to show.

There are interesting references to UFOs. This is a hot topic of the time.So they're on their way back into the factory again in order spy on ... finally a Cyberman bursts forth!

Yet again bursting out, this follows the nice, clandestine pattern of these foes. They are hidden away, boxes up in crates just like in the previous Wheel in Space.

This business of them being awoken with electrodes from a strangely organic wrapping is just like their unusual egg-hatching in the previous story and in their Tombs.

Episode five mentions the homing beam, and the Cybermen's ability to control humans. Its good to have repeated characteristics of an alien with no emotion. It gives them a sort of personality.

A bit like in The Dominators the baddies argue.Blimey, what's going on with the Cybernen's voices? They sound like deep-voiced Quarks, and just as hard to understand. Why do they keep changing them?

Ha! A Cyberman giving his mate a little hand down the ladder!

The crazy kids go down into the sewers and we're afforded a very intimate view of Zoe as she climbs down the ladder.

Are sewers really that capacious? You cant walk around underground where I live.

Jamie very dimly spells out their predicament for the cliffhanger.

Episode six and we're finally seeing some cybermen.

Bags of them in facts. It looks a lot bigger budget than the previous story despite us not seeing the big UNIT rescue of Watkins. The slow buildup actually feels like its paying off. Seeing the troop movements and then the rather impressive space fleet looming is worrying.

The appearance of these foes in the sewers is a little repetitious after last year, but the following iconic scenes of Cybermen in the streets are awe inspiring. There's still been relatively few successful invasions of Earth, despite how the series might be remembered.Episode seven and its all build-up to the second wave of the invasion. Things are moving slowly still.

Zoe is treated very oddly. The Doctor says he doesn't like computers but her brain may come in useful. She's quite cold in her behaviour but I suppose that's the point.

I hadn't previously noticed her zip has come down a bit. She persuades the Brig to give her thirty seconds to compute a system to destroy more cyber ships. As she checks the computers, I kid you not - each male operator checks out her bum as she moves on to the next computer bank. Have a look if you don't believe me!

She's supposedly all brain, but she's also a sex symbol. What she lacks is some human characteristics. She's a very convenient plot device. At least Jamie gives some light relief with his constant eating and sleeping.

Having almost single-handedly saved the Earth she seems happy at the centre of attention and quite chuffed at being "much prettier than computer".

But things look grim as the Cybermen decide to annihilate us. Vaughan turns his weapon on his masters. It's interesting how Kevin Stoney has played an almost identical role in this as in his last appearance when he was trying to use the Daleks to invade.

This story seems very real. Very tough. The lack of talking monsters probably adds to this. Perhaps a lesson learned from the Yeti and the weed creature.. A foe is more scary when it looms silently in the dark.

Having promised so much at the iconic St. Pauls shot, episode seven had no Cybermen at all.

But that changes in the finale as episode eight, yes eight, brings this leviathan to an end. The only story that has been longer was The Dalek Masterplan, but that had multiple locations to full out the time. Much of The Invasion is spent running backwards and forwards and wasting time. A decent edit would bring this story into a really tight, thrilling four parter.

The last episode brings a pitch battle between the ever-silent Cybermen and the almost-as-silent UNIT soldiers. Bazookas and grenades go off and Cybermen drop like flies. You start to wonder if they would have done very well as an occupying force anyway.

The Cyber mother ship explodes and very abruptly the story cuts to a rather provokative shot of Zoe. The time travellers end up in a field looking for the TARDIS. The Doctor goes inside and the ship seems to land again to become visible and off they go. Odd.

The Krotons

After so much of Earth and Tobias Vaughan it feels rather refreshing to start a fresh story with new characters.

Having had The Dominators quite recently, it looks like much of the same. An alien culture, like humans but with some differences.

Why are there never any trees on alien planets? Its always very bleak and ... quarry-like.Oh dear, a small rubbish model shot. Little houses with a giant football along side.Crikey, Zoe has a short PVC skirt on.

That was a rather nasty death.

Jamie has a dust up to remind viewers he's tough and the Doctor gets menaced by a hoover for a cliff hanger.

There's a surreal robot watching, which reminds me a lot of The Wheel in Space. The Doctor makes a reather flippant joke just moments after some poor kid dies.

Zoe's up-herself intelligence is quite annoying, but instead of this being something only the audience feels, she's rather unfairly treated by her travelling companions. It feels rather like she's being bullied for not showing any emotions. Maybe she's crying inside.

The Doctor is more farcical than ever when ge gets his tests wrong.

More very surreal robot activity as we see the birth if the Krotons. It's strange, etherial and not really explained, and harks back to elements of The Mind Robber. But once they are formed, the Krotons are only shown oddly, in close up, revealed slowly but not in a dramatic way.Jamie goes in and is nearly killed!

The Krotons seem blind in the outside world. Why can't they see?

There's lots of good acting, particularly from Philip Maddock.

We discover the TARDIS has HADS! What a strange thing to have, as I thought it was indestructable anyway!

Gutsy Jamie tries his luck but Krotons are resilient!

The Gonds try to bring the roof down and the Doc gets clattered by some polystyrine rocks!

In episode four it turns out that the Krotons wear skirts.

Not very cristaline.I don't know if its just me but I am very fond of all this. Great acting, funky monsters, a big weird spaceship. It has everything The Dominators has but with a good script and brilliant actors.

The story wraps up by nicely. I enjoy The Krotons as monsters and seeing them lumber about on screen. Proper new monsters we havent seen in ages.The resolution is very clever and all the characters play their parts. The structure of the story is good and shows up the inadequacies of its closest relative, The Dominators.Taken in isolation it might be easy to dismiss this story as silly stone-age stuff with ropey monsters. But compared to the unbearable length of the previous Invasion, this story develops quickly, raises some interesting ideas about obedience, knowledge, science and trust, and resolves quite snappily.The Doctor sneaks away and the TARDIS leaves.

The Seeds of Death

The story starts with an opening Earth in space shot - Seems to suggests invasion to me. And Brian Hayles is the writer, the guy who did The Ice Warriors... could it be?

We see a monster's point of view, as if to hide their appearance! Had we not already had this treatment with the never-before-seen Quarks, you might be forgiven for thinking this was a returning baddie.

But we hear the voice, and it does indeed sound like the Ice Warriors!

In the TARDIS the crew are trying to figure out where they are. Zoe is still in her Krotons costume. Will there be a loose excuse for her to end up in an even shorter skirt?

The TARDIS control room looks even smaller than usual, with black roundels. This poor set is now a shadow of its former self.

They step outside and argue with an old chap over an interesting back-story of a future Earth. Meanwhile on the moon we discover the attackers are indeed...

Martians! And following the pattern of returning monsters in season five and six, they have a new and exciting leader class.

As Ice Warriors are deployed to hunt in episode two, we find they are more lumbering than they used to be, and their heads less flexible. They seem to have become a bit more zombified, and a bit more of a cliched lumbering monster. But we are treated to lots of marauding alien shots. We also find the Warriors suffer serious problems with their vision as they totally fail to see a man called Fips (or whatever his name is) standing two feet away.

The story is forgivably daft. The idea of the Doctor and company spending five minutes in these people's company and then being entrusted to take charge of a major space mission is hilarious.

Zoe is fine one minute, and then reverts back to her know-it-all annoying persona. No-one quite seems to know what to do with her, and much of the time people are having a go at her. Most importantly, she's changed her costume.... But trousers?! I ask you.

Ohh Fips melts an Ice Warrior! Was that a lucky guess that he tried a heat ray on them. Coz they're Icey you know. Although all that solar power - would it fry anything?

The Doc's rocket is doomed! That episode didnt make a lot of progress.Episode three brings us more of this excellent funky music.

I love the fact Zoe's calculations allow them to know when they'll fall into the sun and die, but the more simple, primal and ever-hungry Jamie points out they'll run out of food much sooner than they'll burn up.

Interesting that Jamie and the Doc say that the monsters are named "Ice Warriors". Surely that was just a nick name because they were found in a block of ice? I wonder what they call themselves.

When the rocket lands haphazardly, the Doctor's hand lands alarmingly near Zoe's crotch.There follows a great chase between the Doctor and the martians but when cornered, he desperately and uncharacteristically begs for is life. Has he ever come this close to death?It strikes me how very male this story is. Aside from Zoe there is only one girl in the whole cast, Miss Kelly. At least she's an intelligent expert, as well as a beautiful blonde.

Into episode four and the Doctor has apparently been killed when a seed pod explodes in his face! But strangely, that wasnt the cliff hanger bit, it was the pod then coming to Earth.We are left wondering through episode four if the Doctor is dead, whilst Warriors relentlessly carry out their plan.

The Ice Warriors are proper monsters. Really enjoyable. Slow, inhuman, aggressive, inarticulate. They are in the mould of Frankenstein's monster, or like I said earlier - zombies.

Some shots the pods on Earth brilliantly give the idea this is a successful invasion strategy. It opens up the whole feel of a story when we get a bit of location work thrown in.

It turns out The Doctor is alive after all. But then the Ice Warriors decice to T-mat him into space. Why not just kill him with guns?

We get more of the Weed foam from Fury from the Deep. And we get a Doctor body double. I should make a list of Actors Who have Played The Doctor. It must number at least two dozen.

The material shot outside is brilliantly edited and exciting stuff. It all feels so cinematic when a bit of time and effort can be spent editing it, rather than the often cheap-feeling studio stuff.

The scenes in the studio are stragely disjointed, as if it's been edited down.During episode five, the Ice Warrior chases a worried man around a futuristic disco.

The set-decorating people are getting lazy. Earlier on I spotted the Krotons' dynatrope. And whilst the doctor was chucking liquids on the seed pod to kill it, I saw the Dominators' drill!

The finale is slightly disjointed too, just as some other parts of the story were. The Doctor apparently doesn't succeed in stopping the radio signal in time, but then it turns out that he has. But it is all suitably spectacular as the Doctor resigns himself to death and closes his eyes, only to find Jamie saves the day.

Rather calously, the Doctor seems to commit genocide as he sends what we presume are the remnants of the Ice Warriors civilization into the sun, and they die! In his defence he points out these baddies were trying to destroy an entire world, but still...

The TARDIS dematerialisation at the end is one of the worst ever, in terms of the misalignment between the before and after transitions. Very odd indeed.

The Space Pirates

Following the futuristic space ship frolicks of The Seeds of Death, we launch straight into more futuristic spaceship stuff. Lovely model work though.

And the warbling woman from The Ice Warriors is back.Also returning is new writer Robert Holmes who recently gave us The Krotons which I enjoyed.

We're having another rather long lead-in without the Doctor and companions, which seems to be the norm.A bloke with a good voice is explaining the plot. Pirates are plundering Argonite.

Blimey we get to 16 minutes before the TARDIS arrives! The costume department has really out done itself with Zoe's outfit. Shorts and boots. Fab.


Episode two and we meet Milo Clancy. An interesting character!Its interesting that after of Death explained how man didn't want to go beyond the moon, whereas this story reveals a vast empire of space mining and pirates.

There's been a huge predominance of futuristic stories of late and a historical frolick would be a nice break.

Well this has turned into a jolly old adventure. Its not wholly clear where its going but the escape into the tunnels and suchlike brings a Flash Gordon feel to it all.

They fall down a hole, one after another.

Episode four spends a lot of time getting the Doctor and co out if their tunnel prison. In fact, little else happens and they try to determine if Clancy is in with the Pirates.

They escape up the mine workings, having a running battle with the Pirates only to turn up in that woman's office who (it was clearly signposted earlier) is the traitor.

Episode five and the strange political, detective story continues. It feels a bit directionless, if you'll pardon the pun, as the space police are basically chasing the space pirates. But the odd thing is that I don't really know what the threat is. Aside from piracy, what great terror is at large? Normally if a story has no actual monsters it at least has a terrible threat to humanity. But here it's just about thieves, and a bit of political corruption.

The menace itself is mainly aimed at the TARDIS crew. Can they get back to the ship after the station it was in blew up, and will they get framed for piracy?

Having spent episode four escaping from a tunnel, they spend episode five escaping from an office, but the Doctor gets blasted by the rockets!

He survives, and a little tiresomely the majority of the denoument is taken up with the Doctor defusing a bomb.

The ending is somewhat surprising as the viewer is left to hope that the heroes get back to safety. Unusually, the resolution leaves them stranded in space some considerable distance from the TARDIS and relying on a lift from some dodgy old ship. There's room for at least one other episode in which to tell that story!

The funny thing is that as I just mentioned, without any real threat to the world or community (although I suppose the bomb at the end counts) the drama was in the plight of the TARDIS crew who, ironically, are never even shown to get home safely anyway!

The War Games

And so we head into the season finale. Last year's was a fairly typical and slightly under-played Cyberman romp. What will this year have in store?

The story opens like much of this recent era with no link to the previous (unresolved!) adventure and an untold amount of time has elapsed since The Space Pirates.

They're on Earth and the pace with which the story rattles along is quite frightening. Germans, English, into a trench, new characters, a dodgy general, a dodgy court martial and into prison in the blink of an eye.

Its quite striking how nice it is to be back on Earth in a historical context. It feels reassuring. It suddenly becomes very apparent how future-heavy Doctor Who has been of late. The last eight stories in a row (everything since Zoe joined at the end of last season) has been either set in space, in the future, or total fantasy. Its very nice to have some jolly English people on jolly old Earth.

But oh dear, they are locked up again, and after so much of that in the previous story it is feeling a little tiresome.

But hang on. The Doc is off to be executed!! And he kissed Zoe!!! That is shocking.

Episode two reveals the Doc wasn't shot after all!

The dodgy general is in his office, and then... Surely that's the end of the TARDIS noise! Yes it is! Someone had a TARDIS! Is the general the same race as the Doctor?!

Jamie meets a red coat! Time travel evidence for sure!

Something the Doctor hasn't done for a while - a comic turn whilst impersonating someone. At the start of his tenure, a stupid accent and some excessive over-acting was regular behaviour but he settled down after a while. Despite all the comedy cleverness, Zoe solves the problem by smashing a guy's brains in with a vase. Nice.

The TARDIS crew are all locked up again but any good, honest soldier will obviously disobey any orders he feels like, and release suspected spies. Well done Carstairs. He and Lady Jennifer are shown a video-phone which the naughty General has in his office. More TARDIS-type technology?

Our heroes escape in an ambulance, only to be confronted by ... Romans! Nice location work.

They steal a map which reveals that this planet is divided into time-zones and they make for the centre of the operation, only to be captured by Germans. The Doctor whips out his sonic screwdriver to show what he can do.

It's interesting that with the Red Coat (from Jamie's first meeting with the Doctor) plus another TARDIS machine (like the Meddling Monk had), the Doctor pretending to be someone else (like he used to), the Romans (which were encountered by William Hartnell), and now the sonic screwdriver too, the story is starting to feel like a Greatest Hits of Doctor Who - almost a celebration of past elements from the show.

The German commanding officer reveals himself to be hypnotic and dodgy like his English counterpart.

Meanwhile, a noisy alarm heralds the arrival of someone with a beard in a futuristic room, presumably the heart of the operation. He walks creepily, and the General sucks up to him, but immediately we are alerted to the fact even this beard-face is not the boss. 'The War Lord' is pleased with their work...

Then, just to heighten the tension, and crank up the intrigue we are allowed to hear the thoughts of a Doctor Who character for, I believe, only the second time ever. The new beard-face man thinks to himself, 'Time Travelers ... I wonder...' - How amazingly exciting. There are sign-posts galore that this story is unusual, and a big deal.

The Doctor and his companions watch dozens of people emerge from the box with the TARDIS sound effect, further confirming what we are suspecting.

Episode four sees them exploring inside the TARDIS-like craft which is filled with extras and lots of plastic sheeting. Thrilling.

Over in the war, we have dodgy accents galore - Americans this time - whilst beard-face back in central control is chatting to an alient geek in stupid glasses. Despite its less-than-perfect visual style it all has quite a serious tone.

The Doctor finds some fridge magnets inside the fake TARDIS which are apparently the controls of the craft. There's a similar fridge in the central control, operated by another geek in stupid glasses. You have to give the production team high marks for effort in trying to create some alien tecnology which is different to the usual knobs and knockers, even if it does look rather lame in practise.

The first geek in glasses is explaining the basic plot of the story to us, about how the soldiers must be conditioned to think they're at home. He puts Carstairs some fancy hairdressing machinery and suddenly he points out the Doctor and Zoe which leads to, in my opinion, one of the greatest moments in the history of the show so far...

Beard-face - real name 'The War Chief' - turns up to talk to his geek in glasses. The geek explains that there was a problem with the machine, however one of the students helped solve it. He points out the Doctor who has lifted up his glasses, revealing his face.

For a moment, the expression of smugness remains fixed on the Doctor's face, waiting to hear yet more appreciation from these supposedly clever aliens. But then, the smile on his face drops, and his body language changes. The frivolity of the moment has instantly vanished. The camera cuts to the face of The War Chief, whose expression might be mistaken for being blank, but the subtelty of this moment is beautiful, and the shot is long enough for us to realise that this evil alien is completely taken back, and lost for words.

The camera cuts back to the Doctor who himself is still frozen, until he has processed enough information to simply suggest the best course of action: 'Run, Zoe!'

The War Chief screams, 'Stop them!' with such extraordinary desperation that the implications of this mutual recognition between these two are still sinking in when the credits roll.

It's interesting that episode five brings double-crossing and internal politics as the relationships between the aliens becomes more complex in a manner remniscant of The Dominators which started the season. After a rather uncomfortable interrogation of Zoe by Security Chief, we discover that both the aliens are happy to lie to each other about the information they have on the TARDIS crew.

It amuses me that the time travelers have such freedom as they run around the aliens' headquarters. Such simple and ubiquitous modern security measures such as CCTV would be the first port of call in any 21st century situation, but of course I'm sure the sonic screwdriver would be used to conveniently get round that.

'When I came to your people I was promised efficiency...' says the War Chief, as he momentously reveals that he is not one of them. He waves his medallion in reference to the knowledge that he has - a clear symbol of his own people, and therefore also the Doctor's people. Fascinating.

The Security Chief later confirms that beard-face was a 'trailer to his own people'... From what little we know of the Doctor, these two might have a lot in common.

It amuses me that we get the line 'The following proceedure will be carried out...' and then the camera cuts away, which is no better than the old cliche of character saying to another, 'This is what we're going to do ... [whisper, whisper, whisper]...'

Jamie is apparently killed. As if the audience could ever believe that a regular charcter was really dead when the Doctor just says quite calmly, 'There's nothing we can do.' before doing a bit of a comedy walk.

One scene later, Zoe seems to have forgotten about the death of her close friend and no-one even bothers to mention what a lovely young man Jamie had been and how tragic a loss it is.

It's okay though. He's a alive. He also has a square brain, whereas other people have a swiggly brain. Interesting.

There's a very tense scene with Patrick Troughton's son.

Things are starting to drag a bit as the aliens remain one step behind the Doctor. Jamie gets rescued and a rather lame fight breaks out. The Doctor and company are trapped inside a fake-TARDIS and the War Chief shrinks the inside to force him out. Harking back to The Time Meddler when the Monk's TARDIS interior was shrunk. Intentional or otherwise, there's loads of backwards-continuity.

The War Chief refers to a 'side-rat' - Which would be SIDRAT, or TARDIS backwards!

And just when things were starting to stagnate, a new character turns up. Admist another funny alarm, we meet Philip Madock's latest villain. He plays The War Lord with a terrifying calm. He doesn't look at the people he's talking to, and he has a phenomenal menace on the screen. His quiet dialogue is punctuated by eerie smiles and moments of anger. It is a quite brilliant performance.

That aside, the story is stretching to breaking point, as we re-visit the 20th century time zone, meet general Smythe again, who - surprise, surprise - captures the Doctor and prepares to shoot him. But finally this bloke meets his demise as a long battle follows and the Doctor is whisked away in a SIDRAT.

Episode 8 becomes incredibly interesting as the Doctor's past is finally touched upon.

Excitingly, the War Chief says that the Doctor may have changed his appearance but he knows who he is. A first direct reference to the fact that Troughton's Doctor used to look like Hartnell since Power of the Daleks.

This in retrospect makes the earlier confrontation perhaps slightly confusing where they appeared to recognise each other, but perhaps recognition between members of the Doctor's race is rooted more deeply than phyiscal appearance. This would make sense if they can change their faces.

We are finally getting some facts about the Doctor's life. He is accused of 'stealing a TARDIS' but he says he 'had every right to leave'. The most fascinating moment comes when we learn something of that race from which they both fled: The War Chief says, 'We were both Time Lords' - an interesting if simplistic title applied to a time-travelling race. The simplicity of this title becoming more apparent when put in the context that this story is about a war-like race who call themselves 'War Lords'.

The use of the past tense in 'we were both Time Lords' perhaps also suggesting that leaving their home might constitute giving up their right to their community.

A bit of comedy for Jamie gives him centre stage and Zoe proves herself a force to be reckoned with.

The War Chief explains the plan, a somewhat preposterous one.

We learn the Doctor is 'a fugitive from the Time Lords' - what great reason could there be for him starting this series of famous adventures?

A sustained attack by the resistance brings about the kind of shift in power which can only really be achieved satisfactorily over a story of this length. To have such a major campaign represented in a four-parter would seem very rushed. The War Games is too long but at least it provides several episodes in order to tie things up properly.

It's interesting to hear the War Chief talk about the advances made in space/time technology, which makes you wonder how long ago (relatively speaking) the Doctor left home.

In a slightly ridiculous scenario, the Security Chief leaves the Doctor and his supposedly-former allies alone with no guards! Stupidly, before they've all realised they could just escape, the War Chief turns up. Very silly.

The Security Chief is a curiously sympathetic character. He is desperately trying to do his job whilst his supposed colleague constantly tries to undermine him and witholds information. When he finally gains the upper hand and gets hold of a recording to prove the War Chief is a traitor, he is gunned down for simply trying to do his job and be loyal to his boss.

With some defeat in his voice, the Doctor reveals to his companions that the Time Lords are his own people, and that they must be called in. The War Chief is mortified at this prospect, creating an extremely powerful feeling that something bad will happen.

Added to the variety of other oddities we have learnt about the Time Lords in this story, we are shown that telepathic reports or distress messages can be delivered via a self-forming cube, the components of which we can only assume the Doctor carries at all times.

The War Chief makes for the landing bay but is killed by his boss, the ruthless Philip Madoc.

A point of interest here: When the first Doctor was dying and subsequently changed his face, he seemed to have fair warning about his physical decline, and the TARDIS was clearly part of this process.

I think it is an important difference that the first Doctor did not die - he was clearly very unwell, and this forced a change. However, in the instance the War Chief, he is killed stone dead. This suggests to me that without warning for a Time Lord an immediate death is irreversible.

The Time Lords arrival is heralded by a disturbing slow-motion scene as the Doctor flees for the TARDIS and nearly doesn't make it.

Into the final episode and the Doctor reveals, somewhat disappointingly and frivolously, that he left his home planet because he was bored. So there you have it, folks. We waited six years to discover the immensely significant reason that he left his people and went into exile, forever affecting the life of his granddaughter. The reason he stole a TARDIS and incurred the terrifying wrath of his people was that he was at a loose end one Tuesday afternoon. What a let-down.

Ohh, footage of Fury from the Deep. And a shark. And a crocodile.

How on Earth did the Doctor think that materialising the TARDIS in space would mean the Time Lords couldn't find them?

With a fan-fare, a mysterious voice announces 'Your travels are over'... what a horrifying thought.

We are finally seeing the Doctor's home planet. It's as strangely decorated as the headquarters of the War Lord. We also see Time Lords number 4, 5 and 6 in the history of the show, not including Susan.

Following the discovery that Time Lords can send telepathic cubes to each other, we now also learn they apparently have phenomenal mental weapons, as one of them widens his eyes and the War Lord writhes in agony. Does the Doctor also have such powers which he has never called upon?

Further disturbing powers are revealed as the Time Lords simply dissolve The War Lord and his entire planet into nothing before putting the Doctor on trial himself.

In a further extension of Doctor Who's Greatest Hits, we're treated to a specially-shot sequence of monsters: Quarks, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Daleks and Cybermen.

The Time Lords allow Jamie and Zoe a little run around with the Doctor in order to pad out the episode before sending his companions home.

Whilst Jamies still tries to suggest they can escape, the Doctor tells him goodbye. Zoe won't even look up at first, before asking if they'll meet again. What have either of them got without the Doctor, their father figure?

And there's worse to come - The Time Lords are wiping the memories of his companions. All their travels in time and space are stripped away, their lives tragically blanked out. Heart-breakingly, we see Zoe back on the Wheel in Space, smiling, saying she's forgotten something important, and then going about her normal life. Then we see Jamie, narrowly escaping death the moment he returns to Scotland. The Time Lords give no guarantee of safety and it has been shown they refuse to interfere.

Finally, they tell the Doctor he has a part to play in the battle against evil. He almost smiles optimistically. But then they explain he is to be exiled to Earth, as that planet is more vulnerable than others. I wonder why.

The secret of the TARDIS will be 'taken' from him. The Time Lords clearly have incredible power over the mind.

And the shocks keep coming: The Doctor's appearance will change again. He is given the opportunity to chose from a strange collection of pencil sketches.

Eerily, his face transfers to the screeen. He swirls. His face blinks in and out.

It is sad that the second Doctor's last moments are so comical until he finally spins away crying "No, no no....!"

What does the future hold for the series....?

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