Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Sound of Drums: First Glance

In the tradition of the three-parter (think ‘Star Wars’ here), The Sound of Drums did an admirable job of maintaining the pace and keeping the action coming. A marvellous blend of evil, continuity, action and good humour – it definitely offered something for seasoned fans and newbies alike. Over-the-top evil, Teletubbies (mirroring The Master’s encounter with the Clangers), red coat lining, jelly babies, visions of Gallifrey and the Timelords…

But what next? Two lines of thinking here…

It seems that the Toclafane intend to take on humanity one-on-one (given their numbers… The Master said there were 6 billion Toclafane and the planet has a population of approximately 6.5 billion) and judging by the spoiler intend to transport themselves somewhere else. I’m thinking, the future – to Utopia.

Perhaps the Toclafane come from the far future and sought something from Humanity, but insufficient numbers remained. So, they somehow struck a deal with The Master to build a device that would allow the Toclafane to come back from the future on-masse and take all they needed.

What could they need from Humanity? Raw materials, perhaps, to rebuild their dying civilisation, maybe.

I hate to say it – but what race of beings do we know to be really on their last legs? The dear old Daleks. Perhaps Caan couldn’t temporal shift to a place and time, getting stuck in the Vortex instead. Trapped and desperate, he sent a message out through the Vortex – just as a young, impressionable Master stared into it at age 8. Which is how the Toclafane struck a deal with The Master… cause the deal has been with him, haunting him since his childhood… a sort of sleeper command, a trigger. The Sound of Drums…

Too convoluted?

Well, try this. When we first met Professor Yana, he wore something akin to the outfit of the First Doctor. The Master wore a red-lined coat in ‘The Sound of Drums’ – like the Third Doctor – and offered his wife jelly babies – like the Fourth Doctor. Did he do anything akin to the Second Doctor? I’ll probably have to look back again… However, it seems to be The Master either has the Doctor on his mind a lot… or there’s something more to his return than simply a matter of the Timelords requiring a warrior for the Time War (they did something something, enlisting The Master, in ‘The Five Doctors’). A version of the Doctor from the parallel universe Rose got trapped in?

Utopia: First Glance

What a corker!

I read various comments about ‘Utopia‘ over the weekend, and the camps seem split between good and bad. The good appreciate the excellent climax to the episode and even have a soft spot for the background plotline of humans, monsters and quarries. The bad viewed the whole thing as dull and poorly handled, average for Russell T, too average for the spoiled ending to save it (The Sun ran an article mid-March about the return of The Master and the fact John Simm had secured the role).

Me? I appreciate a slice of vintage Who – and struggles in a quarry fall squarely within that description. ‘Utopia‘ represented a fan boy high point, tying up a bunch of loose ends from throughout the series so far and turning them into a spine-tingling finale. Derek Jacobi played the roles of Professor Yana and The Master with panache, a roller coaster ride from bumbling and good natured into cold and malign with breath-taking ease. From a fan boy perspective, having The Master portrayed by someone who had played the character before made it an even greater delight (Jacobi played an android version of The Master in ‘Scream of the Shalka‘).

To me it looks like the next episode will centre on The Master as Saxon, a moment for Doctor-lite leading up to the season finale. I certainly would have no objection to that – and it makes perfect sense to go for a three-parter for that reason. I sincerely hope The Master will get out of this with the potential for repeated return like the Daleks… would be a shame to pull a Batman on him and kill the big villain off at the end!

How can The Doctor escape his current predicament? Well, I have theories. He could use Jack’s Vortex Manipulator, either to go back in time himself or send Jack back to locate the TARDIS and return for a rescue. They could discover that Malcassairo provided a home for more than just a long dead insectoid race… with the insectoid city built on the blasted remains of Gallifrey. Or, Utopia might well be the remains of Gallifrey. Finally (and someone else suggested this), Professor Yana’s lab contained a old-style tape-driven computer bank… a disguise The Master used for his own TARDIS in the Pertwee-era The Time Monster.

Dalek: A Second Viewing

I watched ‘Dalek‘ last night, and found the whole experience as exhilerating as the first time. I admit to finding Adam more irritating than originally – someone who could have beaten Adric or Melanie for sheer annoyance factor. Mind you, only a few episodes in Rose seemed oddly annoying too and I didn’t feel her performance amounted to much.

However, overall the episode entertained and enthralled with all that shouting, running and Dalek action. The enhancements to the Dalek proved logical and breath-taking to view – and I can’t help giggle with glee when the multi-directional central portion of the ‘pepperpot’ kicks into action. Christopher Eccleston turns in an excellent performance, spittle and all – a desperate and lonely man faced with his mortal enemy and the haunting fact that the situation he stands in comes down to his own actions in the first place.

If you didn’t know (and I guess this appeared somewhere direct from the big ‘T’), the Time War started because the Daleks got wind of the events recounted in ‘Genesis of the Daleks‘, where the Timelords sent the Doctor to nip the plans of Davros in the bud and preventing the Daleks from ever existing. The Fourth Doctor’s conscience got the better of him when he realised without the Daleks a lot of great events would never have happened – alliances and advances across the Universe bought about by a common enemy. Discovering the underhanded tactics of the Timelords and in possession of their own time travelling devices, the Daleks and their Emperor set about putting an end to the threats of Gallifrey.

So – an episode well worth returning to, with more ups than downs come the end of 45 minutes.

Blink: First Glance

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the seasons ‘Doctor Lite’ episode ‘Blink‘ proves you utterly wrong. Steven Moffat created an incredible story from a very basic premise and left a lasting after-image to haunt little kiddies for some time to come. Not since the Nimon has anything really frightened me in Who, but even I will treat statues with a little more caution from now on.

Like earlier episodes, ‘Blink’ provided knowing nods to other sources, like ‘Back to the Future: Part II’ in this instance. The dark coated messenger turning up with a message from the past echoed the final scenes of the film, including the flinch from the heroine as the messenger pulls the letter from the inside of his coat.

I didn’t stop to think for a moment during the episode, didn’t care to wonder whether any inconsistencies might exist in the storyline. Having so much timey-wimey stuff involved makes it easy enough to sidestep any problems anyway… and the episode worked, so why pick. I shall be going back to my 2005 Doctor Who annual to re-read the short story by Moffat that trickled into the writing of this episode. Didn’t even occur to me until I read about it afterwards.

The Family of Blood: First Glance

I appreciate the Doctor Who team keeping the best ’til last. The season offered a lot from the get-go, but the quality seems to have got better and better over time. Following on from ‘Human Nature‘, ‘The Family of Blood‘ offered a satisfying conclusion to a complex tale, with action, excitement, explosions and poignancy aplenty.

The Family continued to offer some top grade evil, though the Doctor almost out-eviled them at the end with his diabolical punishment for each member. The whole plotline with the nurse got quite heart-rending in the end, with the fob watch offering a glimpse of a happy (if foreshortened) future for the Doctor as a mere mortal.

The assault on the school mirrored the tragic violence yet to come in the Great War, where soldiers instead of scarecrows would fall like ragdolls under the withering fire of machine guns. John Smith realised the terrible wrong inherent in exposing such young men to the horrors of war… In the following year, soldiers would go to war expecting to spend only weeks or months on the front, treating the whole affair like some minor skirmish or a game of war. By 1918, the effects of the Great War would scar the consciousness of Great Britain forever.

The Doctor’s sneaky activities in the Family’s ship reminded me of the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) in his earlier days, the butterfingered clown knocking into and falling over things with minimal provocation.

Stirring stuff and a very welcome distraction indeed!