The Essential Guide to Big Finish Audios


UPDATED 7-19-2014

So you’re new to Big Finish and want to know how to get started, especially with the Doctor Who lines? Friend, have I got something great for you. My essential guide to Big Finish audios.

Now this isn’t a comprehensive list, and it only includes those titles I’ve actually listened to. How many is that? Hard to tell. Close to two-hundred of the main range of Doctor Who along with others scattered around throughout. And Big Finish themselves have a nice little guide of where to start with their titles. But I think my list of essential audios holds up well.

For the sake of convenience, all the Doctor Who titles are grouped by Doctor. Beyond that, you’ll find each non-Who range has its own entry. Enjoy!

The First Doctor

Of course William Hartnell, who played the First Doctor all those many years ago, is long dead. This means that he’s not available for appearances in…well, really much of anything, honestly. So in order for Big Finish to do stories featuring him, as well as the Second and Third Doctors, they created the Companion Chronicles line. This line enables them to tell stories of these Doctors without having the actors who played them. So while you might see Companion Chronicle titles turn up for Doctors 4 – 8, with 1 -3, they’re going to be most of what you get.

The Companion Chronicles

5.06 – “Quinnis” – This story features Susan and the First Doctor and takes place before the start of the TV series! It features the TARDIS landing on an alien planet and actually disguising itself! It also winds up tying into the fourth season of the Eighth Doctor stories, and therefore is very essential listening!

*** NEW *** 3.05 – “Home Truths” – One of the great strengths of Big Finish is their ability to make something big out of something very little. In this case, the First Doctor companion character, Sara Kingdom. She was only in one story, “The Dalek Masterplan”, which is now missing. During that twelve-part (!) story, her character was killed. But Big Finish managed to find a way to bring her back, played once again by Jean Marsh. This is the story that features her return, and it’s quite interesting.

5.08 – “The Perpetual Bond” – This story, narrated primarily by Peter “Steven Taylor” Purves, who does an excellent job recreating the First Doctor, takes place in London in 1966. It’s a fascinating tale about aliens, slavery and secrets. It also introduces a new companion for the First Doctor in the form of Oliver (Tom Allen), an accountant who is on the run from the law. This was the first Companion Chronicle story I listened to, and it remains one of the best.

5.12 – “The Cold Equations” – Part two of Oliver’s journey with the Doctor finds him and Steven facing life or death in an odd bit of corridor floating in the cold vacuum of space. It’s a weird situation, but it’s a great story, and features not only the reason Oliver was on the run from the law, but also gives Steven a chance to be a space pilot, something which he never really got to do on the show, despite being…well, a space pilot.

6.05 – “The First Wave” – The conclusion to the unofficial “Oliver trilogy” finds our heroes stuck on a planetoid named Grace Alone, where they face alien invasion and death. This is something of a downbeat story in some ways, but very much essential listening for anyone who likes good drama.

*** NEW *** – 8.03 – “Upstairs” – This is a really creepy little story featuring the First Doctor, Steven and Vicki. They arrive on Earth and find themselves wandering around in a strange attic, where each room seems to exist in a different time period, but all at the same location: Number 10 Downing Street.

805-the-beginning_cover_large

*** NEW *** 8.05 – “The Beginning” – The Doctor and Susan have their first adventure off of Gallifrey! Yes, this is the first story, and it begins with the Doctor stealing the TARDIS. Unfortunately, there’s someone else inside it; a man known as Stoyn. He’s a technician who was working on the ship when the Doctor stole it, and this is the first part of a three-part adventure featuring him as the main antagonist. The other parts are “The Dying Light” and “Luna Romana”, both of which I also recommend.

The Lost Stories

These are stories that were at various stages of production, but never quite made it to the TV screen. With Big Finish you can now get a taste of what those would have been like! For the First and Second Doctor, these Lost Stories are in a form not unlike the Companion Chronicles line.

2.01 – The First Doctor Box Set – “The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance” is a decent enough story, but the real gem here is “Farewell, Great Macedon,” which has the TARDIS crew arriving in Babylon just in time for a visit by Alexander the Great. But is this the first time he’s there, while on the way to India, or is this the second time, where his next stop was the afterlife? While Carol Anne Ford’s performance isn’t perhaps all we might ask for, the story itself is really excellent and William Russell’s take on the First Doctor is every bit as good as that of Purves.

Interesting Who News


So two bits of fascinating Doctor Who news for the geeks like me.

First off, there’s been a costume change for the Dcotor. The Eighth Doctor, that is. The one from the really awful 1996 movie. Now this is interesting because he’s only been doing audio adventures for the last several years and had only one on-camera appearance. This begs the question of why anyone would bother to redesign his costume since it’s never actually seen. According to the article I linked to above, it’s for “promotional purposes”. But that doesn’t really make a lot of sense, as, again, he’s only in audios.

This leads me to one very hopeful conclusion: perhaps the BBC is testing the waters to see if people might be interested in seeing some sort of Eighth Doctor mini-series. I can easily see them doing a “Children of Earth”-style six-part story or something like that. Call it Doctor Who: Time War. Bring back McGann and Eric Roberts, show us some Romana, let us see the nasty battles, etc. Is it likely? I don’t really know. But I can hope!

Also of note in that article is the fact that the Eighth Doctor has a new sonic screwdriver designed by WETA, the people who did the special effects for The Lord of the Rings. This is especially relevant because it sounds as though Sylvester McCoy, who played the Seventh Doctor, is going to be in The Hobbit. This is wonderful news! Great for him and great for the movie, which my friend Rob will see eventually, no matter what he says now. Well, assuming it’s good. 😀

So there you go. Two neat bits of news! Well, for geeks like me. 😉

Essential Doctor Who


*** UPDATED JUNE 8, 2011 ****

I got an email a while ago from someone who was a new fan of Doctor Who and, among other things, wanted my recommendation on which episodes were essential viewing. I compiled a list and sent it to her, and I have since decided that I should put up a list on my blog. For her I sent only three episodes from each Doctor, but there’s a few more episodes than that which are really recommended.

Sadly, there’s a lot of missing stories that I have not viewed. You see, back in the 1970’s the BBC wiped a great many of their master recordings. This included shows such as The Avengers, Z-Cars and Dad’s Army, as well as, sadly, Doctor Who. Over the years a great many of them have been recovered, but there’s still lots missing. Most of what’s missing are Second Doctor episodes, but there’s quite a few First Doctor ones that are gone as well. The curious can see some of the episodes from incomplete stories on the “Lost in Time” collection. It’s a bit esoteric, but worth seeing.

For purposes of this list, I am including only complete stories that have been released on DVD and that I have watched and find to be essential.

The First Doctor – 1963 – 1966

The First Doctor, played by character actor William Hartnell (view him younger and in color in The Mouse That Roared), was a mysterious time traveler, origins unknown, who moved through space and time in his police box-shaped TARDIS, known for being bigger on the inside than the outside. While at first he was something of an anti-hero and disinclined to involve himself in whatever was happening, he began to slowly evolve and soon started putting himself in the way of evil at every chance.

This version of the Doctor was something of an old man. He was often cranky and cantankerous, frequently prone to doing things he wanted to do even if it put his companions in danger, and, on rare occasions, a kind, gentle man who showed genuine affection for those around him. The way his character changed throughout the four seasons he was on the air is part of his real charm.

“An Unearthly Child/The Daleks” – This DVD set includes the first-ever adventures of the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan. Thus it is by definition essential viewing. But even better than that, you also get “The Daleks”, which contains the first appearance of, you guessed it, the Daleks. It’s a great set of stories and a great DVD set!

NEW – “The Keys of Marinus” – This is an odd little story, or rather, set of stories. It’s six broadly connected episodes focusing on the Doctor and friends trying to find the missing segments of the Key to Time the Keys of Marinus. It plays kind of like a video game where they get each one and then walk to a man with an ! over his head for the next step on the quest. But this enables them to tell some really interesting different types of stories including, of all things, a police/courtroom drama.

“The Dalek Invasion of Earth” – The return of the Daleks, plus a fairly dark and epic storyline and the end of one companion’s journeys with the TARDIS. All around great!

“The Rescue / The Romans” – “The Rescue” is no great shakes, but it’s not bad. The real quality piece on here is “The Romans”, which is one of the earliest existing “historical” episodes, as well as being essentially a comedy. It’s a really fun episode and a nice break from what’s gone before.

Entirely too pleased with himself.

NEW – “The Space Museum/The Chase” – As with the previous discs, the first one on here, “The Space Museum”, is no great shakes, though it’s wonderful seeing the First Doctor hide inside a dalek. But the real win on this set is “The Chase”. It’s not a great story, though it’s not bad and features daleks and Dracula, so there’s that, but it’s an important one for it marks the departure of the last original companions. Yes, Ian and Barbara leave at the end of the story, leaving Vicki alone with the Doctor. It’s a sad moment, but it’s only the first of many departures we’ll see over the decades.

“The Time Meddler” – What’s up with the mysterious Monk and his vaguely odd abbey? The first of the psuedo-historical adventures.

“The War Machines” – The Doctor returns to “contemporary” Earth, loses one companion and gains two others. The last fully-intact First Doctor story.

The Second Doctor – 1966 – 1969

William Hartnell was getting fairly old and in frail health. The show was doing well and the powers that be wanted to keep it going. What to do, they wondered. What to do? Eventually some brilliant sod hit upon the notion of regeneration, and thus a new Doctor was born!

This new Doctor was very different from the original. Patrick Troughton, largely known to non-Who fans from his brief role in The Omen, played the character as rather comedic and disarming, presenting him as something often referred to as “a cosmic hobo”. But despite his charm, very real strength and ability lay within.

As mentioned there’s very few of this Doctor’s adventures that exist in full. Not all of those have been released on DVD. Nevertheless here’s the best of those that have been, including one special one.

“The Tomb of the Cybermen” – First fully-existing story featuring the Second Doctor. It also has Jamie and Victoria (in her only fully-existing story), and features the return of the last villains faced by the First Doctor, the Cybermen!

NEW – “The Dominators” – This is an interesting one. When I first saw it back in the 1980’s, I clearly didn’t like it, since I had no fond memories. This is doubtless due to the Quarks, which were intended as a replacement villain for the daleks. After you watch this story, you’ll realize just how insane that idea is. But anyhow, I watched the story again on DVD and I must say, my memories were faulty. This is a much better story than I’d remembered it being. The story is solid, and the guest actors, particularly the lead Dominator, do a very good job. Even the Quarks come off better than I remember. This isn’t a perfect episode, but it is a solid one and worth seeing.

“The Invasion” – Another Cybermen story, but this one is quite unique. See, two of the eight episodes are missing, and when animated copies were offered to the DVD company at cut-rate prices, they jumped on it. As a result, those episodes are recreated in animated form. They look a bit naff at a times since they’re done with Flash, but they still work surprisingly well! To make matters even better, this is a first-rate story, and features not only Zoe, but UNIT, Sargent Benton and the Brigadier!

NEW – “The Seeds of Death” – Say hello to the Ice Warriors. They’re the original inhabitants of Mars, something I’m sure John Carter would be surprised to hear. They’ve been mentioned in the new series but haven’t turned up yet. This is probably the best use of their characters and also an interesting glimpse of what the producers thought a functioning future version of Earth might be like. Plus you get to see Troughton being his usual insane self. Always a plus.

“The War Games” – A ten-episode spectacular to mark the end of the Second Doctor’s time in the TARDIS, and also the last episode in glorious monochrome! Thrills, spills, chills and lots of scenes of the Doctor and his companions being captured. Repeatedly. Still, a marvelous story, and a great setup for the next Doctor!

The Third Doctor – 1970 – 1974

The Time Lords have forced the Doctor to regenerate and exiled him to Earth. Punishment for all the times he defied their laws and interfered with other words. He arrives in the 1970’s (possibly), and teams up with UNIT. With them, and sometimes despite them, he fights against alien invasions, strange, possibly magical forces, and runs into his best enemy, the Master.

Jon Pertwee’s Doctor was another great departure from what had gone before. He was much more of a dandy, and an action and science oriented sort of man. He drove a bright yellow roadster, frequently took the side of aliens over humanity when he thought humanity was in the wrong and became the first Doctor to have an adventure with his other selves. All of his stories, thankfully, exist in full, so let’s have a look at the best!

“Spearhead from Space” – A new Doctor, a new companion, and new enemies in the Autons. The only original series story shot entirely on film, it looks and feels quite a bit different from anything that had gone before. It truly does an exceptional job of setting the stage for the rest of the Third Doctor’s tenure in (though usually out of), the TARDIS.

“Doctor Who and the Silurians”/”The Sea Devils” – The DVD I link to here actually contains two Third Doctor stories and one Fifth Doctor story. I’m listing it here because the complete set is a great deal and the stories are all excellent! You get to see some of the moral complexity that was introduced during the Third Doctor’s tenure, you get to meet the Silurians and the Sea Devils and you also get to see the first, and best, version of the Master (though not in his first appearance which is not yet available on DVD). Really it’s a set you can’t go wrong with, especially if you’re someone new to the series.

NEW – Inferno – See the Doctor face an evil mirror version of the Brigadier! No, he doesn’t have a goatee, but he has an eye patch and no mustache. Truly a force to be reckoned with. This is one of the few episodes to deal directly with the notion of alternate universes and is just a generally fascinating story.

NEW – “Terror of the Autons” – Well, here we are. The first appearance of the Master. The man who is Moriarty to the Doctor’s Holmes. In this story the Master turns up being suave, polite, sophisticated and utterly ruthless. He is in almost every way the Doctor’s exact opposite. Roger Delgado really tears up the screen with his performance and makes this a truly must-see story.

“The Three Doctors” – Not the best story the show has ever had, but far from the worst, and certainly the best multi-Doctor story. Yes, you get the Second and Third Doctors running around trying to stop a bad guy while the First Doctor advises them from a TV screen. It actually works out reasonably well and the interplay between Troughton and Pertwee alone makes for a must-see story.

Hello, Sarah Jane.

NEW – “The Time Warrior” – The introduction of the Sontarans, aka: Potato Heads in Space! Oh, and Sarah Jane Smith gets her first appearance here, too. She’s no one important. This is a good pseudo-historical episode featuring knights, castles, aliens and all sorts of fun! It’s well worth seeing.

NEW – “Planet of the Spiders” – The last adventure for the Third Doctor, and the last “true” UNIT adventure. With this story you have Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton, the Brig, Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor together for one last adventure. The story is a bit confusing and lately when I see it I want to whisper “There’s something on your back!”, but mostly it holds up well and the regeneration scene at the end is very satisfying and moving. It’s also quite bittersweet to watch this now in the wake of the recent deaths of Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen.

The Fourth Doctor – 1974 – 1981

If you’ve only ever seen one episode of Doctor Who, it likely was one with the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker. With his powerful voice, distinctive look and exuberant personality, he quickly became one of the most, if not the very most, popular Doctors ever. For seven years he adventured around in time and space with no less than nine different companions. He fought the Sontarans, the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master and even ran afoul of the Black Guardian.

Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor really is something to see. He brings a level of energy that was missing with the previous Doctors and which, arguably, the new series has continually tried to recapture, with David Tennat coming the closest. He really is amazing in the role and has had some of the best stories of the entire series. Here’s the essential ones currently out on DVD.

“Genesis of the Daleks” – The Time Lords come up with an idea to rid the universe of the Daleks. They decide to send the Fourth Doctor, only on his fourth adventure, to Skaro to prevent the creation of the Daleks. There he meets up with their creator, Davros, one of the most enduring villains of the series. The story is excellent and really well-acted. It’s heavy on the Nazi imagery (sometimes a bit too much so), and is frequently at the top of the list of best stories ever. I’d say that if you only see one Doctor Who story, this is the one to watch.

“Pyramids of Mars” – Egyptology was a major thing back in the 1970’s, and leave it to Doctor Who to get into the act. This story is a wonderful pseudo-historical and ties in nicely with Egyptian mythology. The only real weak point are evil mummies that kill you with… er… group hugs. Ahem. Otherwise, a great story!

“The Deadly Assassin” – An excellent story, and the only one of the original series to feature the Doctor traveling solo! Something nasty is afoot on Gallifrey. Someone is offing Time Lords left and right. The Doctor shows up just in time to be a suspect and then to help solve the case. With great shades of The Manchurian Candidate, more Time Lord lore than you can shake a stick at and a really good plot, this one is a definite must-see!

“The Talons of Weng-Chiang” – Production values on the original series were never higher than in this story! The Doctor and his companion, Leela, a warrior woman from a fairly primitive planet, arrive in old London Town in the 1880’s. They’re looking to have a good time at the theater and then stumble onto murther! Murther most foul! The Doctor, very much channeling Sherlock Holmes, begins to investigate! Heavy on the atmosphere, with a great story, exceptional acting and, as mentioned, very high production values, this is also a story that ranks at or near the top of every list of best stories compiled for the series. It’s certainly the best pseudo-historical ever made, and if you only ever see one of those, make it this one.

“The Key to Time” – The Doctor gains a new companion in the form of Time Lady Romana. Together with her he travels around the universe in a season-long story arc centering around their efforts to get the Key to Time and stop the ruthless Black Guardian. This set of stories is not everyone’s cup of tea, and one of the stories within is arguably one of the worst ever made for the original series. But that said, you can’t fault them for a lack of ambition and most of what’s in here is really good!

NEW – “City of Death” – An all around great story with Baker at his manic best! The screenplay was massively rewritten by Douglas Adams and you get a brief cameo by John Cleese. Add in location filming in Paris and Julian Glover as the villain and you have a really incredibly good story!

“The E-Space Trilogy” – These stories see the departure of two companions and the addition of one (the constant focus of my lusts when I was a teenager, Adric). These are terribly good stories and are all worth seeing. They also do an excellent job of clearing the decks for what’s to come.

“The Keeper of Traken”/”Logopolis” – “It is the end,” Doctor says at last. “But the moment has been prepared for…” Yes, it certainly was. These two episode form a minor arc that leads into the last of the Tom Baker years and the start of the Peter Davidson years. While fans are somewhat divided on how the Fourth Doctor meets his end (really? That’s the best they could come up with?), and many really dislike the “strange white figure” concept, there’s no denying that these are strong stories, and not only see the farewell to Baker but also the addition of companions Nyssa and Teagan. Truly these stories cannot be missed!

The Fifth Doctor – 1982 – 1984

With the departure of Tom Baker, the series was set for some major changes. The TARDIS now carried a new Doctor played by noted, and notably younger, actor Peter Davison. The youngest actor to play the Doctor until Matt Smith, Davison brought a fresh new air to a series some thought was growing stale. With a crowd of three companions, something not seen since the Second Doctor, we got a whole series of wonderful stories, a hugely epic 20th anniversary special and the tragic death of a character.

The Fifth Doctor once again squared off against some of the same old adversaries (the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Sea Devils, the Silurians, Davros, the Master, the Black Guardian), but still managed to find time for some new enemies, and also got to embark on the last of the historical adventures; the sadly awful “Black Orchid”, about which I have written before. But there’s also a hell of a lot of good stories with him, too! Also, to this day he remains the only Doctor from the original series to appear in the new, albeit in a ten-minute short film. We fans will take what we can get!

“Castrovalva” – Hmmm… that link seems familiar. Anyhow, this is part three of a trilogy. It follows directly on the heels of “Logopolis”, and shows the Doctor’s regeneration starting to fail. Much of the story is kind of iffy, but Davidson’s performance is good enough to compensate and there’s some truly bizarre images that make for fascinating viewing.

NEW – Kinda – A really strange story with lots odd, atmospheric content. This also features a really meaty role for Janet Fielding who has a great time playing Tegan and the Mara. Good enough that it spawned a (nice but not required), sequel.

“Earthshock” – Notorious for featuring the first death of a real companion (Sarah Kingdom and Katarina just don’t count, dammit!), this story also features the return of the Cybermen as well as some great performances by Davidson and Matthew “Adric” Waterhouse. It’s a bit depressing at the end, depending on how one feels about the companion who dies, and it’s certainly a great story.

The Black Guardian Trilogy – An old companion leaves and a new, rather suspicious companion, joins. Turlough is the name of the latter and he’s a terribly iffy character throughout the series, always anxious to sell out at just about every opportunity, at least at first. He’s introduced in this three-part story arc that also features the welcome return of the Brigadier and the less welcome return of the Black Guardian.

“The Five Doctors” – Really, it’s more like “The Three-and-a-Half Doctors”, because Tom Baker didn’t want to be in it, and William Hartnell was dead. He’s replaced by Richard Hurndal who looks and sounds quite a bit like the First Doctor, if you’ve never seen nor heard the First Doctor. The story is mediocre in the extreme, but on the other hand you get to see the First (sort of), Doctor, the Second Doctor, the Third Doctor, the Fifth Doctor, Susan, Jamie, Zoe, Liz, Mike Yates, Sarah Jane, K-9, Tegan, Turlough, the Cybermen, the Daleks, a Yeti and a slew of Time Lords! Made for the 20th anniversary this is also the only 90 minute episode, and if you get this DVD version of it, make sure to listen to the commentary by David Tennant and some of the people from the new series. It’s something of an Easter Egg on Disc 2 and well-worth listening to.

“The Caves of Androzani” – We say goodbye to the Fifth Doctor in this story. It’s a very good story, with some wonderful acting, particularly by Davison, especially in his final moments. Something of a shadow hangs over the tale, since we know he dies at the end, but he goes out doing what he should have done and sets the sage for the most controversial Doctor of them all.

The Sixth Doctor – 1985 – 1986

Ask ten fans of the series what they think of the Sixth Doctor and you’ll get at least ten different opinions, if not more. From the very start the producer, John Nathan-Turner (another one to ask ten fans about), wanted to have a very different sort of Doctor. He wanted someone a bit more abrasive and hard to like, someone that would grow on the audience. His choice, relatively unknown actor Colin Baker, did very well at the first part of that formula, but perhaps somewhat less so at the second part.

To be honest Baker never really had a chance as the Doctor. He was dressed in what is possibly the worst outfit ever on the show, and saddled with some rather odd plot lines. He did too well initially at being unlikable, and in the end failed to grab hold of the audience. For the first time in the show’s history, it was put onto an 18 month hiatus. It was then brought back for a shortened season which hadn’t been planned as Baker’s last, but nevertheless ended up being so, as he was fired at the end. He refused to come back for a regeneration scene (and who can blame him?), and so his unexpected last words were, “Carrot juice?!”

The character does have a following, however, and has redeemed himself in the eyes of many through a series of novels and audio adventures by Big Finish. Those will be addressed in a separate article on the spin-offs. Meantime, here’s the essentials for the Sixth Doctor!

“The Twin Dilemma” – The story here is frankly crap. It concerns some weird twins with the unfortunate names of Romulus and Remus (names made more unfortunate by the fact that neither of the rather adorable actors playing the twins can say “r” without it sounding like a “w”. Why they weren’t renamed Castor and Pollux I’ll never know), who get kidnapped by some guy who needs their math powers to do some thing against some aliens and take over the universe or something. I’ve never understood it nor cared for it. But the story is worth viewing to see the totally different take Baker has on the character right from the start. First he tries to strangle Peri and then he tries to sell her out. Damn! Now that’s some change we can believe in! Or not, since as I mentioned, he got fired.

“Vengeance on Varos” – In many ways a rather prescient story, this one tells us of a world where reality TV has gone horribly wrong. It also introduces us to the completely repulsive character of Sil, who turns up later on in the series and in at least one of the audios. He’s quite fascinating and a great example of the sort of creatures the series could make when they really tried.

“Mark of the Rani” – A very decent story that introduces us to the Rani, a renegade Time Lady, and brings back the Master. It’s also set in 18th century England was filmed in a preserved coal town. You get some fascinating glimpses of life back then as well as a pretty damn fine story!

“The Trial of a Time Lord” – Unintentionally this was the last set of episodes with the Sixth Doctor, but at least he gets to go out with a bang! Featuring the return of Sil, as well as an appearance by the Master, and special guest star BRIAN BLESSED, this set of stories also sees the departure of Peri and the… well, not arrival, exactly, but first series appearance of new companion, Mel. It’s a pity that this was the end of the line for the Sixth Doctor, but at least we went on to someone almost universally liked.

The Seventh Doctor – 1987 – 1989 (and 1996)

The Seventh Doctor was played by Scots actor Sylvester McCoy and he brought a very interesting take on the character. His Doctor was far darker than what had gone before and very ruthless and manipulative. This was partly due to the so-called “Cartmel Masterplan“, which was supposed to restore some of the mystery to the character. There’s several hints through out this Doctor’s episodes that he was something more and different than he claimed. Hints were dropped that he might’ve been directly involved with the experiments that started time travel for the Time Lords, and certainly his primary companion, Ace, was more than she appeared to be, or so the Doctor believed.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Cartmel Masterplan come to fruition. Several of the first stories with the Seventh Doctor were truly awful, including such crap as “The Happiness Patrol”, “Paradise Towers”, and “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”. By the time the show returned to form with some exceptional stories the audience had stopped caring. The show was put on hiatus in 1989 and wouldn’t return for almost seven years. The time between was filled with a series of “New Adventures” novels, including the famous Lungbarrow, which finally brings the Cartmel Masterplan to some sort of resolution.

But before the cancellation there were some great stories! Let’s see what they are (and notice that none involve Mel. She was created for the Sixth Doctor and would’ve worked well with him, but did not work at all with the Seventh).

NEW – “Time and the Rani” – This is a fundamentally broken story. It’s stupid, ill-conceived and makes little to no sense. It also turns the Rani from an interesting character to just another Time Lord bent on taking over the universe. It’s a real waste. So why is it here? Well, because it’s the first story to feature the Seventh Doctor. That’s it, really. There’s really nothing good to say about this story other than that.

“Remembrance of the Daleks” – What was the Doctor doing on Earth with Susan back in the day? Turns out he was there to hide a Time Lord artifact of great power. Now the Daleks have shown up to find this artifact, and opposing them is the Doctor, Ace and… some other Daleks? A hell of a great episode.

“Battlefield” – The last appearance by the Brig in Doctor Who, though he did show up later on The Sarah Jane Adventures. This was a very good story to send him out on. It’s steeped in Arthurian legend and seems to indicate that an alternate universe version of the Doctor is actually Merlin. It’s a bit off and a bit odd at times, but it’s a great storyline and really good example of what the show could do when it tried.

“The Curse of Fenric” – This story delves a bit into Ace’s past (as does a less worthy story, “Ghost Light”), and also contains World War II, vampires and Soviets. It’s a busy story, but it holds up quite well!

“Survival” – Click the link. See that picture on the cover? No, not Ace. The one with the Doctor holding a rock. Yeah, he’s about to bash that into the Master’s head. A dark story, you ask? Oh, yes. The Doctor and Ace return to her home town to find it overrun with odd cats and to discover that many of her friends have disappeared. Eventually the friends are found and have gone through some changes, as has the Master. This is, sadly, the last story in the original series. It goes down on a high-note, but it’s sad that it was the end for many, many years.

The Eighth Doctor – 1996 (or possibly 1996 – 2005)

Which Doctor has more stories than any other? If you include all the spin-off media (books, audios), then believe it or not that answer is the Eighth Doctor. Yes, despite having only one, really crappy, TV appearance the Eighth Doctor was instrumental in keeping the series alive from the time of his movie until the new series launched.

Played by Paul McGann in the movie and audios, the Eighth Doctor is something of an enigma to me personally. I’ve not read too many of his stories nor head many of his audios (a friend who has is going to come up with an essential list of those), but I will say that his appearance in the Doctor Who movie is the only thing, the one and only thing, that makes that movie worth seeing. Well, that plus Chang Lee. He’s terribly cute.

NEW LINK – Doctor Who – This film is bad. Very bad. I’ve written one of my little snarky recaps about it, that’s how bad it is.

And yet despite it’s awfulness, it is worth seeing. Why? First, it occupies an interesting middle ground almost directly between the old series and the new, and contains elements of both plus things unique to it. It also features the Seventh Doctor’s final appearance and the previously mentioned great performance by Paul McGann as the Doctor. He showed some real potential in the role and it’s a great pity a new series with him as the Doctor wasn’t commissioned (or possibly not such a pity). It’s also worth picking up the new DVD release (which I link to above), for the wonderful commentary by Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy!

The Ninth Doctor – 2005

When the series returned in 2005, veteran producer Russell T Davies, best known for the groundbreaking Queer as Folk, hired actor Christopher Eccleston to play the Doctor. At first there was some question as to whether he was the Ninth Doctor, the Tenth, the First or something else. This was eventually settled and it was determined in cannon that he’s the Ninth Doctor.

The Ninth Doctor was a veteran of the Time War, a particularly nasty conflict that waged between the Time Lords and the Daleks, finally ending with the destruction of both. The Doctor apparently had a hand in this somehow, and was, as far as he knew, the only Time Lord to escape alive. He eventually regenerated and fled to Earth, where he began a whole new series of adventures!

Now as with the Tenth Doctor, all his stories are released not as individual stories, but rather in boxed sets. I am including a link to the set in the first episode discussed for the Ninth Doctor, and the rest will be linkless. Enjoy!

“Rose” – Not really a great story, but it does bring back the Doctor, the TARDIS and the Autons. It also introduces us to Rose Tyler, one of the most… well, interesting companions. She’s a brassy, sassy, nineteen-year-old Londoner and eventually gets all teary-eyed and weepy. But she starts out strong, and here you get to see her at what’s arguably her best, before she morphs into Davies’ Mary Sue.

“Dalek” – Guess who’s back? But only one Dalek. Still, even one is enough to put some serious pain into the world. There’s a lot of twee stupidity in this story, like some man who owns the Internet, but there’s some incredible action scenes and, well, a Dalek that flies!

“Father’s Day” – An attempt at a touching story that sometimes works. It features Rose saving the life of her father in the past and then weird time creatures that pop up and start killing people. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is some of the best acting of the series by everyone in the cast and is worth seeing.

“The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” – Say hello to the first story by current series producer, Steven Moffat! Moffat specializes in stories that are heavy on the high octane nightmare fuel, and this is the first one. It starts with some creepy British kid wandering around the bombed-out ruins of London during the Blitz and ends… well, just watch it and see how it ends. Also this story introduces future Torchwood leader Captain Jack!

“Bad Wolf”/”The Parting of the Ways” – Another rather crap episode story wise, but it does include more Daleks than you can shake a stick at, plus you get to see Captain Jack nekkid! Full of drama and unfortunately the real beginning of Rose’s transformation into a Mary Sue. Also sadly this is where we bid farewell to the Ninth Doctor. Goodbye, Doctor. We hardly knew ye.

The Tenth Doctor – 2006 – 2009

Well, what to say about the Tenth Doctor? He was manic, occasionally depressive, had variable morality, was rather unlikable at times and could be exceptionally annoying. But on the other hand, as played by David Tennant he was also very interesting, very charismatic and always entertaining to watch.

In a very real sense, Tennant’s time as the Doctor is why the series has taken off so much in the UK. True, Eccleston did a great start getting it off the ground, but it was Tennant who really ran with it. He did a great job of acting like someone who was incredibly knowledgeable and ancient, but who nevertheless had a fascination for humanity and was occasionally burdened down bey dark memories of horrible things he’d done. His Doctor wasn’t perfect, but he was always fun.

Since he had three series plus the specials, that’s how I’ll break down what stories are worth seeing.

Second Series

“School Reunion” – The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, but when you have Sarah Jane Smith and K9 at the party, who cares? Yes, our favorite companions are back for this fun little story set at a school where children are being killed and apparently eaten. Yes, a delightful romp for the whole family!

“The Girl in the Fireplace” – Moffat is back with this award-winning story! The TARIDIS lands on a derelict spacecraft where the Doctor finds a portal to pre-Revolutionary France. Therein he meets a little girl, and runs into her several times throughout her life as she grows up to be Madame de Pompadour. A sad, touching tale featuring one of the coolest looking sets of villains ever in the form of some clockwork robots.

“Army of Ghosts”/”Fear Her” – In a less-than-great episode, the Doctor, Rose, Mickey and Jackie went to an alternate universe where they met Rose’s Dad and had an adventure against the Cybermen. It wasn’t good. But it did lead into this story, which not only shows us something of Torchwood, but also features a battle between the Cybermen and the Daleks as well as the Doctor finally getting rid of Rose! Well, for now anyhow.

Third Series

“The Runaway Bride” – Here we meet Donna Noble, the Doctor’s companion through the fourth series. She just gets the one adventure with him to start with, and it isn’t really exceptionally great, but it does show us her character’s start, and that alone makes it worth watching. Well, that plus you have to love a car chase that features the TARDIS zipping along down a busy freeway.

“Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” – Based on the New Adventures novel Human Nature, this story features a man named John Smith who teaches at a boy’s school in 1913 England. He’s completely human, so why does he keep having dreams of alien worlds, and a strange blue box? And what’s up with this woman, Martha, who keeps acting like she’s there to keep an eye on him? A fascinating story with some real heart to it.

“Blink” – Say hi to Sally Sparrow, a young woman who finds herself experiencing a whole lot of time oddities. First her friend disappears and then sends her a letter saying she’s in the past. Then she meets a nice young man who she starts to like, only to have him disappear into the past as well. What’s up with all these odd images of a man in glasses she keeps seeing on TV screens? And what’s with these strange statues of weeping angels, which seem to move when you aren’t watching them? A wonderful, exceptional story by Moffat. Full of atmosphere and creepiness and a definite must-see.

Fourth Series

“The Sontaran Stratagem”/”The Poison Sky” – Now with Donna Noble firmly by his side, the Doctor returns to Earth to investigate some strangeness. While he’s there we get return of the Sontarans and UNIT! Plus the return of former companion Martha, who left at the end of series three. A story that could’ve been better, but nonetheless works quite well, provided you don’t mind hearing Sontarans chanting.

“Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” – The Doctor and Donna visit a mysterious library that takes up an entire planet. There they find that everyone is missing. All they encounter are predatory shadows and a group of visitors lead by a woman named River Song, who seems to know the Doctor quite well. Perhaps a little too well. Seriously creepy, but also very good, and a great setup for River Song’s return with the Eleventh Doctor.

“Midnight” – What’s this? A great episode that was written by Russell T Davies?! Well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. This story focuses around the Doctor and a group of people trapped on a train together, and the Doctor discovers his greatest weapon is useless.

“The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” – The return of… well, everyone. Yes, we get Rose, Martha, Captain Jack, Mickey, Jackie, Sarah Jane Smith, Luke Smith, K9, Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister, Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper, Wilfred Mott, the Judoon, the Daleks and Davros! Just that list alone lets you know you’re in for a wild ride, and while part two cannot in any way live up to the potential of part one, it’s still a decent pair of episodes. Just try not to be pissed at what happens to Donna.

The 2009 Specials

“Waters of Mars” – A really sad, creepy story that shows just how close the Doctor is at times to turning into the Master. His victory speech at the end of the episode, and the two things that happen right after that, give us a clue as to what he could become if things went really, really bad.

“The End of Time: Part One”/”The End of Time: Part Two” – They’re back! Yes, the Time Lords have returned, as has the Master. The Doctor’s companion for these stories? Wilfred Mott, Donna’s grandfather! Guest starring just about everyone from the Davies era, this story works well as a final send off for the Doctor, Rose, Martha, Mickey and Donna. I defy any fan to not get at least a little choked-up.

The Eleventh Doctor – 2010 – ?

We’re now a series-and-a-half into the 11th Doctor’s stories. The current series is definitely one of the best ever, and certainly the best of the new series. The Eleventh Doctor has proven to be very interesting and entertaining and Matt Smith has done a great job in the role! Supporting characters like Amy, Rory and River Song have also all proven to be really good and have brought a new dimension to the series. They’ve also helped step up the series’ profile here in the States with BBC America getting their highest ratings ever and advertising the crap out of the show. Heck, Matt Smith was even on an episode of The Late, Late Show, which gives you an idea of how popular the show is becoming here!

That in mind, here’s the essential viewing (so far), for the Eleventh Doctor.

The Fifth Series was a bit uneven, with some really great stories and some… well, there were the Silurian episodes, and let’s just leave it at that, shall we? This is a happy place.

“The Eleventh Hour” – The Doctor, newly-regenerated, crashes the damaged TARDIS on Earth. There he meets a seven-year-old girl. She helps him adjust and then asks to come with him. He says sure, he’ll be back in five minutes. She packs her things and sits down to wait. She waits quite a long time before he comes back. Not a perfect episode, but a decent start to the new series and a good idea of the “flavor” of stories we can look forward to (hopefully not fishstick and custard flavored).

“The Time of Angels”/”Flesh and Stone” – The Weeping Angels are back, as is River Song. She hasn’t been to the library yet, but she knows the Doctor and he knows her. We aren’t yet at her first meeting with him. Got that? Anyhow, there’s lots of unpleasant nightmare fuel here, as well as some really effective scenes centering around Amy, plus the mystery of River Song deepens. The first really good story with the new Doctor! Here’s to hoping we get many, many more!

NEW – “Vincent and the Doctor” – A sad, sweet story about Vincent van Gogh. The Doctor and Amy meet the man and get to know him. They help him fight off an invisible monster and try to cheer him up. In a wonderful, heart-warming moment, They even bring him to 2010 so that he can see a museum exhibition of his works. A really excellent story with wonderful performances by all, particularly Tony Curran as van Gogh.

NEW – Series Six, Part One – Series six has been broken up into two parts. I’ve seen the first seven episodes which are being released on DVD in July. Here’s what’s essential from them.

Every episode.

There, that was easy. 😉 Oh, you could probably skip “The Curse of the Black Spot”, but really each episode builds off each other in such an amazing way that you won’t want to skip any. From the regenerating Time Kid, to Schrodinger’s Baby to the true identity of River Song each episode is required viewing in a way that no other series has managed to be so far. Really a superior set of stories and probably the best series thus far since the return of the show

The Worst of Doctor Who – The Doctor Who Movie


CAST OF CHARACTERS:

7th_Doctor

The 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – Enjoy the roughly five lines he gets, cause he’s not around long. On the plus side they brought him back for the show so we got a proper regeneration, but on the negative side, they killed him off quickly and stupidly.

8th_Doctor

The 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) – The one and only TV appearance by this Doctor who later went on to do several of the so-called “Audio Adventures” for Big Finish. Currently the Doctor with the largest number of stories. He’s the only thing that keeps this movie from true awfulness.

Grace

Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) – A Puccini-loving cardiac surgeon called in to examine the Doctor’s heart(s) after an irregular heartbeat is detected. She’s just as exciting as that description makes her sound. She also gets to kiss the Doctor, thus setting the bar for such companions as Rose Tyler and Captain Jack!

Chang_Lee

Chang Lee (Yee Jee Tso) – A Chinese-American gang member who winds up having a rather disturbingly close relationship with the Master. Slash fiction writers, get your word processing software ready, cause the challenge here is not reading anything into it!

The_Master

The Master (Eric Roberts) – After a great portrayal by Roger Delgado and an ok one by Anthony Ainley, we have… this. Possibly – no, certainly – the gayest Master ever seen on screen. Yes, even more gay than John Simms’ version.

The movie simply called Doctor Who, but known to many fans as “The 8th Doctor Movie”, “The Enemy Within” or simply, “That gawdawful American piece of crap,” occupies an odd place in the history of Doctor Who.

The original series went off the air in 1989, with the 7th Doctor and Ace having beaten the Master and walking off together. The new series, which features the 9th, 10th and soon, 11th, Doctors didn’t begin airing until 2005.

The Doctor Who movie, which aired on Fox in the United States, was broadcast in 1996, so it falls almost directly between the old series and the new. It features elements of both and certain things which are unique to itself. It’s something of an odd-duck to the rest of the show, being neither the old series or the new, and while it isn’t without its charms, it has many, many failings.

Those failings mostly center around the storyline. See, the obvious thing to do with this story, especially as it was directed at an audience who largely had never even heard of, much less seen, Doctor Who, would be to include an accessible villain. Someone out there thought the Master was a good choice, and I guess he was ok, but nothing special. The Daleks or Cybermen would’ve been much more interesting.

To make matters worse, most of the characters behave like idiots, it’s pointlessly set on New Year’s Eve, 1999, the Master is extremely gay, and the eventual resolution to the storyline is very confusing as well as containing a massive deus ex machina, which really drags things down. There are good things, of course, like the 8th Doctor and some of the throwaways to the fans, but for the most part, the story really drags down the movie.

BTW: For those who want to see this movie, well, you’re outta luck if you live in North America. Due to rights issues, it hasn’t had a region one DVD release and probably never will. The good news is that if you have a region-free DVD player or a DVD ROM with VLC Player installed, you can buy a copy from Amazon.co.uk. With shipping, it only cost me about $11, which isn’t too bad.

Anyhow, on with the show!

Title

We begin with a shot of Skaro. For those of you who thought it had been destroyed at the end of “Remembrance of the Daleks“, think again. A voice over by the 8th Doctor informs us that the Master was captured by the Daleks who executed him (apparently in a helium environment, judging by how high-pitched their voices are as they say “EXTERMINATE!”). The Master’s final request was to have his remains brought to his and the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey. The Time Lord acquiesced and the Doctor picked up the box with the Master’s remains to bring them back home.

The daleks make ready to remove the Master from his original packaging.

Not even to the opening credits and we have several problems. First, the planet of Skaro was, as I mentioned, destroyed in a previous episode. Ok, so maybe this takes place before that, I don’t know; that’s part of the joys of time travel, I suppose. It makes up for sloppy continuity.

Also, the Dalek voices are really high-pitched here. No exaggeration. It sounds like they’ve got Alvin and the Chipmunks driving them. From what I recall in the commentary the director of the movie did the voices. I’m not clear why, but one would think they could processed them to sound, you know, menacing instead of hilarious.

Third, why would the Daleks give the Master a final request and then relay it to Gallifrey? The Daleks aren’t the most loveable, huggable species in the universe. Most likely they would’ve captured him, gloated a little and then killed him without letting him make any last wishes.

Fourth, why would the Time Lords agree to this request? Surely they’d know it was a trap. Ok, perhaps they wanted to get rid of the Doctor by sending him there, but come on.

Fifth, why wouldn’t the Daleks simply blast the Doctor as soon as the TARDIS landed? Showing restraint is not something they are widely known for.

Sixth why would the Doctor agree to do this, and then not make sure he had the box in his sight at all times? The Doctor isn’t stupid; he would’ve known the Master would find a way to come back.

Seventh, why wasn’t this a trap by the Daleks? It’s exactly the kind of thing they would have done.

So, basically, in the first minute of the movie we’ve managed to see seven rather stupid mistakes that are guaranteed to annoy most of the fans of the original series. Well done! It’s seldom a movie manages that many problems. That’s one stupid mistake about every eight seconds! I am impressed.

On the plus side, they did at least reference the Daleks, however poorly, and they showed the Master having cheetah eyes, which makes sense given the events of “Survival“, the last original series episode. That’s about the only success in this scene, though.

Now we move onto the opening credits, which should look familiar to anyone who has watched the new series, since they are quite similar. I must say, the opening titles are nicely done and they kept the original series theme, which really kicked ass! Perhaps they might be getting back on track with the fans at this point?

As the credits clear off, we see the TARDIS spinning through space, looking all CGI and kind of cool. Inside we see an interior that bears a great deal of similarity to the new series interior and none at all to the original series. I actually like this interior; it’s very roomy, spacious and rather cool looking, as well as not being quite as confused looking as the new series version. Plus it comes with a record player. Because the Doctor loves his vinyl!

Not shown screen: The TARDIS' 8-track player, Betamax, Neo Geo Pocket and hand-cranked telephone.

Also in the TARDIS we see, hooray!, Sylvester McCoy as the 7th Doctor! I always liked the 7th Doctor, especially once he was teamed up with Ace. He got some of the worst stories (“Ghost Light“, “Greatest Show in the Galaxy”, “Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen“, “The Happiness Patrol”, “Paradise Towers”… when it comes to doing a recap of his episodes, I’m spoiled for choice), but he was always entertaining on screen and he and Ace worked wonderfully together. Ace is sadly missing in this story, but so is the Doctor’s question mark sweater and question mark umbrella, so that’s a reasonable trade-off.

The Doctor takes what’s left of the Master, which apparently fits inside a small box, locks it up next to some candles (?), and then retires to the console room to listen to some jazz and read The Time Machine, by writer and former TARDIS passenger, H G Wells.

Ah, but all is not well on the TARDIS as we quickly learn! There’s a faint shaking, some noise and then the Doctor’s teacup falls onto the floor, breaking into a thousand pieces and allowing me to create what I call “The Praxis Teacup Rule”. This rule stipulates that anytime you see a teacup (or coffee cup), suddenly fall over and break, it means trouble’s a brewin’! Examples include this and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (a favorite of mine).The vibrating water cup in Jurassic Park is similar.

The box holding the Master breaks open and out oozes some slime. Yes, the Master is apparently now one of the Founders. He oozes along the ground until he reaches the TARDIS control console, causing a malfunction (I know that’s what it is, since there’s a sign saying “Critical Timing Malfunction”). The Doctor reacts and tries to get the TARDIS to land so he can figure out what’s going on. He also gets to look shocked, surprised, nervous, and scared when he sees the Master’s empty box.

I've had problems with that in the past. Thinking about baseball helps.

Down on Earth meantime, we focus on three Chinese-American boys who are running from someone/something and my heart skips a beat. Oh, my. My, my, my. Yee Jee Tso as Chang Lee. Goodness, he’s quite hot. Looking at this fellow, I might have to kick Adric to the curb. Sorry, math-boy, but Chang Lee’s got it goin’ on!

Chang Lee and his redshirt pals hop a fence, and shoot at a car that’s chasing them. Their bullets make sparks (like fictional bullets do), but cause no real harm. The people in the car drive off. Chang and his buddies celebrate, and some bad guys pop up from behind some boxes to shoot them.

Now, hang on, here. Chang and his buddies were apparently up to something and running from someone in a car. That someone knew they would hop a fence and hide in this one particular alleyway, so that someone had armed men wait for them to shoot at them. Ok, maybe it’s a place Chang and the boys always hide, but I’m still not buying it.

Anyhow, the other two boys get shot (and presumably killed, though Chang seems supremely disinterested in them), and Chang’s about to get his ticket punched when the TARDIS materializes between him and the bad guys. The bad guys kindly wait until it’s done arriving, and then shoot the hell out of it. As soon as they stop, the Doctor walks out, gets shot in the shoulder and falls over.

Argh, did the writers never watch the show?! The Doctor a: would have heard the bullets hitting the TARDIS and b: would have looked at the monitor to see what was happening and c: not walked out into gunfire! This really ticks me off. This is very out of character for the Doctor and such a stupid way to have killed off a beloved character. I mean, yes, he didn’t die right here, but the way he does die is even stupider, so I’m really trying to pretend it doesn’t happen.

Alas, we must move on. Chang Lee comes up to the injured Doctor and tries to comfort him as the Doctor tries to warn him about what appears to be Master-ooze coming out of the TARDIS’ keyhole. The Doctor passes out as Chang Lee says he’ll get help. We hear sirens in the background, and it turns out to be the police. They summon an ambulance, which shows up along with a fire crew. The paramedics start to work on the Doctor and check the injured/dead gang members as the police question Chang Lee. Once they find out he has a gun, they take him into custody and haul him downtown for questioning.

Actually, no, my mistake. None of this actually happens. What really happens is the sirens are one single ambulance which Chang gets into along with the Doctor. They then drive off and we see the paramedic inside is the one and only Eric Roberts.

Ah, Eric Roberts. Famous to the world for such amazing roles as… uhm… well, I think he played one of the suitors in a TV version of The Odyssey, right? And probably some other things. Oh, yes, he was in The Dark Knight. Beyond that? I don’t know, I can’t think of anything and I’m too lazy to look on IMDB. Besides, it’s more fun to push him around here as someone with no talent who turns in a crappy performance in a b-grade sci-fi, made-for-TV movie. It’s not fair, but it’s fun!

In the ambulance, Roberts’ character, Bruce, hands Chang some forms. Chang refuses to sign them and Bruce implies that if he doesn’t, the Doctor won’t get treated. Really? That’s really how it works in a gunshot case?

We arrive at the hospital and they all get out, as the Master ooze gets in. The police are of course waiting to question the Doctor as a gunshot victim and Chang as the only witness to the shooting and- oh, wait. No, they aren’t. Instead everyone just goes inside the hospital.

Back in the ambulance we see Odo – excuse me, the Master ooze- as it slimes around, looking vaguely snake-like and reminding me of a Doctor Who villain called the Mara. Sadly, I don’t think they were going for a reference here; I think they just wanted to have some cool CGI effects.

The Doctor’s shoulder injury is treated (as are a couple bullet wounds in his legs), but the attending physician notices the Doctor’s heart-beat is very irregular. X-rays reveal what appears to be two hearts. Well, that can’t be right! So they call their heart specialist, Dr Grace Halloway. You can bet the only heart she can’t fix… is her own (aw…). What doesn’t get mentioned in this medical stuff is that the Doctor also has a body temperature of 68 degrees, but I think that’s one of those things, like the respiratory bypass system, that exists only when the writers want it to.

Grace was attending a Puccini opera with her boyfriend who is one of those movie boyfriends that’s a total prick and gets entirely bent out of shape that his on-call, doctor girlfriend has to rush off in the middle of an opera to save someone’s life. Right. He winds up leaving her right after this, making it quite clear that there must’ve been deep relationship issues and he was just looking for an excuse.

There’s a lovely, slow motion scene of Grace in her opera gear running into the hospital to the strains of Puccini. It’s a little surreal and actually rather cool. Sadly, it’s pretty much the end of cool for this movie.

Grace gets gowned up and gets the Doctor on the table. He tries to tell her he’s not human and to basically stop what she’s doing. Understandably she doesn’t listen and has him knocked out. He wakes up a couple times, and probably wishes the writers had remembered the respiratory bypass system I just mentioned, but then finally is knocked out.

Grace starts poking around with a cardiac probe while up above we see the hospital administrator and some other people, presumably benefactors, watching. What these people are doing here on December 30, 1999, I’ll never know. Sure, it’s not New Year’s Eve yet, but it will be soon, and I strongly doubt any hospital administration stuff gets done during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s quite clear that this scene exists only to give us a chance to later have a scene where Grace’s boss gets to be a prick to her.

Anyhow, Grace is poking around with the probe. She quickly gets lost (since he has two hearts), and the Doctor starts to flatline. They try to revive him, the admin guy gives her a pissed-off look, and the Doctor dies on the operating table. So after a death that makes Tasha Yar’s look meaningful, that’s it for the Seventh Doctor. Sic transit Septimanus Doctorus. Grace stomps around, demanding to see the Doctor’s x-rays.

In the next scene, Chang, who has apparently been kicking around the hospital for the last couple hours, is woken up by a nurse. He’s brought to Grace who tells him the operation was a success, but the Doctor died. He grabs the Doctor’s bag of swag, tries to bluff Grace, and then goes running out of her office. She shouts for security and tries to stop him, but to no avail. He even runs right past a security guard who completely ignores him! Very nice.

To the left we see a security guard, apparently on his coffee break.

To the left we see a security guard, apparently on his coffee break.

Meantime, we pay a visit to la maison de Bruce, where we find Bruce sleeping next to his rather unhappy wife. As he snoozes and snores, the Master ooze turns into something like a cobra (?!), which oozes along the floor until it oozes into Bruce’s mouth. This apparently kills Bruce but on the plus side, stops him from snoring. His wife smiles, turns over and goes to sleep, unaware that hubby is now possessed by the Mara- er… the Master.

Back at the hospital, we go to the morgue where McCoy practices corpsing. The morgue attendant makes the kind of off-color, gallows humor required of anyone in such a role in a movie like this and stuffs the Doctor into a very large walk-in fridge (??!!) that the morgue has. Now I’d always thought dead people were put into drawers, but no, apparently not. Apparently they’re stuffed, gurney and all, into a walk-in fridge. Okee-dokee.

The attendant goes to sit back and watch a movie and eat some popcorn (rather like I do at work when not writing snarky recaps). He appears to be watching 1931’s Frankenstein, though some of the clips might be from the far superior Bride of Frankenstein. Both are properties owned by Universal, who also made this movie. Nice.

We transpose between the movie and the locker, where the Doctor’s arms spasmed in such a way as to move them from the sides of his body, out of the top of the sheet covering him and then back down to his sides again, but not until after they’d drawn the sheet back from his face. Obviously this was a ham-handed effort at making sure we see the Doctor’s face for the upcoming regeneration. I have to believe there’s better ways to have done this.

Morphing happens and the Doctor sits up, his eyes at a level where light shines in on them, apparently from a slit carved into the opening of the door, or something like that. When we see the door, no such slit exists, but whatever. He then begins pounding on the inside of the fridge, scaring the bejesus out of the morgue attendant. Eventually he pounds so hard that he leaves indentations in the steel, and the door is knocked off its hinges (???!!!///111… oh, crap. I just broke the shift key). The morgue attending pulls some “KOMEDY!” faces and then faints.

Ok, now, I know what you’re gonna say: How did the Doctor turn into Superman? How is he able to bash through steel and break down a door suddenly?

Super Doctor!

Super Doctor!

Believe it or not, I haven’t that much of a problem with that. It’s been established before that when the Doctor regenerates, weird shit sometimes happens. When the 10th Doctor regenerated, a Sycorax cut off one of his hands, but he grew a new one quickly, so I can accept that, in this case, the Doctor ended up with super-strength for a few seconds.

What I don’t really understand is the morgue attendant fainting. Clearly this happens because the script calls for it and no real rational reason. If I were in such a situation and saw something like this happen, I’d assume that the guy who was put in there wasn’t actually dead, and now has come back to file a malpractice suit. Ok, knocking down a steel door might fill me with a bit of surprise, but I still don’t think I’d overact like this guy and faint. I’d probably nicely ask the superguy what I can do to help him in hopes he didn’t hurt me.

The newly-regenerated (and super strong), Doctor staggers out of the morgue and into… some weird area of the hospital. It looks like it’s a place that’s been damaged by a storm or something, but there’s what appears to be some repair equipment. That would make sense if the place was damaged, but there’s also lots of mirrors and a bouquet of flowers on the floor, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. You’d think if they were going to repair the place, they’d clean up a bit first.

Either way, the Doctor staggers about some more, finds some mirror shards, looks into them and screams unto the heavens, “Who… am… I?!” Ah, post-regenerative amnesia. Nothing like an old plot cliché.

Across town meantime, the Master is sitting up in his new body and… oh, lord… there’s no way I can describe what this looks like. Just take a look at the pic below.

Master Spooge

Now it’s time for a Caption Contest! What’s the best caption for this pic?

A: Sadly, the Master’s forays into gay porn ended messily.

B: You think pink eye is bad? Try green eye!

C: I told you to warn me before you did that!

D: Make your own caption! Win cash and prizes! (not really)

You know, I make a lot of gay jokes in my recaps. Let me make it perfectly clear: I’m bi with a preference towards other guys. I have no problems with gay sex or gay people. But, damn, these recaps I’ve done, and this one in particular… I mean, it’s just so hard to restrain when they practically beg, beg for gay jokes!

Oh, well. Moving on.

Bruce’s wife wakes up to see the Master posing in front of a window. She makes some comments about how wonderful he is now, he agrees and then kills her, and I really start to miss the Delgado version of the Master.

Back at the hospital, the administrator turns up and bitches at Grace for daring to lose a patient, since as we all know, the only good doctor is one with a 100% success rate. He then takes the x-rays of the Doctor’s chest and burns them (?), saying that no one need be aware of Grace’s failings. He’s apparently doing this so he doesn’t have to discipline her and that it’s important to do this so the hospital will stay open, but that doesn’t make any real since. I mean, contrary to my joke, even the best doctor occasionally lose patients. It happens. Doctor House loses patience all the time (rim shot), and I fail to see how losing one patient under bizarre circumstances would cause the hospital to close down.

All this does is, of course, piss off Grace to the point where she says she’s resigning. We see her gather up her things, and then she gets into an elevator and the Doctor (having stolen someone’s Bill Hickok costume. Yes, there’s a costume party planned at the hospital. Possibly to welcome the visiting benefactors?) , who’s been waiting in the… er… waiting room… follows her. He makes a couple comments about Puccini. She blows him off (no, not that way, you sickos! This isn’t the Master we’re talking about!), and goes into the parking lot. The Doctor talks to her as she’s loading up her SUV, she tells him to bug off and then she notices he seems to have disappeared. She gets into the SUV and, of course, the Doctor is in the back seat.

Wearing a scarf got Tom Baker seven years on the show, you say? I bet without a scarf I can do ten!

Now we saw Grace loading up the back of the SUV a few seconds ago. She was looking directly inside when the Doctor did his little vanishing act, yet she somehow didn’t see him opening up the back door and climbing inside, nor did she feel the vehicle shake as this happened. Argh! It’s little shit like this that makes me really dislike this film.

Back inside the SUV, the Doctor talks at Grace for a few seconds and then, to her amazement, pulls out the cardiac probe. He casually mentions that he has two hearts and then, with him screaming at her to drive, she eventually drives off, taking him straight to her house. Yes, just the thing I might do under those circumstances (not really).

The Master hasn’t been lazing about this time, no sir! He’s down at the hospital creeping out a nurse by peeling off a fingernail while asking about the Doctor. Turns out everyone thinks the body has been stolen. He asks where the Doctor’s things are. She says Chang took them, the Master says, “Ah, yes. The Asian child,” and I cringe, trying not to picture the Master at a meeting of the Non-Aryan Master’s Boy-Lust Association, or NAMBLA.

No, not the National Association of Marlon Brando Look-Alikes. I'm with the other NAMBLA.

Grace and the Doctor arrive at her place. She quickly determines that, yes, he has two hearts, which as we all know is something humans don’t generally have. This still doesn’t help her to later believe that the Doctor is not, in fact, human. I have no problem with skepticism; I’m a big-time skeptic myself. But come on. This is like Scully refusing to believe in aliens and stuff despite all the things she’s seen with Mulder.

The Doctor talks about regeneration and Grace gets all butt-hurt about him treating her like a child when he talks about holding back death. He makes some cryptic remark about her dreaming of holding back death when she was a child, and she seems amazed, though I’m sure many children have a wish to stop people from dying once they become aware of the concept.

Chang meantime has been exploring the Doctor’s bag of holding. Inside he finds several things, including the sonic screwdriver and a pocket watch, which I’m sure will come in handy for both the Doctor and the Master in later years.

Chang also finds the TARDIS key, which he uses to go inside the TARDIS. He has the ususal, “It’s bigger on the inside!” moments that everyone has, and then as he wanders about inside, he finds the Master.

Dramatic Door Opening 101, with your professor, Chang Lee.

Wait, what? The Master? How the hell did he get into the TARDIS? I mean, he’s the Doctor’s mortal enemy and since the TARDIS is at least partly sentient, so it wouldn’t have let him inside voluntarily, and the Master didn’t have a key, how did he get inside? Ok, maybe he used the key the Doctor cleverly has hidden on the police box sign, but that isn’t explained, and it’s a big plot hole.

Oh, well. The Master hypnotizes Chang and takes the Doctor’s swag bag. Lee protests this thievery and the Master pins him down on the console, looking for all the world like he’s ready to show Lee the sonic screwdriver’s extra settings.

Chang Lee, after the Master shows him his sonic screwdriver.

Chang Lee, after the Master shows him his sonic screwdriver.

The Master spins a tale about how evil the Doctor is and how he stole the Master’s body as the Doctor and Grace go for a walk. During this walk the Doctor’s memories return, including life on Gallifrey. He gets so excited about this that he plants a nice kiss on Grace.

Some fans have a problem with that kiss, and I’ll admit, it bugged me at first, too. The Doctor’s relationship with his companions is always chaste, and the closest he came in the old series to getting any was when he shared a cup of erotic cocoa with an Aztec woman. True, in the new series the 9th and 10th Doctors both kiss Rose a few times (during those rare moments when she’s not getting all weepy), and the 9th Doctor even snogged Captain Jack. Given those events, the couple kisses here are no big deal. Plus I figured the Doctor was just caught up in the moment.

Back in the TARDIS the Master has managed to open the Eye of Harmony, which I think is supposed to be the power source for the TARDIS. It’s probably similar to the power source that zapped Rose at the end of the first season of new Who, especially given what it does later.

The Eye projects an image of the 7th Doctor and then shows the 8th. The Master mentions how young the Doctor looks and I flash back to my NAMLBA joke. It’s also at this point that the Master sees the Doctor’s retinal pattern and mentions that the Doctor is half human.

Wow. Well, that’s an unnecessary revelation. It’s possible that the Master was wrong or making a joke but the Doctor makes the same revelation himself later in the episode. Many fans have tried to retcon this and explain away the apparent “fact” of the Doctor’s species. Me, I just ignore it and pretend it never happened, rather like I try to do with the Bush presidency (those eight years were a coma-dream on my part, dammit!).

The Doctor apparently senses that the Eye of Harmony is open and that it’s going to destroy the entire world (?). He tries to convince Grace of this and his alienness, but she’s not buying it and runs off in a panic. Why she isn’t buying any of this is quite beyond me, but she even goes to the length of calling for an ambulance to take the Doctor to a bed in the local loony bin. She then seems him walk through the glass of her door and asks for two beds. Ho-ho. KOMEDY!

The Master and Chang hear the call for the ambulance and figure they should go pick up Grace and the Doctor. They arrive, the Doctor announces that he has to get to this place where there’s an atomic clock that has some MacGuffin he needs to power his TARDIS. Everyone piles into the ambulance… which promptly gets stuck in a traffic jam. Caused by a truck. That’s spilled live chickens onto the road. Cause, you know, on New Year’s Eve, 1999, people were transporting live poultry in large numbers into San Francisco.

The Master, who had gotten in a couple clever lines showing what the character could’ve been had they tried, loses his sunglasses at one point, revealing his evil green eyes. The Doctor reacts and tries to get out as the Master spooges onto Grace, leading to our next caption contest!

Master Spooge 2

A: This is why I gargle with soda after doing that.

B: There’s something wrong with this new toothpaste…

C: Dammit, Chang! For the second time, warn me before you do that!

D: Submit your own caption! Same prizes as before!

The Doctor and Grace go running off and they come across a motorcycle cop. The Doctor distracts the cop, grabs his gun and holds against himself, threatening to shoot unless the cop gives them his keys. This is actually a nice touch and perfectly in keeping with the way the Doctor behaves. They get the keys and go riding off, the ambulance giving chase.

Didn't they do basically this same thing in Blazing Saddles?

They manage to elude pursuit and end up at the place where the atomic clock is located. There’s some KOMEDY! Exposition, I vaguely zone out and then pay attention again when the Doctor steals the clock part he needs and escapes with Grace after hitting a fire alarm. This alarm causes everyone at the reception for the clock dedication to run out panicking and screaming.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in buildings, like office buildings, where an unexpected fire-drill occurs. What happens in these situations in real life is everyone looks vaguely at each other, ignores the rules about not grabbing any personal things, grabs their personal things and walks out. People don’t panic, scream or otherwise act like morons. Only in movies does this happen. Sure, perhaps if there were actual flames and smoke what happens in this film might be realistic, but there’s not, so it isn’t.

The Doctor and Grace make it back to the TARDIS where, for some reason, once they have the doors open, a bike cop, screaming about how he has no brakes, rides his bike inside, turns it around and comes back out again. This serves no purpose whatsoever and is amazingly distracting.

Grace and the Doctor wander inside. The Doctor starts to work on the TARDIS and is doing a good job until Grace thwacks him in the face with a large tool (no, not that large tool. The Master isn’t on screen right now!), knocking him out. The camera pans up and, oh, look, she’s been possessed by the black oil. How cute.

Meantime, on the set of <em>X-Files: Killing the Franchise</em>...

Meantime, on the set of X-Files: Killing the Franchise...

The Doctor wakes up in the Cloister Room tied to a gurney. I didn’t mention it before, but I actually rather like the design of the Cloister Room, as well as the use of the Cloister Bell, which is a nice call-back to the original series. The leaves blowing about and the CIG bats are a bit much, but otherwise the room looks cool.

There’s some mild exposition and… oh, dear, lord. If you think the Master looked gay in my spooge-a-riffic screen caps, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

It's raining men! Halleluiah, it's raining men! Amen!

It's raining men! Halleluiah, it's raining men! Amen!

Yeah, he looks just that dreadful. Jesus Christ, what the hell were the producers thinking here? Was this a game of, “Let’s see how gay we can get?” I mean, the producer of the new series is/was Russell T Davies, who is actually gay, and he made a show less gay than this! Hell, even longtime Who producer John Nathan Turner was openly gay and even he wasn’t as gay as this program! This version of the Master makes Bill Kaulitz look butch! Who, you ask? He’s the lead singer of Tokio Hotel and very, very gay (though he says he’s straight). Check this vid:

The Master is gayer than this. He’s also gayer than this:

Well, ok, maybe the Master is slightly less gay than that… anyhow.

The Doctor gets a crown of thorns put onto him (seriously), and gets into a position not dissimilar to crucifixion. He tries to convince Chang that the Master has been lying to him, and Chang is all like “nosway!” until the Master screws up and is proving to be lying. Chang calls him on it, so the Master breaks the kid’s neck and another great romance goes down the tubes.

Chang and the Master get ready for the big NAMBLA convention in Ohio!

Chang and the Master get ready for the big NAMBLA convention in Ohio!

The Master turns off Grace’s black-eye blues long enough to make her look into the Eye of Harmony which can somehow only be controlled by a human, which makes sense when talking about a piece of alien technology. Kind of like how alien spacecraft can be brought down using a virus written on a Macintosh. Yes, that’s right, Independence Day , I’m calling you out!

The Master starts stealing the Doctor’s lives as Grace goes up to rescue the Doctor. He gets free, the transference stops, Gloria Swans – er… the Master – throws Grace to her death and he and the Doctor go mano e mano. Eventually the Master flies (?!) at the Doctor who knocks him into the Eye of Harmony where he is killed forever (or until the screenwriters need him again).

The Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow so the TARDIS can travel back in time and prevent all this from happening (which violates some laws of time, I’m sure, but it’s never mentioned). As he does this, the TARDIS brings Chang and Grace back to life. This makes me wonder if the two of them are as immortal as Captain Jack.

Everyone returns to their normal place. The Doctor gives Chang some cryptic warning about not being around during Christmas of 2000. Chang appears to understand this and goes running off. The Doctor then has some hearts-to-heart moments with Grace, she decides she doesn’t want to come with him. He basically goes, “Whatever, I’ve got Rose Tyler to look forward to,” and leaves, thus ending one of the more painful and confusing 90 minute blocks in Doctor Who history.

He looks pleased now, but that's because he hasn't met the Slitheen yet.

Like I said at the outset, there’s a lot to like about this movie. It has some nice continuity moments, I liked the TARDIS interior, it felt a lot more expansive since it was confined to quarries, Chang Lee was really cute and it introduced us to the 8th Doctor who has since gone on to be many people’s favorite.

But it also had the gayest Master ever, huge plot holes, a lot of things that just don’t make any logical sense and some very, very cringeworthy moments.

But it did act as a nice bridge between the old and the new. Watching the movie now, after seeing four seasons and a couple movies of the 9th and 10th Doctors, I can see how there are a few things from this movie (like the more expansive feel and the TARDIS interior), that turn up in the new series. Plus it kept the series going throughout the late 1990’s by giving us a new Doctor and an excuse for audio adventures with the 5th, 6th and 7th Doctors (hell, even the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, is finally doing an audio adventure to be released in September! Yay!).

The BBC apparently considers this movie to be a part of canonical Doctor Who, which is good, since it introduces the 8th Doctor. He’s shown in a couple scenes in the new series, which is kind of nice. In my dreams I’d like to see them bring him back for a flashback episode taking place right after the Time War and ending with him regenerating into the 9th Doctor, but I’m not holding my breath.

I can’t hate this movie, but I also really don’t like it all that much. One of my friends who loves Doctor Who has said that it’s not any worse than what the new series does on a regular basis and sadly, that’s true. It wasn’t bad, but it should’ve been much, much better.

Next time on The Worst of Doctor Who… uh… I don’t know yet. Probably the Hartnell masterpiece, “The Web Planet”. Stay tuned…