Doctor Who is Great – 7 – Inferno

After a very long break, I’m continuing my series on some of the best and most original Doctor Who serials per season. Today, the Doctor takes a trip into a parallel universe.

Most, if not all of the biggest sci-fi franchises will sooner or later end up featuring a parallel universe. Star Trek took just over a year to broadcast the Season 2 episode “Mirror, Mirror”, so in many ways it’s surprising that Doctor Who held out for so long. But when the show did finally get around to it, it was an undoubted success.

Like “Mirror, Mirror”, Inferno featured versions of the show’s long-running, well-loved characters in its mirror universe, and once again the parallel versions were far less amiable. Liz, the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton were turned into the violent fascists Section Leader Shaw, Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart and Platoon Under-Leader Benton (the ranks were inspired by the Wehrmacht).

The Britain of the parallel universe is a dictatorial republic (the Royal Family have long since been executed) under the command of an unnamed leader represented in posters by the BBC’s visual effects designer Jack Kine, as an homage to the corporation’s earlier adaptation of 1984. What both universes share in common is Project Inferno, a plan to drill deep into the Earth’s surface which results in the unleashing of a primordial ooze turning humans into monsters, and which eventually (spoilers) causes the parallel Earth to be destroyed.

For me, the highlight of this serial is the details which go into drawing a distinction between the two universes. The reason the parallel Project Inferno is so far ahead of the real one – giving the Doctor time to go back and save his version of the Earth – is due to the extra fascist efficiency afforded by militaristic governance and enforced labour. And the design is more subtle than that – engineering expert Greg Sutton, flown in from the Middle East at short notice to work on the project, has a tan which isn’t present in his alternate version, who presumably would never have been allowed to leave the country.

The actors – especially the regulars – do an excellent job of convincing us that they really are playing two different characters, and it’s fascinating to watch how the inhabitants of the parallel universe change as their situation becomes more desperate.

The Brigade Leader, so confident and together when he has authority over everyone, breaks down once his soldiers start to desert and the civilians working on the project no longer feel obligated to listen to him. Section Leader Shaw, who starts off as an obedient militarist, is happy to rebel against her superior and even shoots him to allow the Doctor to escape – an action which will not benefit her or her government but which will allow the Time Lord to save another Earth, and another Liz.

There’s a fascinating subplot which takes place in the parallel universe between Sutton and Petra Williams, the second-in-command on the project. Early on we learn that Williams had started off as a loyal party member, but had gradually begun to warm to Sutton to the extent that she no longer reported him for his seditious language. Sutton’s rebellious nature – tolerated only because of his usefulness to the project – boils over as the Earth starts to do the same.

Towards the end, Benton arrives just in time to stop Sutton and Williams from deserting the project, before going to round up his remaining soldiers. Sutton, anger and despair radiating off him, bellows over the sound of the Earth’s demise, “The world’s going up in flame and they’re still playing at toy soldiers!”, before raising his arm in a mockery of Benton’s salute. Outside, the Platoon Under-Leader is drilling a handful of privates while the world around them becomes hotter and hotter, a demonstration of the mindset of dictatorships: with nothing they can do to prevent their inevitable fall, they cling to the last vestiges of their power.

You’ll have noticed that this article barely mentions the Doctor at all, and that’s because for me he’s almost a side character here. The real beauty of this serial lies in its world, its characters and its design, which make Inferno stand out even in one of the show’s best seasons.

Next time: a prison riot and international diplomacy in The Mind of Evil.

Doctor Who is Great – 6 – The Mind Robber

This is the latest in a series in which I choose one serial per season which is unusually well-made and/or innovative. It’s also intended to serve as a recommendation of where to start for people unfamiliar with the show in general or with the classic series in particular. Today I’m discussing an adventure in the Land of Fiction.

It says a lot about The Mind Robber that when given an extra episode with no guest actors, sets or costumes it not only worked, but provided an excellent opener to the story.

The previous serial, The Dominators, had been cut from six episodes to five, with the final instalment becoming the first episode of The Mind Robber at the last minute. This meant that Episode 1 had an Episode 6 budget – no money to hire actors (other than the regulars), build sets or design costumes. So Episode 1 features just the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe along with some robots played by extras wearing costumes brought up from the BBC stores, and is set in just the TARDIS and a white, featureless void.

The other four episodes follow the TARDIS crew as they meet various fictional characters including Lemuel Gulliver, who (almost) only speaks in lines from Gulliver’s Travels, Rapunzel and Karkus, a character from a comic book in the distant future (the year 2000). The Doctor is also teased by a group of schoolchildren, deciphers a word puzzle and is forced to recreate Jamie’s face from the eyes, noses and mouths of various people. (He fails, making this one of the few serials which could get away with having one of the regular characters played by a different actor for two episodes).

Eventually the Doctor comes face to face with the Master (no, not that one) who rules this domain, known as the Land of Fiction, and wants the Doctor to take over his job. The Doctor (obviously) refuses and engages in a battle of wits with the Master which takes the form of a swordfight between another bunch of fictional characters.

The Mind Robber has some fun moments but is often confusing, disturbing and even frightening, especially when Jamie and Zoe are hypnotised by the Master (still not that one) into believing that the Doctor is an evil villain who must be killed, and the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 1 comes as one hell of a shock..

This is another of those serials (like The Celestial Toymaker, and many others) in which Doctor Who does something unusual and in doing so gives us something unusually good. Unfortunately the reaction of viewers when it was originally broadcast wasn’t so positive – it seems they’d rather have a normal Doctor Who story than any of this ‘rubbish’.

The Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who often gets passed over in favour of other periods in the show’s history – at least in part due to the large number of episodes which are missing – and The Mind Robber is a serial which I feel deserves far more credit than it often gets.

Next time: the Doctor travels into a parallel universe in Inferno.

Doctor Who is Great – 5 – The Ice Warriors

This is the latest in a series in which I choose one serial per season which is unusually well-made and/or innovative. It’s also intended to serve as a recommendation of where to start for people unfamiliar with the show in general or with the classic series in particular. Today I’m discussing the introduction of the Ice Warriors.

Modern-day films aimed at children often include something for the parents as well – usually a subtly smutty joke, or a few classic film references. Classic Doctor Who often did the reverse, adding some scary monsters into a well-written story to keep its younger viewers entertained. From my perspective that’s what’s been done in The Ice Warriors – despite being named after them, this serial has more interesting elements than its eponymous reptiles.

The serial is set in Earth’s future when a lack of plant life – caused by an increasing percentage of land area being taken up with housing – has led to a new ice age. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive in a base set up in an old house in the UK, not far from the ice cap. Its purpose is to use ionisation to hold back the advance of the Arctic.

The base is run by Leader Clent, a man obsessed with following rules, consulting the base’s computer and maintaining his public image by making his mission a success. The base’s main scientist, Penley (Peter Sallis, later to portray the main character in Wallace and Gromit) has rebelled against Clent’s leadership and gone to live in the Ice Wastes with the scavenger Storr. And buried inside the ice is a ship belonging to the Ice Warriors, the inhabitants of Mars.

The main conflict is not between the humans and the Martians, but between Clent, who insists on consulting the base’s computer for every decision, and the Doctor and Penley who prefer to rely on human intuition. Towards the end the two scientists are proven right when the computer, forced to choose between two options both of which would endanger its existence, stops working.

Clent and Penley are both well-portrayed, multi-dimensional guest characters and though they only interact directly in the last two episodes, the conflict between them is played out via their interactions with the regulars and with Miss Garrett.

The Ice Warriors are written mainly as lumbering, violent creatures without much to make them sympathetic characters and it wasn’t until their later appearances with the Third, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors that their species became fleshed out. The acting saves them however, with their constant loud breathing, hissing laughter and whispering voices, and it’s that which made them one of Doctor Who’s iconic monsters despite only appearing as the main villain twice in the classic series.

The Ice Warriors is an effective combination of interesting human characters with a scary monster based around an interesting premise with a basis in science, making it a good representation of the Innes Lloyd era of the show.

Next time: a journey into the Land of Fiction in The Mind Robber.

Doctor Who is Great – 4 – The Tenth Planet

This is the latest in a series in which I choose one serial per season which is unusually well-made and/or innovative. It’s also intended to serve as a recommendation of where to start for people unfamiliar with the show in general or with the classic series in particular. Today I’m discussing the first appearance of the Cybermen in the final story of the Hartnell era.

It seems incredible now, but until The Tenth Planet appeared on TV screens in 1966 both regeneration and the Cybermen, concepts which now seem fundamental to Doctor Who, were unheard of. What’s perhaps even stranger is that both of them play only a minor role in the serial.

The Tenth Planet introduces a format which would go on to be common in the Troughton era: an isolated base, staffed by a diverse crew, under threat from some kind of monster. I should point out here that Doctor Who’s idea of diversity wasn’t the same as Star Trek’s: the Polar Base’s crew mostly consists of British people and Americans, with an Australian, a stereotypical Italian (“Mamma mia! Bellissima!”) and one (1) black person.

The principal guest character is Cutler, a Dr Strangelove-style belligerent American general. Halfway through the story his own son is sent into space to rescue a pair of astronauts who have been stranded after the Cybermen’s planet of Mondas drained their fuel, making him even more dangerous and warlike. At one point he even threatens to blow up Mondas (and risk radiation fallout on Earth), and is only stopped thanks to the Doctor’s companions’ sabotage.

Kit Pedler had recently been hired as Doctor Who’s scientific advisor in order to bring an element of ‘hard’ science fiction to the show. He had previously contributed to the Season 3 finale The War Machines, and now he was being given his own script (bar some rewrites by script editor Gerry Davis) to play with. Pedler had a fascination with the idea of humans giving up their humanity as medical science advanced and injured body parts or organs could be replaced with technology. The Cybermen were this idea taken to an extreme.

In a way there was no other serial from Season 4 I could have chosen for this series, as The Tenth Planet is so interwoven with the Series 10 finale (“World Enough and Time”/“The Doctor Falls”) and Peter Capaldi’s final episode “Twice Upon a Time”. Towards the end of “The Doctor Falls”, Capaldi’s Doctor monologues about the Cybermen’s rise being inevitable, as every race wants at some point to preserve their lifespans through technology.

The finale also heavily deals with something which few other Cybermen stories have touched on: that they invade planets and concoct schemes not because they are evil, but simply because they believe themselves to be the ultimate form of life and want to spare everyone else from physical and emotional pain. This is also the Cybermen’s plan in The Tenth Planet: their world is dying due to its proximity to its twin (Earth), so they plan to destroy our planet and rescue all the humans: rescue them both from their planet and from their vulnerable, fleshy existence.

William Hartnell was written out of the third episode due to illness; when he returns in the final episode (now lost from the archives, but reconstructed as an animation for the DVD) he has a new lease of life and an extra burst of energy as he confronts the Cybermen. From the very start of the serial he seems to know a lot more about Mondas and its inhabitants than anyone else, and we never find out why. In some ways, it’s fitting that the First Doctor ends his tenure with the same element of mystery with which he began it.

The Doctor speculates that “this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin” and once the action is over he disappears quickly from the Polar Base, heading towards the TARDIS. When his companions Ben and Polly enter the ship they find him lying on the floor, in a similar pose to the Twelth Doctor as he started his delayed regeneration. As they watch, his face blurs and he slowly changes into Patrick Troughton.

The Tenth Planet is one of those serials you wish you could watch after erasing your memory of all subsequent episodes. It’s hard to know what contemporary viewers would have thought of the Cybermen, and how they would have reacted to the Doctor’s metamorphosis. Regardless of this, this serial probably had a greater influence on the Doctor Who mythos than any story since the very first one.

Next week: the introduction of another classic monster in The Ice Warriors.

Doctor Who is Great – 3 – The Celestial Toymaker

This is the latest in a series in which I choose one serial per season which is unusually well-made and/or innovative. It’s also intended to serve as a recommendation of where to start for people unfamiliar with the show in general or with the classic series in particular. Today I’m discussing an unusual story in which the TARDIS crew take part in a series of deadly games.

Shows like Doctor Who are often at their best when they stray outside of their boundaries, and produce something which is distinct from their usual output. (Perhaps this is why I’m so fond of Black Mirror and Inside No 9, in which every episode is different from its fellows.) The Celestial Toymaker is certainly a world apart from most of 60s Who.

Rather than dealing with an aggressive alien race or getting mixed up in some historical event or other, the Doctor and his companions are brought to a pocket universe run by the eponymous Toymaker and forced to play his games. If they lose, they will be turned into dolls trapped in the eldritch being’s domain forever, forced to compete against his next victims.

The Doctor is separated from his companions and made to play the ‘Trilogic Game’, a variant of the ‘Tower of Hanoi’ puzzle which, if carried out correctly, will take 1023 moves to complete.  If he fails, or completes it before his companions Steven and Dodo have won all of their games, they will lose. If his companions don’t win all of their games, they will also lose. To prevent the Doctor interfering in the other contests the Toymaker first makes him invisible before later removing his ability to speak altogether.

Meanwhile Steven and Dodo have four games to play (conveniently broken down into one per episode). They play Blind Man’s Buff around an obstacle course against a pair of cheating clowns, compete with the King and Queen of Hearts to find out which of seven chairs will not kill them, and search for a key whilst avoiding the distractions of the comical Sergeant Rugg and Mrs Wiggs. All three of these pairs are played by the same two dolls – former victims of the Toyroom, competing for their freedom. In each game the final destination is the TARDIS, but at the end they always find an empty, police box-shaped cupboard.

It’s interesting to see the difference in Steven and Dodo’s reactions to the dolls they encounter throughout their puzzles. Dodo is innocent and trusting, which allows her to charm the soldier and the cook into calling off their fight but also causes her to be more easily tricked and distracted by the Toyroom’s inhabitants. Steven on the other hand is far more cynical and is quicker to realise that the clowns, playing cards et al. are not as innocently amusing as they appear.

The final game is ‘TARDIS Hopscotch’ played against Cyril, a 40-year-old man in a schoolboy outfit previously seen as the Knave and the Kitchen Boy. Cyril is, according to his creator, “The most deadly character of them all, because he looks so innocent.” The boy constantly cheats throughout the game, and his jolly demeanour disguises his evil – even murderous – behaviour.

William Hartnell has been absent throughout most of the serial as he loses first his physical form, then his voice (behind the scenes this was a failed attempt to write him out of the show altogether). He’s all the more impressive when he returns in the fourth episode (“The Final Test”), probably a combination of his absence making viewers grow fonder and the energy boost gained from his rest, and it’s fun to watch him play off against Michael Gough’s Toymaker. Gough (later to play Alfred in the 80s/90s Batman films, as well as marrying companion actor Anneke Wills) is sadly underused as the antagonist of this serial, and it’s a shame that he and Hartnell don’t get more screentime together.

With the Toymaker defeated, the Doctor tells Steven and Dodo that he can never be destroyed and may well return – setting the stage for a sequel which sadly never happened, as the villain’s planned return in the 1980s was ultimately cancelled.

The Celestial Toymaker has unfortunately lost all but its final episode. This serial, more than many others, relies quite heavily on visuals and so both the audio track and the visual reconstruction can tend to drag a little, as for many parts there is only action, with very little dialogue.

Overall The Celestial Toymaker is one of Doctor Who’s many stories which break from tradition, and which are all the more entertaining for it (although it was not so well-received by contemporary viewers).

Next time: the introduction of the Cyberman and the Doctor regenerates in The Tenth Planet.

Doctor Who is Great – 2 – The Dalek Invasion of Earth

This is the second in a (hopefully) series in which I choose one serial per season which is unusually well-made and/or innovative. It’s also intended to serve as a recommendation of where to start for people unfamiliar with the show in general or with the classic series in particular. Today I’m discussing the Daleks’ second appearance, this time as the masters of Earth.

A man wearing a metal helmet staggers through a desolate scene as though drunk before throwing himself into the Thames. A sign in the background reads “It is forbidden to dump bodies into the river”. The TARDIS materialises.

This is how we’re introduced to Episode 1, “World’s End”. For the next 25 minutes, we’re forced to wonder about the London in which the Doctor and his companions find themselves. There are no Londoners, “the chimes of old Big Ben” have fallen silent, and Battersea Power Station has lost its iconic chimneys. In a warehouse the Doctor and Ian find a calendar. The year: 2164.

Heading back to the river, they find themselves cornered by some of the men in metal helmets and decide to escape via the river. But as they turn around, a Dalek slowly emerges from the water.

This first episode is a good demonstration of effective pacing within the episodic format. An entire 25-minute slot is taken up with gradually deepening the mystery behind 22nd-century London, most of which isn’t explained until the subsequent episode, “The Daleks”.

The eponymous extraterrestrials have taken over our planet after softening up the population with a plague, and have set a large part of the population to work in mines whilst converting many others into Robomen, their robotic slaves. The Doctor et al. team up with the resistance movement, which includes the handsome young Scottish man David, the brilliant scientist Dortmun and the cynical Jenny and Tyler.

Even after the opening scene there are many occasions in which this serial is surprisingly dark: a large part of the Resistance is mown down by Daleks, another fighter is heard running and pleading for his life before being killed off-camera, yet another is murdered in cold blood just after leaving Susan and David, Jenny casually discusses the robotisation of her brother, Dortmun sacrifices himself to allow Barbara and Jenny to escape, and Larry kills his own (robotised) brother.

The Doctor is absent for a large part of episodes 2-5, allowing the companions to take centre stage. Barbara in particular is allowed two rather good scenes, first ploughing through a Dalek patrol in a truck, and then later concocting a phony ‘rebellion plan’ on the spot to fool their leader, using her knowledge as a history teacher to ‘reveal’ the machinations of Hannibal, General Lee, the Indian Mutiny and the Boston Tea Party.

If this serial is about anyone, however, it is Susan. She leaves the TARDIS at the end of the story (the series’ very first companion departure) and it’s nice that unlike, say, Leela’s eloping with Andred in The Invasion of Time, her relationship with David is built up over a few episodes, as is the Doctor’s awareness of it.

The Daleks are defeated 15 minutes into Episode 6 (“Flashpoint”), allowing a beautifully moving, 10-minute coda to finish off the story. The Doctor smiles and Tyler looks solemnly into the middle distance as Big Ben chimes for the first time in years. Susan and David are faced with a few awkward, clipped conversations before being allowed some time alone: her grandfather talks to her absent-mindedly as he ponders the decision he is about to make, and Ian questions David about his future before Barbara pulls him away to give the young couple some space.

Tyler curtly says goodbye to David, who then begs Susan to stay with him and rebuild the Earth. Carole Ann Ford is excellent here, showing us Susan’s genuine dilemma as she is torn between the two men she loves. And finally, William Hartnell also puts in a wonderful performance in a scene which has now become iconic.

The Doctor locks Susan out of the TARDIS and manages to hold back his emotion as he announces that now she has grown up, he feels she needs somewhere to belong:

“Believe me, my dear, your future lies with David, and not with a silly old buffer like me. One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye Susan. Goodbye, my dear.”

The TARDIS dematerialises and Susan, in a daze, slowly walks into the space it has just vacated. The episode ends with a slow zoom onto her key to the ship, now abandoned on the ground: the teenage girl has grown up and is leaving her old life behind.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth is an early example of a serial which contradicts all the myths about the classic series of Doctor Who. It’s not slow or boring, but paces itself well across its six episodes. It’s not silly; in fact it could well be considered too dark even today. It doesn’t look cheap, but disguises its low budget with tightly-designed sets and the use of location work. And it’s certainly far from emotionless.

Whilst the modern series (certainly the Russell T Davies era) often has to devote entire scripts to building up characters and relationships, forcing them to be light on action and plot, the length of this serial allows it to be both ‘action-y’ and ‘relationshippy’ at the same time. It’s a tribute to Terry Nation’s writing that he gives Susan in effect a 10-minute departure scene, with none of the self-indulgence such a length might force a new series writer into.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth is 60s Doctor Who at its best, 150 minutes of television which are fully deserving of their 12 million viewers.

Next time: The Celestial Toymaker

Doctor Who is Great – 1 – “An Unearthly Child”

This is the first in a (hopefully) series in which I choose one serial per season which is unusually well-made and/or innovative. It’s also intended to serve as a recommendation of where to start for people unfamiliar with the show in general or with the classic series in particular. Today I’m talking about Doctor Who‘s first ever episode.

Doctor Who’s first ever episode is a masterclass in quietly building up tension and intrigue over the course of a 25-minute run. The entire plot of the episode can be summarised as: Ian and Barbara talk about how weird Susan is, they follow her to a junkyard, and then find out that the junkyard contains a spaceship disguised as a police box. In the modern-day incarnation of the show this would be over in 10 minutes; it’s a credit to writer Anthony Coburn and director Waris Hussein that they are able to stretch it out over nearly half an hour without issues in the pacing.

From that initial shot of a police box in a junkyard we know that something strange is going on here. The police box is such an iconic image of the show that it’s easy to forget what an ordinary, everyday object it was in 1963 – the mystery being what one is doing in a junkyard, rather than on the street.

For the first third of the episode the action is focused on Ian and Barbara as they discuss their strange pupil Susan Foreman and her unseen, stranger-averse grandfather. The original intention of the show was to have the two schoolteachers, not the Doctor, as the main characters, and that can clearly be seen here. For this portion of the episode we are given some detail to flesh out the mystery of Susan – she is excellent at history and science, but so ignorant of current affairs that she is unaware of the contemporary British currency system.

Around 10 minutes, in Ian and Barbara enter the junkyard and meet the mysterious old man who refuses to let them enter the police box (which Ian theorises is “alive!”), and whom they suspect of having locked Susan inside the contraption. The stranger dodges their questions and seems eager for them to run off to get a policeman rather than continue bothering him. The big reveal comes when Susan opens the door to find out what’s going on, and Barbara seizes the chance to force her way inside.

What she (and the audience) sees in there is hardly likely to come as a shock to a modern-day viewer, but at the time it must have been incredible. Barbara looks around in silence as the camera pans across, allowing us to take in the vast, white space inside the tiny phone box. In the background is none of the impressive, orchestral music common in the 21st century but an eerie hum, emphasising the unearthliness of what we’re seeing.

In the minutes that follow Ian and Barbara keep pressing the Doctor for an explanation, but he claims they don’t deserve one and would be unable to understand. Ian protests that the Doctor is treating them like children, to which he replies, “The children of my civilisation would be insulted!” In dribs and drabs we gradually find out more: the police box is a ship, which can move in time as well as space, and Susan has named it the ‘TARDIS’ – Time And Relative Dimension In Space.

The Doctor and Susan come from another planet, from a civilisation far more advanced than that of Earth in the 1960s. For whatever reason they are exiles but the Doctor muses, in a speech reminiscent of the one he would go on to make at the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, that “one day, we shall get back. Yes, one day.”

The Doctor and Susan argue over the fate of their intruders – the Doctor insists they if Ian and Barbara are allowed to go then he and Susan will have to leave Earth or face being exposed. Susan protests that even if her grandfather leaves, she wishes to stay. Rather than lose his granddaughter the Doctor sets the ship in motion before she can stop him. The episode ends as a shadow falls over the TARDIS, which has moved from the junkyard to a desert.

It’s hard to imagine seeing this episode for the first time, with no prior knowledge of Doctor Who, and not wanting to carry on watching. It’s a wonderfully mysterious start to an iconic show and I could think of no better place to begin this series.

Next time: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The Worst Doctor Who Serial Titles

Sometimes, it’s hard coming up with a title for something (e.g. see above).

The Tenth Planet

Okay, it was fine until forty years after it was first broadcast, and now there are only eight planets in the Solar System. Maybe Mondas brought another planet along with it.

The Ice Warriors

The origin of the myth that this is the actual name for the species – it isn’t, and if you still call them Ice Warriors, then you’re a racist. Sorry.

The Wheel in Space

Adding ‘Space’ to Random Words Doesn’t Make Them More Dramatic, part 1.

The Mind Robber

In which not a single mind is robbed.

The Space Pirates

‘Pirates – in Space!’ It sounds exciting, but the 7 episodes that follow it just… aren’t.

Colony in Space

Adding ‘Space’ to Random Words Doesn’t Make Them More Dramatic, part 2.

Day of the Daleks

What is the day of the Daleks, why is it their day, and which day is it?

The Sea Devils

Again – not what they’re called.

The Green Death

“In which some green stuff causes people to die” – Toby Hadoke

Death to the Daleks

Name a Dalek serial in which someone hasn’t been trying to kill them.

Revenge of the Cybermen

Revenge is an emotional response, so the Cybermen shouldn’t have anything to do with it. “Next week – Doctor Who and the Ennui of the Cybermen.”

The Deadly Assassin

Here we go – since an assassin’s job is to kill people, all assassins are either deadly or incompetent. Although I’d love to see ‘Doctor Who and the Useless Assassin’.

The Invisible Enemy

‘Microscopic’ isn’t the same thing as ‘invisible’. In fact, the Nucleus spends the whole of Part 4 being very visible indeed.

The Invasion of Time

It’s actually The Invasion of Gallifrey – presumable the Sontarans can invade the Time Vortex any time they want.

Destiny of the Daleks

If the Daleks have a destiny, this serial doesn’t tell us what it is.

City of Death

This isn’t actually bad, I’m just putting it in because apparently it’s a play on “cité de l’amour/la mort”.

Four to Doomsday

As my maths teacher might have said, “Four what? Elephants?” Always show your units.


The entire show is about a man who flies through time.

Resurrection of the Daleks

The Daleks aren’t resurrected here, since they clearly don’t need it. At best it’s ‘The Defrosting of Davros’.

The Caves of Androzani

As the Doctor tells us in Part 1, they’re not caves, they’re blowholes. Well cave me.

Vengeance on Varos

There’s a lot of themes in this serial. Revenge is not one of them.

Revelation of the Daleks

They were clearly running out of abstract nouns by this point. It was presumably either this or ‘Concatenation of the Daleks’.

Time and the Rani

Makes about as much sense as ‘Time and the Master’.

Remembrance of the Daleks

Unfortunately, they cut the scene with Daleks wearing poppies at the Cenotaph.

“The Impossible Planet”

A black hole is a centre of gravity, which means it’s perfectly possible for a planet to orbit one. 0/10

“Fear Her”/”Blink”/”Turn Left”/”Hide”/”Listen”/”Kill the Moon”/”Sleep No More”/”Face the Raven”/”Smile”

I’m fed up with episode titles telling me what to do.

“Forest of the Dead”

All libraries are forests of the dead, if you think about it. Bet that cheered you up.

“The Vampires of Venice”

Sometimes, you get the strong suspicious they came up with the title before the plot.

“The Doctor’s Wife”

If it isn’t Cameca, I don’t want to know.

“The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”

Presumably the ‘wardrobe’ refers to the Doctor’s cover story for his TARDIS, so it has hardly anything to do with the plot. And technically there’s no widow either.

“The Bells of Saint John”

Admit it, Steven – you had no idea what to call this, did you?

“Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”/”The Pyramid at the End of the World”

Just too bloody long.

“World Enough and Time”

It’s a poem about a guy trying to get his girlfriend to have sex with him.