By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of this era. I’ve written articles criticising just how illogical and PC driven the direction has been over the last two years (read them here https://timewarriors.co.uk/?s=children+of+time and How the Doctor Lost his Balls here https://timewarriors.co.uk/?s=lost+his+balls
The 13th (actually 14th) Doctor’s first Dalek encounter was a shambles with a terrible design and here we meet the metal dustbins all over again. The last two seasons have been poorly written with as a life long fan it’s been a shaame to see the show sink. Argue all you want but the facts are in the figures as is current marketing where the 13th Doctor has been teamed up with the eternally popular Tenth Doctor to sell comics. The last time I looked at Doctor Who Magazine its comic strip was showcasing Christopher Eccleston instead of the current Doctor and crew. If having to use the past to raise the profile and bring those who have faded away from the poor stories then it’s hardly a good sign. Curiously that is exactly what has happened here in this episode.
Captain Jack Harkness is back to help the current team fight the Daleks once again. We also see the return of crooked American businessman Jack Robertson played by Chris Noth (Yep, that Mister Big.) Stealing the remnants of a Dalek shell thanks to an equally crooked Prime Minister to be Jo Patterson played by Harriet Walter, Robertson builds a new drone to keep Britain secure. Unknown to him a Dalek mutant has regrown thanks to his assistant Leo and created a Dalek clone factory allowing all the new drones to be occupied. Only Yaz, Graham and Ryan know the danger but ten months without the Doctor and a Tardis they cannot pilot, they are limited until the Doctor arrives with Jack Harkness in tow. The whole Doctor in prison thing seems like a filler to be honest serving no purpose other than keeping her from her companions. It was nice to see some old faces in the prison but we are left with a weak explanation of why the Judoon actually imprisoned her and why she didn’t attempt to escape sooner.
It’s also kind of strange how UNIT or Torchwood didn’t react to the Daleks sudden appearance. We know the crack in time erased a lot of people’s memories of the Dalek invasion in The Stolen Earth as seen in Victory of thee Daleks. Amy Pond, to the Eleventh Doctor’s surprise, doesn’t recognise the Daleks.
The first twenty minutes or so seems to drag but things quickly pick up. Jack and Yaz make a good team while Graham gets lost in favour of Harkness. Ryan finally gets to show some acting chops and ironically and as with many of these shows when he is about to leave. It’s a shame because Graham has been very much the heart of the team on the same level as Bernard Cribbin’s Wilfred Mott.
So far so familiar using past elements to make a story that actually entertains and tis up loose ends like the additional Tardis and scout Dalek. The mutant Dalek octopoid creatures are very well done and reminded me of the old movie Tarantula when in their cases. This is a trend began back in Resurrection of the Daleks. Another nod to the past was summoning pure Daleks to destroy impure ones as in Revelation of the Daleks. This was spectacular. I also have to say I like the new Dalek design with the red and the black. It’s a huge improvement on the previous one. Even Yaz’s conversation of how not being with the Doctor gives both her and Jack new depths. She knows the Doctor will disappear one day but doesn’t care. the pain is worth it. Again this harks back to the Tenth Doctor’s School Reunion with Sarah Jane and Rose echoing the same themes.
How the Doctor gets rid of them is a nice trick and well done. This was on the same scale as the Stolen Earth with the Daleks flying through the air slaughtering people all over the planet. But with every victory comes a price.
Anyone that knows me is well aware I hate goodbyes and we here we get a double whammy. For me Ryan has been criminally underused with his illness seemingly a tick measure. here he shines and his quiet moment with the Doctor about who they re is priceless. Bradley Walsh has had some nice moments so their goodbyes and reasons for staying echo true for me. What is more important to a person? Seeing th universe on a journey that can end any time or using that time to see what your grandson will achieve in life? it’s always been about family and there is no better reason to leave the Tardis. Speaking of family, it was great to hear Jack had met up again with Gwen Cooper and that she now had a son.
Overall an enjoyable episode that only succeeds on using old elements in a new way. When the show returns in 20211 we already know the Weeping Angels and Sontarans are back so maybe this is the show finally turning around.