Welcome to the News & Reviews section here at Doctor Who Online! This is where you will find all the latest Doctor Who related news and reviews split up into easy to use sections - each section is colour coded for your convenience. The latest items can be found at the top, and older items follow down the page.

Archived news and reviews can be accessed by clicking on the relevant area on the News / Reviews Key panels to the right.

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17 July 2017

As I was watching the reveal on BBC One, I was genuinely shocked when Jodie Whittaker was revealed to be our first-ever female Doctor in Doctor Who. I've always been of the opinion that The Doctor is male, and, perhaps, always should be - it has clearly been his preference for 12 (ok 13) incarnations, but maybe now really is the time for a whole new take on the role?

We live in a time of equality and representation, and TV is an important platform to portray this. The sad reality is that it has taken so long for these issues to start being reflected realistically, and even now there's still a long way to go.

I genuinely didn't think the BBC would commit to the casting of a female actor in the role of The Doctor - especially now that Top Gear has lost its shine and put Doctor Who front and centre, but I fully support and applaud them for doing so. It's a bold move to take the franchise in this direction; just as it would be to change the gender of James Bond or Buffy, but Doctor Who lends a real opportunity now that Steven Moffat has paved the way for Time Lords to change their gender as part of canon.

I do not believe this is an "experiment" or "stunt casting" - or even an attempt to "boost ratings", which, by the way, are still excellent. I think this is the BBC, and Chris Chibnall saying "the time is right!".

When Jodie removed the hood and revealed herself as the Thirteenth incarnation of The Doctor, despite my initial shock, there was something so right about her. Having watched Broadchurch from the start, I was already aware of her as an actress, and can honestly say she has a huge amount of talent that she is going to bring to the role. I am genuinely excited, and cannot wait to support Jodie and the show when it returns in 2018 (after the Christmas special, of course).

Another happy side product of the decision is that there will be a whole new generation of fans - both female and male, growing up with a new role-model to look up to. But hasn't that always been The Doctor? Throughout the show's long history The Doctor has always been on the side of good; a character everyone can look up to, and now that he will become a she, that very same trait will still be at the core.

Back in 1986, Sydney Newman (creator of Doctor Who) sent a letter to the then head of BBC, Michael Grade, actually proposing and supporting the idea of a female Doctor:


"At a later stage Doctor Who should be metamorphosed into a woman. Don’t you agree that this is considerably more worthy of the BBC than Doctor Who’s presently largely socially valueless, escapist schlock? ... This requires some considerable thought – mainly because I want to avoid a flashy, Hollywood Wonder Woman, because this kind of heroine with no flaws is a bore."


If there was any further worry that this was a bad decision, not in keeping with the show, then surely its creator, essentially giving his consent to the idea is something to take comfort in.

Yesterday was our most active day on Twitter (twitter.com/DrWhoOnline), with literally thousands of tweets from our followers and visitors, mainly in support of the new choice. There were, however, a group of fans spouting a lot of hate speech towards the BBC and Jodie Whittaker, which is completely unacceptable. Freedom of speech is one thing, but hate speech has no place in fandom. I was appalled at some of the comments I read, with some fans saying they would stop watching. One has to ask the question if they truly are fans? 

There is no denying that this has split fandom somewhat, but now is not the time for division or segregation, we should come together and rally around our new Doctor, after all, she IS The Doctor, whether you like it or not.

Fandom should be a safe place for fans of all ages to share their opinions and discuss things, and DWO will not tolerate any hate speech or intolerance of others. We will therefore be stepping up to anyone doing so on any of our website or social media platforms.

We would love to hear from you in the comments below or via the Forum Discuss link, below.

- Sebastian J. Brook; Site Editor 

[Source: DWO]

 

26 April 2017

Even before the wilderness years (1989-1996 & 1996-2005), Doctor Who fanzines have played an important role in the fandom of the show. Often produced in black and white, these periodical mailings were produced by the fans themselves, and contained all sorts of cool creations, from fan fiction, to reviews, articles, interviews, quizzes, artwork and competitions.

Since the emergence of online fandom, and the ability for fans to make their own websites, forums and social groups, fanzines appear to have drastically fallen in their numbers. But does this mean that there is no longer a place for them in our lives? Are fans content with just having Doctor Who Magazine (as awesome as it is)?

Having spoken with fans over the years at conventions and events, it seems that fanzines are still very much an important output, but it is the younger generations that are either unaware they exist or unsure of how to contribute. With this in mind, we wanted to cast a quick spotlight on Doctor Who fanzines and focus on some of the fantastic publications out there, with details on how you can join in, or even start your own!

If this is a completely new area of fandom to you, you may take heart in the knowledge that one particular fan who contributed to fanzines was none other than our 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi! Below is an excerpt from an article Peter wrote for a fanzine back in 1976:

"Watching the abstracted light forms & patterns which appear in the opening sequence of Dr. Who has become a familiar ritual for all of us. The wonder of the opening is that it manages to capture in only a very few moments of screen time the atmosphere of Dr. Who.”


You can see Peter Capaldi's full page article in the images column to the right!

Of the few fanzines that are still around, the quality is of an incredibly high calibre; take Vworp Vworp!, for example - perhaps one of the most popular of the current wave of fan publications. Their latest issue has been hailed as one of the greatest fanzines in Doctor Who history, and we've heard nothing but positivity surrounding it - it even comes with a FREE full-cast audio play!

DWO got in touch with Vworp Vworp's publisher, Gareth Kavanagh, regarding the importance of fanzines and why they enjoy producing them:


"
Originally, fanzines were our own Gutenburg Press. A place for fans to share news, gossip, opinions and thoughts on the show without any filters in place. Well that's before the internet provided a more immediate platform for these, although who can forget some of those lurid DWB news headlines (The AFRO TAPES: THEY EXIST!!!)?  But this in no way means that fanzines no longer have a place. Indeed, despite the net doing news and gossip very well and providing an immediate way for people to vent / gush, it's not as good at considered analysis, depth and opinion. This, really is what we see ourselves as being about with Vworp. Exploring lesser explored niches of Doctor Who; fandom, the comics, art and bringing new perspectives and knowledge to the table.  It's something a printed work can do so much better in my opinion.


The other thing that fanzines can do better is by being a beautiful, gorgeous piece of art. Now we recognise that not everyone has the time or resources Vworp Vworp! has, but I do think taking the time to make it look and feel special is important. It's a point Bryan Talbot made to me when he launched Alice in Sunderland as a beautiful volume at a time when digital downloads of comics were beginning to take off.  By making Alice a gorgeous physical artefact, his reckoning was that there would always be a place in someone's collection for it.  And I think he's right. The same goes for free gifts. The transfers for Vworp Vworp! #1 were an attempt to reconnect with people's ingrained and treasured sense of excitement at getting home with #1 of Doctor Who Weekly in October 1979. That sense of nostalgia is something I feel for all the great fanzines and I hope, in our own small way we've been able to add to that with Weetabix cards and vinyl Century Dalek records."


If you would like to contribute to Vworp Vworp!, you can email them directly at: info@vworpvworp.co.uk

We also got in touch with Jamie Beckwith, features writer for The Terrible Zodin fanzine, who shared his thoughts:


"The Terrible Zodin was trying to juggle an old media format but make it accessible for new media so it's released as a downloadable PDF. TTZ has grown in the 9 years we've been running and gives fans the opportunity to write about the series and showcase their artwork.

 

We always aim to have something interesting to say and whilst our initial focus was on female fandom as we felt this was an underrepresented voice, we welcome viewpoints from all. We're pleased to say we've had contributors from all over the world, not just the UK, US & Australia but places like Colombia, Poland and Japan. Fanzines are a great way of being creative about the very show which has inspired that creativity."


If you would like to contribute to The Terrible Zodin, you can email them directly at: theterriblezodinezine@yahoo.co.uk


Other fanzines worth checking out are The Tides Of Time, Fish Fingers And Custard & Celestial Toyroom - the longest-running Doctor Who fanzine in the world! You can also keep your eyes peeled for a brand new fanzine called 'Sacred Flame', produced by the London-based LGBT Doctor Who group, The Sisterhood Of Karn. (Thanks to Richard Unwin for the heads-up on that one).

Having run this site for 21 years now, we have seen an incredible amount of creativity from our visitors and followers, and it's clear that Doctor Who is responsible for creating one of the most dedicated fandoms in history. This is a show where anything is possible; a fan writing an article for a fanzine can become The Doctor! Fan artists can see their creations on actual pieces of merchandise. Fan fiction writers can become show runners or writers for the actual TV show - as we say, ANYTHING is possible!

So if you feel you have something to offer, fanzines are one of the best places to start, and we heartily recommend getting in touch with any of the aforementioned publications. Some of you may be interested in starting your own fanzines (we've put a few resources together in the links down below), but if you're struggling getting off the ground, why not get in touch with a Doctor Who group near you (USA groups here), and collaborate with likeminded fans. Come up with a catchy name, and pull together some content from local contributors, and before long you'll be well on your way!


Get in touch!

Are you thinking of starting up a fanzine? If so, we'd love to hear from you in the comments box, below, or in the DWO Forums! Likewise, if you run or recommend a particular fanzine, please also leave details below or in the Forums!

Fanzine Resources:

Doctor Who Image Archive - A fantastic archive of Doctor Who related images.
The Doctor Who Logo Collection - Throup's excellent transparent Doctor Who logos.

Brochure Prints (UK) - a cost-effective fanzine printing service, based in the UK.
Brochure Prints (USA) - a cost-effective fanzine printing service, based in the USA.


[Source: DWO]

 

25 April 2017

As far as central characters go, few are as iconic as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who. Both have had huge impacts on popular culture for decades due to their fantastic characters and stories: but which of our iconic protagonists is better? While Sherlock and the Doctor both use science and logic to prevail, the two have completely different qualities to offer.

You know where our loyalty lies, but let's try to be objective here. To help us decide we’ve created four rounds: impact on popular culture, sidekicks, villains and finally, a category comparing the main men themselves. Here we go:

Impact on Popular Culture

Sherlock Holmes has influenced popular culture and literature for over 100 hundred years, and so it is no surprise that so many people consider Sherlock the epitomic detective. In fact, Sherlock is so influential that he currently holds the Guinness World Record for most portrayed character in history (with a whopping 254 times!), and some even believe he actually existed.

Due to how pervasive Sherlock is, Sir Conan Doyle’s character has inspired numerous other programmes and movies, including House and The Mentalist. He even manages to transition with ease to more modern platforms like video games. These go all the way to 1984 when Melbourne House’s Sherlock was released on the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum. Since then there have been no less than fifteen console and PC-based games, though there are numerous other games available as well. These include apps such as the iOS title Hidden Objects: Detective Sherlock Holmes and iGaming titles such as the new release Sherlock Holmes: The Hunt For Blackwood, which can be found amongst a plethora of slots at William Hill. In fact, if you wanted to give this new release a go, the online casino is currently giving newcomers £40 worth of welcome deposit bonuses.

Possibly due to the fact Doctor Who isn’t quite as old as Sherlock Holmes, or perhaps because he possesses a lot more unique qualities that are difficult to pastiche, Doctor Who’s reach appears far less influential. That isn’t to say Doctor Who hasn’t inspired anything – Star Trek, Star Wars, Bill & Ted and plenty of other sci-fi productions include elements of the Doctor’s stories and characters, but usually in quite smaller, unbranded ways. There are some games as well, but these tend to be for children or young adults rather than for a universal audience. All in all, it just doesn’t seem like our favourite time-travelling doctor has reached Holmes levels of impact yet. But we probably know the reason: Doctor Who is very much in copyright as a character, while Sherlock isn't - at least not exactly.

Winner: Sherlock Holmes

Sidekicks

Fortunately for Doctor Who, as there is no canon source material for writers to rely on new characters and allies can be introduced at any point. This is definitely a positive, as while we love Sherlock’s companion Dr Watson there’s only so much he can offer. In Doctor Who, a new sidekick usually means at least one entirely new plot that is sure to keep viewers interested and invested in the programme. Plus, although some more recent allies have unfortunately succumbed to media tropes, they tend to balance the Doctor out and often become equally as liked as the main man himself.

There’s no denying that Sherlock’s friends are pivotal to his story, but over the years it has become clear that Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson alone cannot compete with Doctor Who’s vast array of quirky, bold and memorable companions. We can't wait to meet Pearl Mackie's new character.

Winner: Doctor Who

Villains

"Doctor Who Exhibition" (CC BY 2.0) by shining.darkness

There seems to be a similar problem when it comes to Sherlock Holmes’ villains. Sure, he has apprehended many a baddie throughout his many years of service, but Sherlock’s main nemesis will always by Moriarty. Now, we love the various portrayals of this dastardly villain as much as the next person, but there is a limit to how many times we can see this foe attempt to take Sherlock down.

Meanwhile, the Doctor Who universe is filled with more villains than you can shake striped scarf at. These baddies have threatened everything from cities to reality and come in all shapes and sizes from Cybermen to Darleks to The Master. Sure, the Master's probably the Doctor's Moriarty - and Missy's simply splendid - but there's so many more to choose from, aliens of all persuasions and criminal masterminds extraordinaire.

Each of these antagonists or groups of villains is equally if not more fleshed out than Moriarty, so again the points go to Doctor Who for sure.

Winner: Doctor Who

Protagonist


"Sherlock" (CC BY 2.0) by kaffeeringe

Considering Sir Conan Doyle only ever wrote four full-length Sherlock Holmes novels and 56 short stories, it is incredible that the tale of the brilliant yet difficult detective lives on today and continues to engage with new generations. In addition to this, many believe Sherlock Holmes has Aspergers Syndrome, making him the only truly iconic cult character on the spectrum.

Doctor Who has staying power as well of course, with numerous new stories, spin offs and villains popping up regularly. The Doctor himself even changes from time to time, and with each new regeneration, our main character gets a new personality, face and style. Still, in each imagining of the Doctor he remains a borderline pacifist, loves humans and always sticks with his morals. Really, Doctor Who is almost godlike. 

Sherlock Holmes is more realistic; he is flawed as well as fascinating and remains basically the same character in every reimagining. 

This has its benefits, but also has shortcomings. Due to the nature of a Timelord, different Doctors will provide new opportunities for the script, new twists and turns and more surprises. Yes, the Doctor is not as consistent as Sherlock, but that's one of his (should we say her from now on?) strong points. So, apologies to Mr. Holmes, but this round will have to go to Doctor Who too. 

Winner: Doctor Who

Now, we realise that it's what you expected from us. But we do respect Sherlock, and it was fun to come up with the comparison, especially considering Stephen Moffat's hand in the current-day popularity of both. Do you think we have been fair though? Let us know which of these characters is better and why in the comments below.

19 April 2017

There are a lot of things that politicians are judged for. From the way they dress to the way the direct the economy of the nation. But no one has ever wanted to rate politicians for the way they perform.

Like artists on a stage. Even though politicians have a more boring dress code but yes like actors on a stage. Or in front of a camera. In reality that is what they are. And we even give them the stages and camera crews to perform for us. Did you know that sports betting has expanded you can also place your bets on no-athletic events such as political party, movies and many more to visit newzealandcasinos.co.nz to review best online casinos.

Because essentially that is what they have to do in order to convince us to vote for them. And the human mind and heart are not easily won over. So it has to be great performance.

However there is a man who managed to quickly win over the hearts of men and women. His performance was perfected over several on screen careers. Spanning from getting in the ring with pro wrestlers to telling interns they are fired on cable TV.

The current President of the United States of America is the biggest performer. Who else deserves such a title other than the most powerful man in the world. The guy knows how to woo a crowd. He has certain magnetism which draws people to him. This may be the secret behind his great empire. And what an empire it is.

Hate him or love he knows his has a way to people’s hearts. By the end of his second term. The charmer will most probably get that far. There will be several online casino games based on him. All great performers have real money online casino games based on them or the characters they play visit www.casinous.com to see which online casinos you can play at.

You may have doubted the man’s abilities as a performer during his time as a TV game host or at wrestling entertainment. But the American election must have convinced you. The whole nation fell in love him. Even though there is very little love. Really there isn’t. Mr. Trump fails to be politically correct even in his own party.

19 April 2017

Real money gaming is proving to be the next billion dollar opportunity. With the relaxation of the online gambling laws across the United States, online casinos can present massive opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs. Online casinos maplecasino.ca are able provide more effectively for the massive market. There is high demand for gambling services. This translates to a very large market which is attractive to entrepreneurs and investors.

In most properly legislated regions online casinos are giving back to the community. These states are earning an estimated 32 billion dollars annually collectively as generated revenue. The governments are using the funds for developmental projects. Funds from online gambling are being channeled towards promoting responsible gambling initiatives.

Juniper’s research shows that online betting using mobile devices will produce income valued at a hundred billion dollars. This revenue is a joint amount for worldwide industry by end of 2017. Remember that mobile casinos are actually on the rise. Most gamblers still prefer to gamble online using their PC.

MGM National Harbor is fast becoming one of Maryland’s biggest revenue growth drivers. Since its opening the casino has already brought USD133,000 to the state. This is by December 2016. Pushing up the impressive year-on-year income to above 40%. This amount excludes the revenue from the newly opened casino. MGM’s casino managed to remain the one biggest driver to the state’s gaming revenue. 

This alone shows that the contribution that casinos, both online and offline, make to a state’s budget is remarkably important. The time has come for the world to embrace online casino gaming. The benefits of the pastime are numerous. These go beyond just getting tax from the casinos. The industry has created a lot of new jobs for people. Jobs that previously did not exist like live online casino dealers. The future cannot be stopped no matter how much we try and delay it.

5 February 2017

The Player of Games

 

“Don’t play games with me. Don’t ever, ever think you’re capable of that.” 

The 11th Doctor’s warning to River and Rory in The Impossible Astronaut is couched in a boast by no means idle. The errant Time Lord, ever more trickster than warrior, displays quite a knack for playing games – though perhaps he is not always as proficient in them as he believes himself to be.

Peter Davison’s sportive Fifth Doctor spent 69 episodes from 1982 to 1984 running around in impeccable cricket whites (until they were utterly ruined by a mud-burst at the end of The Caves of Androzani), and showed off his impressive grasp of the “gentleman’s game” in Black Orchid (1982).

Previous Doctors also hinted at sporting prowess – most frequently, the Fourth, who references cricket on numerous occasions, and reckoned himself a dab hand at Alpha-Centauran Table-Tennis, producing his honorary membership card as ID during the events of Robot (1974), with the flip aside “Very tricky opponents, those chaps. Six arms, and of course six bats. It really keeps you on your toes…”

Overall though, the Doctor seems to express a preference for pursuits of a more sedate nature. Let’s sort through some of the games the Doctor has played in the course of his travels throughout the multiverse.

The Doctor at Cards

MASTER: “You're bluffing on an empty hand, Doctor.”

DOCTOR: “I'm not bluffing and my hand, as you can see, is not empty.”

This exchange from Terror of the Autons (1971), when the two adversaries meet for the first time in a tense encounter at the UNIT laboratory, suggests that both the Third Doctor and Roger Delgado’s Master are somewhat conversant with the rules and language of the game of poker. 

Given the Doctor’s predilection for deploying feints and bluffs against his opponents, it’s reasonable to assume he might appreciate an occasional round or two - and he certainly knows his way around a pack.

Poker currently enjoys worldwide domination over card games, but what many non-players don’t know is that there is a wide variety of poker variants with different rules, from Community Card type poker games, where part of the hand is shared by all players, to Draw type games, where you can exchange some of your cards for new ones, and everything in between.

It is, therefore, not that far-fetched to note that very frequently, Doctor Who plots mirror a strategic hand of poker, especially when he’s pitted against the quintessential antagonist that is the Master. Sometimes, the plot allows for an exchange of the Doctor’s hand, others he has to make better use of what’s available to get himself (and his companions, and entire planets) out of trouble.
The Fourth Doctor exhibits a flair for card-shuffling in Robot. Still dazed from his recent regeneration, he bounds onto stage to placate an audience of techno-cultists with an improvised conjuring routine before being dragged off into the wings.

Two seasons later, he’s at it again, this time in Robert Holmes’ Victorian pastiche, The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977). At London’s Palace Theatre, the Doctor expertly catches and handles a card pack thrown to him by the sinister magician Li H'sen Chang. By the advent of his seventh incarnation, the artful Doctor has a number of card-conjuring tricks to hand – or, most likely, up his sleeve.

With twelve+ poker faces to choose from, and forays beyond the realm of the small screen, he seems to be getting pretty good at the game.

In Lonely Days, a short story by Daniel Blythe for the anthology Decalog 2: Lost Property, the Fifth Doctor tells Nyssa that he once won a planet in a game of poker against a Draconian opponent.

Five Card Draw, the ninth story in the Short Trips: Zodiac collection, goes one better. Todd Green’s short story has multiple Doctors (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th & an unspecified “future self”) gather for a poker game at a besieged medieval castle to decide their collective fate.

The mischievous New Adventures companion Professor Bernice Summerfield cites poker as her one of her favourite pastimes and it’s easy to picture the redoubtable archaeologist and the Seventh Doctor playing together in some readily-fashioned game room somewhere deep within the TARDIS. 

The Doctor at Backgammon

Marco Polo has taken away my caravan and given it to you, sire. If I win, perhaps I could have my caravan back again?

In a celebrated scene from 1964’s Marco Polo, the First Doctor plays a genteel game of Backgammon against the mighty Kublai Khan, in the luxury of his Peking palace. A very fitting choice, considering that the board game is estimated to be over 5,000 years old and played by many early cultures, such as the Ancient Greeks, Romans and of course, the Chinese.

At stake at this game of backgammon is his TARDIS, gifted somewhat presumptuously to the ageing Khan by the explorer Marco Polo. 

Over hours of play, the Doctor accumulates a wealth of riches – he wins from Khan 35 elephants complete with ceremonial bridles, trappings, brocades and pavilions; also, 4,000 white stallions, 25 tigers, the entire commerce of Burma for one year, and the sacred tooth of Buddha.

Thankfully, at least for whoever tidies the TARDIS trophy room, the Doctor doesn’t keep any of his prizes, exchanging them all for the front-door key to his precious time/space craft.

The Doctor at Monopoly & Draughts

 

The Doctor has yet to play Monopoly in an on-screen story, but in The Romance of Crime, a 1995 novel penned by Gareth Roberts for the Missing Adventure series, the Fourth Doctor plays aboard the TARDIS with Romana II and K9.

K9, fittingly, uses the dog token, and the others must roll the dice and move on his behalf. Come to think of it, K9 does look a lot like the Monopoly dog, no? Let us not forget that there is an official, albeit limited, edition of Doctor Who Monopoly.

The One Doctor, a 2001 big finish audio play by Roberts and co-writer Clayton Hickman, features the Sixth Doctor winning a game against Mel - but his triumph is interrupted when the TARDIS drifts off-course, and the game is suspended, mid-gloat.

In The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the Doctor attempts to teach Leela another ancient board game: Draughts. Draughts board have been found in archaeological digs in the Middle East and are believed to date back to 3,000 BC. But in our case, the Doctor doesn’t appear to be getting very far; the scene ends with him leapfrogging across the board in one move to sweep all of her pieces. Leela isn’t happy.           

Endgame - The Doctor at Chess

You couldn’t resist it, could you? The game of traps…

Chess, the ancient ever-shifting game of traps, has to be the game that most defines the Doctor’s temperament, and he is seen playing it on many occasions. It is also in many ways the quintessential strategy game. The amount of thought humankind has invested in finding the most effective ways to move the 16 pieces of each side to capture the opponent’s king is impressive and has even spawned AI research, with IBM’s Deep Blue computer famously beating global chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997. 

Cell-bound in The Mind of Evil (1971), the Third Doctor and Jo Grant play chess together to while away the time. Jo captures the Doctor’s pieces, and he complains the game is just too simple for him to concentrate on, adding that he much prefers playing the three-dimensional version.

According to events in David Fisher’s The Androids of Tara (1978), the Fourth Doctor thought enough of standard chess to program K9 with a record of all world chess championship games since 1866.

As the TARDS makes landfall in pursuit of the Fourth Segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor plays K9 in the control room. With Romana looking on, the Doctor airily recalls watching a similar game between Capablanca and Alkhine in 1927, and seems rather taken aback when K9 (fittingly another AI, something the Doctor comments on) predicts mate in 11 moves. Initially, he refuses to believe he has lost, until Romana intervenes to confirm the outcome.

The story arc underpinning the sequence of Seventh Doctor/Ace episodes from Dragonfire (1987), to the finale of The Curse of Fenric (1989), concerns an unfinished chess game, abandoned long ago in some nameless desert.

The Eleventh Doctor claimed – possibly in jest - that the game was originally a Gallifreyan invention (2013’s Nightmare in Silver). It apparently endures until the 52nd Century in one form or another – live chess, anyone?

Evidently the Doctor has been gaming for almost as long as he has been a wanderer. Games appear over and again, in books and comics, audio plays and elsewhere in the DW universe - small wonder, when their subtleties of play and emphasis on stealth and ingenuity over brute force, so match the wily Doctor’s approach to dealing with his enemies. 

For everyday humans, there are a wide variety of places to take part in some fantastic games - particularly over at 
Casino Expertti, so please have a dig around online and let us know some of your favourite games! 

[Source: DWO]

13 December 2016

Who? Doctor Who, of course! Britain's top science fiction television programme, loved the world over, is a force in its own right. Since its creation in 1963 we've seen 34 series encompassing 813 episodes beam their way on to viewers' screens and the programme has been a favourite amongst groups of all ages. As such all manner of merchandise has been released to accompany the various series, including games. After so many years in the Sci-Fi limelight all manner of board and video games have been released, but what are they?

Dr. Who Monopoly

Nowadays there's a version of the popular property trading board game for practically every city, franchise or brand worth its salt, and Doctor Who is no different. In a rather uninspired move the creators decided not for the player to buy particular planets or space stations, but to trade in iconic episodes, playing with tokens inspired by the series and its recurring titular character; an umbrella, sonic screwdriver, celery, recorder, bow tie and scarf.

Operation: Doctor Who

The iconic game of Operation has been around for decades now, but got a reboot in 2004 when a Doctor Who version was released. Players must operate on one of the Doctor's arch nemeses, a Dalek, replacing its constituent parts and weathering its classic bellicose rhetoric in order to make the villain ready and able to take over the world.

Doctor Who on Xbox One & PS4 

There hasn't ever been a true triple-A Doctor console game created in the history of the franchise, although recent news suggests that the creators of the show, the BBC, are actively looking to join up with a high profile video game producer in order to produce a next generation game based on the series. Hopefully it'll be better than the terrible PS3 title "Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock", and might even spur on other developers to make new Doctor Who themed games, perhaps within the online gaming industry. Wintingo Online Casino, a provider of online games, has released all manner of games related to the television and film franchises we know and love, perhaps we'll see a Doctor Who slots game being released in the near future!

Dr. Who Minecraft DLC 

Minecraft is one of the most popular games ever to be released on console or PC, so it seems fitting that the popular TV show and the game released a pack of downloadable content back in September based on all things Who. Players can change their in-game avatars to make them appear more like the show's protagonist(s), and are able to fight all manner of Doctor Who monsters, including blockish Daleks.

As audiences across the world catch on to the craze that is Doctor Who, the appetite for amazing Who-themed games will only grow larger. Who knows what amazing physical and digital games will be released in the near future that are based on the series? If only we had access to a TARDIS!

23 November 2016

The Player of Games

“Don’t play games with me. Don’t ever, ever think you’re capable of that.” 

The 11th Doctor’s warning to River and Rory in The Impossible Astronaut is couched in a boast by no means idle. The errant Time Lord, ever more trickster than warrior, displays quite a knack for playing games – though perhaps he is not always as proficient in them as he believes himself to be.

Peter Davison’s sportive Fifth Doctor spent 69 episodes from 1982 to 1984 running around in impeccable cricket whites (until they were utterly ruined by a mud-burst at the end of The Caves of Androzani), and showed off his impressive grasp of the “gentleman’s game” in Black Orchid (1982).

Previous Doctors also hinted at sporting prowess – most frequently, the Fourth, who references cricket on numerous occasions, and reckoned himself a dab hand at Alpha-Centauran Table-Tennis, producing his honorary membership card as ID during the events of Robot (1974), with the flip aside “Very tricky opponents, those chaps. Six arms, and of course six bats. It really keeps you on your toes…”

Overall though, the Doctor seems to express a preference for pursuits of a more sedate nature. Let’s sort through some of the games the Doctor has played in the course of his travels throughout the multiverse.

The Doctor at Cards

MASTER: “You're bluffing on an empty hand, Doctor.”

DOCTOR: “I'm not bluffing and my hand, as you can see, is not empty.”

This exchange from Terror of the Autons (1971), when the two adversaries meet for the first time in a tense encounter at the UNIT laboratory, suggests that both the Third Doctor and Roger Delgado’s Master are somewhat conversant with the rules and language of the game of poker. 

Given the Doctor’s predilection for deploying feints and bluffs against his opponents, it’s reasonable to assume he might appreciate an occasional round or two - and he certainly knows his way around a pack.

Poker currently enjoys worldwide domination over card games, but what many non-players don’t know is that there is a wide variety of poker variants with different rules, from Community Card type poker games, where part of the hand is shared by all players, to Draw type games, where you can exchange some of your cards for new ones, and everything in between.

It is, therefore, not that far-fetched to note that very frequently, Doctor Who plots mirror a strategic hand of poker, especially when he’s pitted against the quintessential antagonist that is the Master. Sometimes, the plot allows for an exchange of the Doctor’s hand, others he has to make better use of what’s available to get himself (and his companions, and entire planets) out of trouble.
The Fourth Doctor exhibits a flair for card-shuffling in Robot. Still dazed from his recent regeneration, he bounds onto stage to placate an audience of techno-cultists with an improvised conjuring routine before being dragged off into the wings.

Two seasons later, he’s at it again, this time in Robert Holmes’ Victorian pastiche, The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977). At London’s Palace Theatre, the Doctor expertly catches and handles a card pack thrown to him by the sinister magician Li H'sen Chang. By the advent of his seventh incarnation, the artful Doctor has a number of card-conjuring tricks to hand – or, most likely, up his sleeve.

With twelve+ poker faces to choose from, and forays beyond the realm of the small screen, he seems to be getting pretty good at the game.

In Lonely Days, a short story by Daniel Blythe for the anthology Decalog 2: Lost Property, the Fifth Doctor tells Nyssa that he once won a planet in a game of poker against a Draconian opponent.

Five Card Draw, the ninth story in the Short Trips: Zodiac collection, goes one better. Todd Green’s short story has multiple Doctors (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th & an unspecified “future self”) gather for a poker game at a besieged medieval castle to decide their collective fate.

The mischievous New Adventures companion Professor Bernice Summerfield cites poker as her one of her favourite pastimes and it’s easy to picture the redoubtable archaeologist and the Seventh Doctor playing together in some readily-fashioned game room somewhere deep within the TARDIS. 

The Doctor at Backgammon

Marco Polo has taken away my caravan and given it to you, sire. If I win, perhaps I could have my caravan back again?

In a celebrated scene from 1964’s Marco Polo, the First Doctor plays a genteel game of Backgammon against the mighty Kublai Khan, in the luxury of his Peking palace. A very fitting choice, considering that the board game is estimated to be over 5,000 years old and played by many early cultures, such as the Ancient Greeks, Romans and of course, the Chinese.

At stake at this game of backgammon is his TARDIS, gifted somewhat presumptuously to the ageing Khan by the explorer Marco Polo. 

Over hours of play, the Doctor accumulates a wealth of riches – he wins from Khan 35 elephants complete with ceremonial bridles, trappings, brocades and pavilions; also, 4,000 white stallions, 25 tigers, the entire commerce of Burma for one year, and the sacred tooth of Buddha.

Thankfully, at least for whoever tidies the TARDIS trophy room, the Doctor doesn’t keep any of his prizes, exchanging them all for the front-door key to his precious time/space craft. If ever The Doctor played at the Royal Vegas Online Casino, you can be sure he would donate his winnings to a greater cause.

The Doctor at Monopoly & Draughts

The Doctor has yet to play Monopoly in an on-screen story, but in The Romance of Crime, a 1995 novel penned by Gareth Roberts for the Missing Adventure series, the Fourth Doctor plays aboard the TARDIS with Romana II and K9.

K9, fittingly, uses the dog token, and the others must roll the dice and move on his behalf. Come to think of it, K9 does look a lot like the Monopoly dog, no? Let us not forget that there is an official, albeit limited, edition of Doctor Who Monopoly.

The One Doctor, a 2001 big finish audio play by Roberts and co-writer Clayton Hickman, features the Sixth Doctor winning a game against Mel - but his triumph is interrupted when the TARDIS drifts off-course, and the game is suspended, mid-gloat.

In The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the Doctor attempts to teach Leela another ancient board game: Draughts. Draughts board have been found in archaeological digs in the Middle East and are believed to date back to 3,000 BC. But in our case, the Doctor doesn’t appear to be getting very far; the scene ends with him leapfrogging across the board in one move to sweep all of her pieces. Leela isn’t happy.           

Endgame - The Doctor at Chess

You couldn’t resist it, could you? The game of traps…

Chess, the ancient ever-shifting game of traps, has to be the game that most defines the Doctor’s temperament, and he is seen playing it on many occasions. It is also in many ways the quintessential strategy game. The amount of thought humankind has invested in finding the most effective ways to move the 16 pieces of each side to capture the opponent’s king is impressive and has even spawned AI research, with IBM’s Deep Blue computer famously beating global chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997. 

Cell-bound in The Mind of Evil (1971), the Third Doctor and Jo Grant play chess together to while away the time. Jo captures the Doctor’s pieces, and he complains the game is just too simple for him to concentrate on, adding that he much prefers playing the three-dimensional version.

According to events in David Fisher’s The Androids of Tara (1978), the Fourth Doctor thought enough of standard chess to program K9 with a record of all world chess championship games since 1866.

As the TARDS makes landfall in pursuit of the Fourth Segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor plays K9 in the control room. With Romana looking on, the Doctor airily recalls watching a similar game between Capablanca and Alkhine in 1927, and seems rather taken aback when K9 (fittingly another AI, something the Doctor comments on) predicts mate in 11 moves. Initially, he refuses to believe he has lost, until Romana intervenes to confirm the outcome.

The story arc underpinning the sequence of Seventh Doctor/Ace episodes from Dragonfire (1987), to the finale of The Curse of Fenric (1989), concerns an unfinished chess game, abandoned long ago in some nameless desert.

The Eleventh Doctor claimed – possibly in jest - that the game was originally a Gallifreyan invention (2013’s Nightmare in Silver). It apparently endures until the 52nd Century in one form or another – live chess, anyone?

Other Games and Gadgets

Throughout the show's 50 year history, there are plenty of other games the Doctor has played, not to mention the many gadgets. Wouldn't it be great though, for the health-conscious among us if there were Gadgets for your Workout?! We could all do with some short cuts, and imagine pressing a button and finding you could instantly have abs or get rid of that taco tummy :) Or maybe we need the Doctor to stop by and swing the odds in our favour by using his sonic at the Royal Vegas Online Casino! :)

[Source: DWO]

18 November 2016

We live in a truly digital world and viewing habits of the average Doctor Who fan have completely changed since the shows beginnings in the 1960’s. Not only would you get just one chance to see the show (airtime), but there was no way to record or rewatch it.

Fast forward 50 years and we are spoiled for choice with how we can watch - and rewatch Doctor Who! If we miss an episode, we can simply record it, Sky+ it, watch it on BBC iPlayer, buy a DVD or wait for a repeat on TV.

Even if we travel abroad on holiday for seasons such as Christmas, there are still ways for us to watch our beloved show. With syndication rights across the world, there are loads of channels that have picked up Doctor Who; BBC America, for example. So if, like us, you’re headed out to the USA for the holiday season, you can catch Peter Capaldi’s next Christmas Special!

The BBC also have to be commended for their endeavours to bring forward the international airdates so that episodes air on the same days as they do in the UK.

While the BBC has provided many ways to watch the show, there are still individuals that won’t be able to watch the show as it’s aired, or even immediately afterwards. While simply waiting for the DVD to be released is an option, it isn’t exactly in line with our on-demand lifestyles. While services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix have led the way in permitting us to watch TV series on demand, there’s still a delay in the release date from its first airing. There’s also the uncertainty of how long the show will last, especially with Netflix constantly shuffling its show roster. With only the series post Eccleston being available, the UK Netflix also doesn’t have any of the previous Doctor Who episodes.

There are alternatives. There are dodgy streams galore, but naturally, there are significant concerns around using these, not least from a computer safety standard! Depending on what’s available where, it’s also possible to watch the shows through a VPN. VPNs provide a proxy server, which masks your geo-location, and can permit UK specific shows to be watched in other locations. While Netflix seems to be going to war with VPN companies, it may provide a solution on how to watch previously Geo-Blocked content. If you’re out of the UK, a VPN can be used to stream BBC iPlayer, the perfect opportunity to watch Doctor Who almost immediately. BestVPN.com provide an extensive review of the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer on their website.

It’s not just new episodes that we can rewatch; this month, BBC Store released animated episodes of a lost 1960’s classic (The Power Of The Daleks), which you could download or stream exclusively on the platform. Not wanting to miss out on the commercial possibilities, the BBC also decided to release it on DVD in both black and white and colour versions!

So what does the future hold for the show? Well the BBC have their finger on the pulse of technologies and services available, with the exception of a +1 service. Ever got home later than planned, only to find the episode has started? Many channels now have a +1 service, including rival channel ITV. It feels like the only option missing, and judging from fan reaction the last time we brought it up, we think it could be a real hit!

We’d love to hear from you guys - how do you watch the show, and what’s your preferred method of rewatching it? Leave a comment, below!

2 May 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 852: Final Overview

Dear diary,

”There are two things in life that I'm very bad at (look at that, I'm just thirteen words in, and I've already lied. Truth be told, there's lots of things in life I'm very bad at. Like trying to make flapjacks, or successfully remove an intruding spider from my flat. There's two things I'm very bad at, though, which are vital to this entry); keeping a diary and completing a Doctor Who marathon.”

That’s how I opened my very first post of The 50 Year Diary on December 15th 2012 - just an introductory post to establish the fact that the Diary would be tasking up residence on the pages of this here website from the new year. Deciding to take on this project was a huge task right at the beginning, and especially since I know what my attention span is like. I’m interested in something for a few months at most and then my attention wanders off to something else and I never give the original topic a second thought. Frankly, the only reason that Doctor Who itself has managed to remain on my radar for this long is because there’s so much of the thing that there’s always something else I can go and look at if one part of it is starting to bore me.

But the decision to set up residence on the pages of Doctor Who Online and pen a daily diary, watching every episode in order right from the start… well, yeah, that was a big commitment. And I dived into it with barely a second thought. Had I stopped to think8 about it for longer, I’d probably never have gone through with it. There would simply be too many reasons *not to do it. Instead, when the option came up, so close to the start of a new year - Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary year - I simply grabbed it and ran.

And if I’m honest, I’m frankly stunned that I’ve made it this far. I genuinely used to wonder at what point I’d give it up. In my head, I used to try and work out what the best ‘exit’ points would be. Maybe I could do to the end of Seres One, then stop? Or just the First Doctor? Just the 1960s? I’d have to end it at a suitable point to avoid people simply pointing out that I’d failed in my mission. Obviously, I still would have failed, but had there been a nice clean break, I might have gotten away with it a little easier. In all honestly, it wasn’t until somewhere around the middle of Tom Baker’s run that I realised I’d gone too far - it was all or nothing, and there was no way I’d not go to the very end.

Which brings us to where we are today! 852 bloody entries, all of them talking about Doctor Who! Actually, slightly more than 852, because I did the two Dalek films and bits of spin-off programming for the collected volumes of the Diary. I really don’t know how I’ve managed to find this much to talk about. there are several days - lots of them! - where I read back my entry and wonder how it’s possibly of interest to anyone but me, but there’s you lot! I don’t know how many of you have been reading along since the very beginning and how many have joined along the way, but thank you very much for doing so. It’s always lovely to get comments and encouragement, and knowing that people are actually reading these posts has been reason enough to carry on! Not that all the messages have been so pleasant - I particularly liked the email we received when I dared to suggest that I didn’t really care for The Evil of the Daleks, and it was rather strongly suggested that I should be replaced by someone ‘who actually knows something about Doctor Who’. Ho hum. I’ve got that email printed out and near the computer - I look at it and smile every time my opinion on an episode doesn’t match up with the norm!

So, for this final entry, I’m just going to go back over each Doctor and give you a few facts and figures. How did their era rate on average? What was their highest-rated tale? How do I feel about them in retrospect? That sort of thing…

Starting, as is traditional, with The First Doctor… I only have one regret with the ratings I’ve given episodes throughout the course of this marathon, ad it;s the score I gave the very first episode - An Unearthly Child. I was being cautious, you see. As this project has gone on, I’ve reached a point where I don’t really have to even think8 about the scores I’m giving - I reach the end of an episode and simply *know that it’s an ‘[x]/10’, based on the scores I’ve given all the other episodes. But I didn’t want to peak too early. I’ve always hated the way that lots of ratings seem to win between ’10/10, that was brilliant’ to ‘1/10, that was awful’, with very little grey area in between. Starting with a ’10/10’ simply felt wrong, so I played it safe. 

Oh, but of course that first episode is a 10/10! I think I even knew that at the time, deep down (well, probably not even that deep…). I’d like to go back and give that one an honorary ’10’, simply because you really couldn’t ask for a better first episode to this programme - still as effective almost 52 years on as it was first time around.

Across his run of episodes - including the one-part Mission to the Unknown, in which the Doctor doesn’t appear but is credited, but excluding the audio of Farewell, Great Macedon, as it was something of an early side-step for the project - the First Doctor averaged a score of 6.57/10. The story I rated the highest from this period was The War Machines, which scored a solid 8/10 for each episode.

Looking back on these first three-or-so years of Doctor Who now… Oh, I love them. There’s an inventiveness to the William Hartnell era that I don’t think the programme has ever quite recaptured since. The facilities and budget simply aren’t there for them to achieve everything they might want to, but they still dare to at least try stories like The Web Planet, or to stage an entire Dalek Invasion of Earth from a pokey London studio. These episodes may not rate the highest overall - though this period achieved very few low scores; only two 3/10’s and a handful of 4/10’s for the entire era - but it still sits quite fondly in my memory as one of the best.

Which brings us on to The Second Doctor! Before starting out on this project, I’d always confidently claimed that Patrick Troughton was my favourite Doctor, and that The Tomb of the Cybermen was my favourite story, and I’l admit that I was a little worried that taking on this marathon might challenge that view. If anything, it’s actively strengthened the point, because I simply fell in love with this little cosmic hobo all over again.

Something that did surprise me was just how much I loved the run of stories in Troughton’s first series. Because such a chunk of that period is lost, it’s one I was far less familiar with than some of the later stories. But there’s some real gems in there, including The Macra Terror, which was the first story to receive a glowing 10/10 score (for Episode Two).

The Tomb of the Cybermen still comes in top, with an average of 8.75/10 across the four episodes. It makes it not only my highest-rated story from the Troughton period, but also the top story of the entire ’classic’ era (I’m looking at the 21st century stuff a little differently, as I’ll explain when I get there). Now, I’ll be fair an admit that the score was probably just helped by the good vibrations I get from watching this story - I’ve thought of it so long as my favourite that I simply can’t help but to enjoy it… but that’s surely the whole point of a favourite story!

What was nice about doing this marathon at this point in time is that there’s been more Troughton episodes available to watch than ever before - and by quite a margin, too! The Underwater Menace Episode Two was provided to me early on to enjoy in context, and while The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear weren’t viable to watch at the right point in time, as we’d hoped, I dipped back to them a few months later, because the alternative would have been waiting until now to see them, and frankly that just wasn’t an option. Being able to see the episodes was great (and both of them improved their average score by a small degree - it’s their second average I’m using today to calculate overall averages), but I wonder if some of that excitement simply came from the fact that I was watching two long-thought-lost stories. It’ll be interesting to see how they hold up the next time I see them - will they still be as good as I think here, or will the novelty have worn off a little, leaving them as just ‘some other Doctor Who stories’… 

Their success this time around, though, coupled with the high score of The Tomb of the Cybermen propelled Season Five into the top spot for the 1960s, averaging a score of 7.23/10 - the only black-and-white season to break a 7/10 average. I’d been worried about this particular run of stories because it was lots of six-parters in a row, and so many of the episodes were missing, I really thought it could be the point where I’d crash and burn, so it’s heartening to see that I enjoyed it all the more in the end.

Overall, the Second Doctor averages 6.90/10 across all this episodes, a healthy figure, especially when considering that two of Troughton’s stories - The Highlanders and The Dominators - sit way down towards the bottom of the list, both with an average of 4/10.

If Troughton had always been my favourite Doctor, then his successor, Jon Pertwee as The Third Doctor had always been my least favourite. It’s not that I completely silkier him, but I’d just never connected with his era in the same way I had with all the others - despite him being the first ‘classic’ Doctor I ever saw, when picking up a copy of Invasion of the Dinosaurs from the library.

What I actually found is that this run of stories is consistently strong, and it helped to contribute to an average score of 6.63/10 over the five seasons. I think that the Third Doctor was helped by such a strong first series, which helped to put my doubts about this period to rest before moving on to view the rest of it - Spearhead From Space being available to watch restored to high definition on blu ray was the perfect way to kick-start the era and catch my attention, and it came out as the top-rated story for this Doctor, with an 8/10 average.

The era then continues to be of a fairly consistent quality from then on - it never quite breaks into a 10/10 in the way that several Troughton episodes had done (though it scored several 9’s across the run), but equally, it doesn’t get as many lower scores, either, with only The Curse of Peladon rating below a 5/10 average.

Pertwee’s era is particularly notable for it’s run of high-quality opening episodes - fourteen (out of a possible twenty four) of them score an 8/10, and there’s a run from The Three Doctors to Death to the Daleks which consistently scores an 8/10 for the first episode - the longest run of this type across the entire marathon. That winning streak is only broken by The Monster of Peladon scoring a 7/10 for Part One, before we’re greeted by another three with such strong starts, which moves us past the regeneration and into the era of…

The Fourth Doctor! Oh, everyone talks about Tom Baker as the ‘definitive’ Doctor (or, at least, they did until David Tennant came along to steal the crown). As soon as I took my first steps into fandom, I was told that the Fourth Doctor was by far the best. That was just an established fact, and you weren’t to argue the point. Within that ‘fact’, the Hinchcliffe era of Seasons Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen, were by far the peak of not just this Doctor, but of Doctor Who as a whole. I love to be a bit country and simply say what I think, even if it doesn’t subscribe to the accepted opinion of an era, so I was all ready to point out that the Hinchcliffe run is merely alright

But then it was actually pretty darn good! On average, the episodes produced by Philip Hinchcliffe rate 7.06/10, which for the ‘classic’ series places him behind only Derek Sherwin (who’s helped by only producing two stories, one of which features three 10/10 episodes), and in the gran scheme of things places him third, just 0.01 point behind the Russell T Davies run. Sadly, this means that Tom Baker is on a generally downward trajectory from the off, with the Graham Williams run of Seasons Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen (including Shada), averaging a significantly lower 6.33/10, and Season Eighteen, under the eye of John Nathan-Turner only coming in with 6.14/10.

The highest rated story of the Fourth Doctor’s mammoth run is The Face of Evil, which comes away with an average score of 8.25/10, while over all, the Fourth Doctor rates 6.60/10, dipping him just slightly behind the Third Doctor. It’s undeniable that Tom Baker is brilliant in the role, and he’s often a joy to watch (for many different reasons - his closing around in the likes of City of Death is just as engaging as his anger and fury in Planet of Evil), but the latter half of his run really does suffer with some below-par episodes, and the lack of money being given to the programme at that point becomes cripplingly obvious in places. Wheres the Hartnell era managed to take its meagre budget and make the most of it, by putting the cash on screen, some parts of this era… um… doesn’t. In the end, I think it’s fair to say that Baker simply remained in the part for too long, and it’s telling that there’s a real breath of fresh air when the new chap comes in.

The first season to feature The Fifth Doctor, Season Nineteen, really is a shot in the arm, jumping up to an average of 6.69/10, and featuring the Fifth Doctor’s highest rated story - Kinda, with an average of 8.50/10. On top of this, the season also features the 8/10 Earthshock, which would have been a high enough score to win outright in other eras.

And Earthshock isn’t the last Fifth Doctor tale to score so highly - The Five Doctors and Frontios both also tip the scales at 8/10 on average, with The Caves of Androzani not falling too far behind, with a 7.75/10 average. On the whole, there was a lot about the Fifth Doctor’s era that simply chimed with me, and the presence of so many great stories really did help.

In the end, though, Peter Davison’s Doctor comes away with an average of 6.65/10 - only just scraping above Tom Baker and Peter Davison’s score by the tiniest of margins. He’s hampered by a weak second season, in which only two stories manage to hold a higher average than 6.25/10, and despite Season Twenty-One having a slew of better tales, it’s simply too late to make any real difference. Peter Davison has often said of his time on the show that if the stories of his third year had been the stories of his second, then he’d have stayed longer, and it’s really not hard to see what he means.

Ah, The Sixth Doctor. Doctor Who’s problem child. If it was made clear to me early on that everyone loved Tom Baker and considered him to be the best Doctor, then it was made equally clear that Colin Baker held the exact opposite position in fandom’s heart. And yet, I’d always enjoyed the Sixth Doctor - I’d seen all of his stories at least once before taking part in this project, and I’d always enjoyed them well enough.

This time around, however… well, no, I’ll be fair. the majority of the Sixth Doctor’s run is rather good. Not outstanding (no episode scores higher than an 8/10), but fairly solid, and at least on par with large chunks of his predecessors. The problem for me came in the form of both Attack of the Cybermen and Timelash, two stories which are consigned to languish right down in the bottom five of the list. They each averaged just 2.5/10, and were the first time I really appreciated just how bad Doctor Who can be when all the elements fall into just the wrong place. 

Colin Baker himself though is electrifying from the word go, and every bit the Doctor as any of the others. It’s a crushing shame that we didn’t get to see more of him, because in the right production atmosphere, I think he’d easily be considered equal to Tom in the popularity stakes. With a bit more creative force working behind the scenes, this period could have really shone. As it is, Colin’s Doctor rates only a 5.77/10 average, making him the lowest rated in this marathon, sadly, and the only incarnation to sink below a 6/10 average. His highest rated story - The Mark of the Rani - is a crowning jewel in his lacklustre first season, and while things do pull back together again for The Trial of a Time Lord season, it’s not enough to save him from the bottom of the pile. A real shame, and very undeserved for a man who not only turned in a flawless performance during his time on the programme, but has continued to be one of the greatest ambassadors for the show in the thirty years since. 

It’s perhaps for the best, though, that they didn’t give Colin Baker just one more season to prove himself in, though, because The Seventh Doctor’s debut run in Season Twenty-Four rates as the weakest season on average across the entire project, coming in with a measly score of just 4.93/10. I was so sure that I’d be a champion for these our stories. They were so often blasted as being terrible, and I was in a position to be a real spokesperson for the quality in each of them… but oh dear.

It’s not that they’re terrible - there’s lots of great ideas and concepts in there - but something seems to have just gone wrong with this season. It’s as though every department has been handed a directive from above that Doctor Who is a children’s programme, and that it needs to be treated as such. It’s very strange, and a real shift in direction for the show - probably the biggest change since the switch between Seasons Seventeen and Eighteen. After all the behind-the-scenes troubles of the Sixth Doctor era, it’s almost as though the team behind the programme simply don’t know what to do with it any more, and you can’t really feel John Nathan-Turner’s hand in this as well as you can elsewhere.

But it’s not the be-all and end-all, because this new creative team really pull themselves together for Season Twenty-Five, which shifts up a massive amount to an average across the run of 6.93/10! It’s here that you can feel Andrew Cartmel starting to take hold of the programme, and reinvigorating the entire thing. It’s Doctor Who starting to find its voice again, and that transformation only continues on into Season Twenty Six, which sits a million miles away from the low points at the start of this era - becoming my highest rated season of the entire marathon with an average score of 7.57/10! There’s something really rather marvellous about the fact that a single era can manage to straddle both ends of the scale like this, and it makes it even more of a crushing blow when the programme comes to an end at this point, with the final story - Survival - taking to top-rated spot for this era, with an average of 8/33/10. 

As the programme’s longest-serving producer, John Nathan-Turner comes in for a lot of flack. It’s fair to say that he didn’t always manage to make the best decisions for the show, but he held it together through a decade which would have, I suspect, always seen the end of the run. Overall, his time in charge of the show averages 6.36/10, which places him in around the same ballpark as many of the other producers across the programme’s lifetime - and he certainly did a lot more good for the show than he did bad.

It’s all change as we reach The Eighth Doctor, and it becomes a little trickier to compare story-to-story across eras. You’ll have noticed that there’s no great big list of how things stack up against each other with this post - and that’s because there’s no really fair way of doing it. I chose to give each episode an individual score out of ten, so that the ‘average’ score is a truer representation of the way I felt while watching. That way, the fantastic first episode of The Space Museum, for example, isn’t tarnished by the awful three episodes that follow it, but rather balanced fairly against them. That’s fine for the ‘classic’ series where all but two stories contain multiple episodes to balance, but when you reach the TV Movie and forward into the 21st century run, there’s so many ‘one-off’ stories that it becomes trickier to offset them against their predecessors.

Paul McGann’s Doctor is the perfect example of this - his Doctor average is 9/10, which places him way out ahead of all the other incarnations, but only because that’s being based on this one single episode! It skews the data a little bit, but we can at least still see how the Doctors stack up roughly from here-on out (and, in fairness, it’s really comparing the episodes that causes trouble - trying to compare the Doctors is only hampered by the one-off nature of McGann, and arguably John Hurt…

The Ninth Doctor heralds the start of the modern era of 8Doctor Who* - the first set of episodes that I’d watched on original transmission and had followed right the way through to the present day. I was looking just as forward to this version of the programme as I had been any part of the ‘classic’ run, because though I’d seen all these episodes before, many I’d not watched since their original transmission, so it was still like coming to them new in many ways.

Whereas Colin Baker’s short run had shown how so few episodes could lead to a lower score because there simply wasn’t long enough for the right episodes to come along, Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor shows that the opposite can also be true. His thirteen episodes average 7.31/10, and he’s the only Doctor to have two stories occupying the spot of ‘highest-rated’, with both Dalek and Boom Town sitting happily in a ‘9/10’ slot. The rest of his run holds fairly decent scores, with only The Long Game really letting the side down with a 5/10.

But in the blink of an eye, our fantastic northern Doctor was gone and replaced with The Tenth Doctor, who manages to become an icon for the programme to a whole new generation. David Tennant’s run isn’t a million miles away in trajectory from Sylvester McCoy’s - although he doesn’t start from such a low position, the seasons do tend to get better as they go along - with Series Two averaging 6.79/10, Series Three climbing up to 7.07/10, and Series Four soaring to 7.43/10 - far and away the highest scoring series of the 21st century. The Tenth Doctor’s final fun of specials drops way down to a 6.20/10 average (if added onto Series Four, as they were listed as such in production terms, the average for that season drops back to 7.11/10, putting the run second to Eccleston’s series), leaving the Tenth Doctor to bow out in a somewhat muted way.

The highest rated story of the David Tennant years is The Unicorn and the Wasp, coming in with one of only two 10/10 scores this side of Kinda. The Tenth Doctor on the whole rates a solid 7/10, and Russell T Davies as the architect of the modern era comes in with a respectable average of 7.07/10.

Things take a bit of a dip again for me as we reach The Eleventh Doctor era. On first transmission, I found that I simply didn’t enjoy this period of the programme. I’d tune in each week and find occasional gems, but overall I simply wasn’t fond. This time around, I think things have fared a little better - and getting to watch the era back-to-back over a couple of months like this has really made some of the links between stories stand out all the stronger. None of the Eleventh Doctor seasons manage to break past 7/10 on average (the highest is Series Seven with a score of 6.87/10), and the Eleventh Doctor rates slightly lower than his immediate predecessors, with an average of 6.80/10.

The Snowmen comes in as Matt Smith’s strongest story, with a perfect 10/10 score, while at the other end of the spectrum, both the previous Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, and Series Six’s Night Terrors sit at the very bottom of my list, with a score of just 2/10 each.

And finally onto The Twelfth Doctor’s run. When this set of episodes first went out last year, I loved them. Was completely blown away by them. It felt like a real shot in the arm after a few years of not enjoying the programme as much as I’d like. On this second run through, I’ve found my opinions cooling a lot towards them, to the point that the entire 2014 run (up to and including Last Christmas) has only averaged 6.77/10, which places it in more-or-less the same ball park as any of the Eleventh Doctor’s seasons, although lower than both Series Five and Seven. I’ve explained some of my reasoning behind that in yesterday’s entry, but I’m hoping that as the era is still young, I can find a little more to love as I go along. 

Equally, it may simply be that these episodes have suffered by being the last ones. After two-and-a-half years of doing an episode every day, being this close to the end of the line has probably contributed towards the feeling of Series Eight being a bit of a slow to watch again - hopefully that feeling will abate when I see any of these stories again in due corse. Besides, it’s not all bad news, with the era’s highest-rater, Robots of Sherwood, scoring a healthy 9/10.

***

And so… that’s that, I suppose! Over the last two-and-a-bit years, I’ve often wondered how I’d feel about Doctor Who once I was done. Having sat through it all, would I find myself horrified by the thought of ever watching another one? Tipping my entire DVD collection into a big skip? Sick at the sign of a Dalek?

Well, I’m pleased to say that, no, none of those things have occurred. If anything, watching the programme in this way has given me a renewed respect for Doctor Who, and I can appreciate even more just how brilliant this programme is, for having watched it unfold in order. If anything, I have to admit, I’m keen to do it all over again, right from the very beginning. I’m probably going to give it a little while before doing so (I’m actually on holiday back home at the moment, and it’s going to be nice to enjoy the next week away without having to tune in to the TARDIS for a change!), but I reckon before this year is out, I’ll be back on the pilgrimage!

So finally, I just want to issue a few thanks. Thank you, of course, to Sebastian J. Brook, editor of Doctor Who Online, for handing over his website to me for two years to fill with all my ramblings and nonsense. Thank you to Nick Mellish for listening to me whine on about all these episodes as they come and go, and acting as a sounding board when I can’t figure out what on Earth to write about. And thank you to you lot, for following along with me on this journey, and keeping my interest there in the project. It really does make a difference when you know people are taking part!

Will

If by any miracle you’re still interested in me wittering on, you can find me over on Twitter, where I tend to post just as much nonsense as I have in this Diary, as well as snippets of artwork and projects that I’m working on. And if you’re eager for more of the Diary, you can find it all collected together in book form - both in physical format and on Kindle (UK/US). There’s occasional extra entries in the books, and on several posts I’ve gone back and re-written the bits that simply don’t make sense.

1 May 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 851: Last Christmas

Dear diary,

Every Christmas is ‘Last Christmas’, this episode tells us, and it’s certainly the ‘Last Christmas’ for The 50 Year Diary, because after 851 days, I’m finally at the end of my mission to watch Doctor Who one episode a day from the very beginning. I’ll be posting a final entry tomorrow looking back over the entire project and discussing it in a little more detail, but for now, it’s time for one final adventure with the Doctor…

As Christmas specials for the programme go, Last Christmas is one of the better ones, if not one of the best. I’ve noticed a trend when re-watching Series Eight for this marathon, in that on the whole, by opinion of the episodes has gone down. Sometimes it’s gone down by quite a hefty amount. On only a couple of occasions has it gone up. One of the biggest problems that I’ve found on this viewing of the series - which I’ve only really touched on very briefly so far - is that it’s suddenly pitched at a slightly older audience than it has for the last few years. The combination of a later timeslot and a shift in tone through the stories themselves seems far less geared towards the youngsters than I always thing the programme should be (and I’m sorry to say that I know of more kids than I can count on two hands who stopped watching last year because it simply didn’t appeal to them any more. To that end, when Santa Claus was announced as a guest star for the Christmas episode, I did wonder if they might be trying to readdress the balance and win back some of the younger fans, but as I wrote in my preview of the episode last December:

”People have speculated that a special starring Santa and his elves, with reindeer and the North Pole is a sign of the programme becoming more child-friendly than some episodes of the latest run have been, but that’s not necessarily the case. There’s still plenty of humour and fun to be found in the sometimes dark situations that play out in this North Pole base, but the arrival of Father Christmas doesn’t exactly herald songs and lightness.”

That’s something that I’ve been musing on throughout this episode today. I rather like the darker tone of the programme in itself - it’s certainly provided us with some stories like Mummy on the Orient Express which I’ve really enjoyed - but I’m finding my enjoyment of the episode, and the series as a whole, tainted by wondering if perhaps it’s shifted focus that bit too much. Series Nine is, depending who you listen to, either staying in the same vein as the last run was, or changing completely to lighten the mood. I think I’d like a bit of a combination - Doctor Who can do lots of great stories that are scary and - though I’m loathe to say it - ‘dark’, but there’s just something… missing at the moment which has been all too apparent on second viewing.

But, leaving aside my own thoughts on who the programme should be pitching itself to, what did I like about this story, even the second time around? Well, I’m rather keen on the way that everything ties together. The use of Santa is very clever, and I love the idea that you never quite know if he’s real or not, and the use of dreams is done rather brilliantly - on the first viewing, I certainly didn’t guess the various twists and reveals, and I enjoyed trying to work it all out as we went along. There’s several of those great revelations, where you work it out just seconds before the answer is revealed, and that’s always rather engaging viewing.

But the thing I like the most about this one simply has to be Peter Capaldi. Having been through this marathon, I’ve had the spotlight shone on each Doctor in turn for several months at a time over the last few years, and it’s really remarkable how they’ve managed to strike gold every single time. I’ll admit that I was worried when Peter was cast - not because I didn’t think he’d be brilliant or that he’d be wrong for the part, but simply because it was something that everybody seemed to agree upon. Wherever yo turned, people were nodding in agreement and looking forward to the future of Doctor Who. That rarely happens in a fandom, so it was a little unsettling, and I couldn’t help wondering if it was the sign of a mistake! But of course it wasn’t, because over this first series, Capaldi has shown us that he’s just the man Hartnell, or Pertwee, or McCoy, or any of them were - and the future really is bright in his hands.

The rather nice thing about finishing this marathon at this point is that Doctor Who’s future seems to be assured for the next few years at the very least. Even though I’ve now experienced every episode in some form or another, there’s always new Doctor Who on the horizon, and that’s possibly the most exciting thing of all.

I’ll see you back here tomorrow for a final summing up and, for the first time in ages, a day when I won’t have to watch an episode! That doesn’t mean I won’t watch one, mind. I’ll probably cave by around the middle of the afternoon… 

30 April 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 850: Death in Heaven

Dear diary,

Ooft. As finales go, this one really does try to shoot for the stars, doesn’t it? It’s been a while since I’ve said just how much the scale of this programme has developed in the decade since it returned to screens in Rose, and that’s especially noticeable in this story. Visually, the series looks a million miles away, but also… can you imagine the kind of UNIT set up we’ve got here when you look at them in Aliens of London? Heck, even compared to Series Four and the first big return of the Taskforce en masse, this is a whole extra leap forwards. Put simply, all the UNIT scenes of this episode are shot like a proper movie, and they’re all the better for it.

It’s also rather lovely to finally have our own little 21st century version of the UNIT ‘family’ back in action! The first time I discovered that Kate and Osgood would be making a return to the programme for Series Eight was on a trip in to town to do a bit of shopping, when I found the street blocked off because UNIT were confronting an invasion of Cybermen. It really is a hazard of living in Cardiff. Oh, but it’s so brilliant to have this little team that can make return appearances (and it’s even greater that we’re getting a Kate-led UNIT spin off on audio later this year). All of this makes it all the more poignant when they go and kill Osgood! Of all the people! Steven Moffat is right when he says that if you want to show just how evil Missy can be then you have to kill Osgood, because she’s the only target that will wrench at your heart that much. I watched this episode for the first time at the premiere in Cardiff, and the whole room at that moment erupted in a mixture of gasps and cries of ‘no!’. In the question and answer session afterwards, someone asked if Osgood was really dead and it was revealed that yes, she is. But then, there’s still a Zygon version running around possibly, so I live in hope! When only moments later Kate gets whipped out of the aeroplane in mid-flight, it really does do the trick of keeping you glued to the screen - it’s Doctor Who at its most exciting (though I can’t tell you how relieved I am that she’s alive).

Those UNIT parts of the episode are the ones that really work the most for me, though, because I’m simply not as invested in everything else. The emotion is all there, and I can certainly connect to the scenes in the graveyard between Clara and Danny (and they are good), but they simply don’t appeal to me in the same way that the rest of the story does. I might be but a simple mind, but I’d have been keen for some more all-out Cyberman battles. There’s my Camfield-esque attack force on the streets of London?! As the cap to Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor, though? I like it. We started the season with old friends learning to accept who this new Doctor is, and we end the run with old friends who don’t even bat an eyelid at it. This man is the Doctor now, and long may he continue to be so.

29 April 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 849: Dark Water

Dear diary,

As finales go, this one doesn’t pull any punches, does it? When a semi-regular character, who’s played quite a prominent role over the last three months, is killed off before the opening credits have even rolled, you know that they’re not messing around. Things are about to get very serious, very quickly. When you then move from that to the companion taking the Doctor and threatening to separate him from the TARDIs forever unless he does as she commands… well, it’s the kind of thing that a hundred fan theories talk about every year, but I never thought they’d be bold enough to actually do it on screen. Oh, it’s exciting.

That said, once we’re past all that initial excitement, things do rather slow down a notch. I still can’t help but feel that Dark Water is really a great big 45 minute prequel for the main event in the next episode. This one really is just about moving all the pieces into position, and getting everyone up-to-speed with what’s going on, so that the hour that follows it can simply get on with doing everything that it wants to.

That’s not to say that there’s not things to love about this episode, because there really are plenty. Those aforementioned opening scenes are wonderful (and bringing back Clara’s gran for the beef scene in her kitchen is the thing that suddenly makes Danny’s death hit home - it makes Clara’s world feel that little bit more real), and the payoff to them, with the Doctor and Clara alone in the TARDIS following her betrayal is simply breathtaking. It’s Capaldi and Coleman at their finest, and the same can be said of the Twelfth Doctor and Clara, too. I simply have to quote the scene, because it’s so well done;

DOCTOR

You betrayed me. Betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I've ever stood for. You let me down! 

CLARA

Then why are you helping me?

DOCTOR

Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference? 

Everything they’ve been though this season has been leading up tho this moment, and it’s wonderful. A real highlight.

And then, throughout the rest of the episode, you’ve got Missy! Oh, wasn’t it a great reveal? I was fairly certain that she was going to be revealed as the master, but had to watch on transmission, because the preview copies we were sent at Doctor Who Online were censored! Great big black screens and silence in both the museum scene and the one out on the steps of St Paul’s - both of which then cut back to Peter Capaldi giving a look that’s a mixture of bafflement and horror. Everything around it seemed to so obviously point at Missy being the Master, but then there’s always the possibility that she might not be, and the the wool had been pulled over everyone’s eyes…

But actually discovering that we were right, and that it is the Master? Oh, that doesn’t make it any less brilliant. It helps that Michelle Gomez must be the best Master since the original. She’s so wonderful, and I’m ecstatic that we’re getting her back for another adventure next year. 

28 April 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 848: In the Forest of the Night

Dear diary,

Much like Kill the Moon a few weeks earlier, In the Forest of the Night came under a lot of fire for the science on display. And, once again, I simply wasn’t all that bothered about it! A forest grows overnight to protect us from extinction? Yeah, go on then, why not? However, I did have a few issues with this one, which are only more obvious on a second viewing.

I’ve two main problems - firstly, I simply don’t buy that this forest is in the middle of the city. There’s some lovely shots of phone boxes and busses stranded in the middle of the undergrowth, but there’s simply too much space for me to believe that we’re walking down streets. Lots of London streets are relatively narrow - certainly enough so that you’d be able to see the buildings through trees as dense as we’ve got here. For all the lovely direction of this one (which I’ll come to), it simply fails to convey the central idea of the script for me.

The second big issue I have is perhaps my main one, and the reason that this episode rates so low for me. I simply don’t buy that the forest is so empty. On the whole, we’ve got the Coal Hill field trip, the Doctor, the teams trying to destroy the trees, and Maebh’s mum and neighbour. That’s yer lot! I get that a great big forest growing in the centre of the city overnight is going to cause some traffic headaches when it comes to your morning commute, but it simply rings completely false to me. Tied in with the fact that there’s so few vehicles dotted around between the trees, and the whole plot seems to work on the assumption that the whole of London empties at night-time, and that hardly anyone was able to get back in the next morning. It just feels so off-base. I’d expect at least a few bemused citizens wandering around the foliage (and, actually, I’d imagine there’s quite a lot of fun to be had with that, too).

I think the reason it bothers me so much is simply because it would be so easy to overcome. All you need to do is insert a couple of brief sentences and I’d completely buy it. The trees are here to save us, right? Okay, so the same power that’s able to make them all grow overnight is also able to transport all the people away somewhere at the same time. Humans removed for safety, trees grow to protect the planet, then the humans are all brought back once the danger has passed. See? It seems so simple that I’m actually almost offended that it’s not done! Hm? What’s that? Why are all the people we do see still here, then? Oh, that’s simple! The Coal Hill group are there because they’re with Maebh at the sleepover when the event occurs. The Doctor is there because he’s an alien, so doesn’t get scooped out when the rest of the planet does (or he simply arrived after the fact. Time machine, and all that), and Maebh’s mum is still around because having lost one child, her fear at losing the other one is strong enough to overpower the removal. As for the teams trying to burn the forest… oh, well, I’m not giving you all the answers. Someone else can work out how they remain behind. Magic, possibly.

It’s really those two issues which simply stop me from being able to engage with this story in the way I’d like, and it’s a real pity because there’s some gorgeous work on display visually, and it’s a shame that it’s marred by the fact that it doesn’t really fit what the script is trying to give us. This is Sheree Folkson’s first stab at directing Doctor Who, and I really hope she gets another chance to bring us one of the Doctor’s adventures, because there’s some real promise on display here, but it feels like the various disparate departments simply haven’t all pulled together in the way they normally do so well.

27 April 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 847: Flatline

Dear diary,

I’ve said it before, but with less that a week to go until I reach the end of this marathon, I’ll probably not get a chance to say it again; One of my favourite things about Doctor Who is that we’ve all got such wonderfully diverse takes on it. I love, sometimes, being able to say to a friend ‘I really liked [x] story’, only for them to reveal that they can’t bear it, but they’re rather fond of story [z] (that’s just an example, by the way, not necessarily *The Gunfighters*, which I actually *do* rather like), when I may not be. That diversity is what helps to keep discussions about the programme interesting, even after all this time. And it’s also the thing which makes writing the previews of these episodes a little difficult, sometimes. I try to be as objective as I can when putting down the thoughts (while also trying to remain as spoiler-free as possible), but my own likes and dislikes in relation to the series are always going to inform how I rate something. Those opinions are also always going to be informed by outside elements, too, for better or for worse.

Which brings us to Flatline. I can’t remember the specifics, but the day I sat down to watch this one had been pretty hectic. I’d been running from place to place trying to get things done, and was looking forward to getting home to a brand new episode of Doctor Who to brighten the evening. The only downside was that Flatline had been the least-appealing episode to me when I read the brief previews that Steven Moffat had written for the Radio Times right back at the start of the series. I’d already decided - several weeks earlier, that this would be the episode I liked the least from the Series Eight run. Couple that mad day with that lack of enthusiasm, and I was never going to be that enamoured with this one. Still, if doing The 50 Year Diary had taught me anything, it’s that sometimes stories you’re not expecting to find much merit in can be the greatest gems of all.

But not this one. I watched the episode play out and just felt… flat. That’s not me trying to be funny, it’s just genuinely how it left me. I’d liked the concept well enough, I suppose, and there was a lot of nice exploration of the way the Doctor operates, but overall I wasn’t keen. In the end, I summed this one up by saying;

”A vital episode for the narrative of Series 8, a chance for the regulars to shine (as always), a simple concept twisted into interesting new directions… but perhaps an episode which is less than the sum of its parts.”

And thankfully, I didn’t seem to be alone. I messaged another reviewer to say how little I’d cared for Flatline, and they replied to agree that it was by far the weakest of the season for them. Still, having been enjoying the run more than I could remember enjoying a season in ages, it was always going to have one episode that let me down. But then Saturday night rolled around, and I suddenly realised that Twitter was ablaze with posts about how that night’s Doctor Who had been the best episode of the programme in years. I briefly wondered if I’d been sent the wrong tape and had gotten the order of the episodes wrong in my head, but a quick check confirmed that, nope, it was Flatline on telly that night, and that everyone else in the world loved it. Even my friend, who’d written a luke-warm preview on their own site was singing its praises! I was baffled. For a brief half-hour, I even contemplated watching it again just to see if I’d been in a worse mood that day than I’d realised, but simply didn’t want to see it again until I had to for this marathon.

So here we are today. Three friends have text today to say ‘You’ve got Flatline tonight! Great episode!’ (or words to those effects), and i have to admit that I’ve been a little caught up in the hype. I’ve spent the afternoon genuinely looking forward to watching this episode, and reevaluating my earlier thoughts on it. But then I actually say and watched it, and I’m sorry, but it’s rubbish. 

Well, no. Actually, that’s not at all fair. It’s not rubbish, by any stretch of the imagination. I’d happily choose this episode over several of the other stories I’ve encountered over the course of this project, but I simply cannot understand the love for it. It’s merely alright Doctor Who to my mind - not spectacular, but perfectly serviceable.

For me, the highlight is still in the examination of the way the Doctor operates. It’s a thread that’s been tugged at over the last few stories, but Flatline is where it’s moved centre stage - and expertly so, by moving the Doctor off to the sidelines. As ‘Doctor-lite’ stories go, this one is well handled (you certainly never feel like Capaldi is missing from the action, even if his hair does seem to go off on little breaks of its own from time to time), and it really makes the most of not having the Doctor there by placing his actions in the spotlight through Clara. She really does make an excellent Doctor, and I love the suggestion that you don’t have to be a good person to be a good Doctor - it’s very much in keeping with this incarnation’s attitude, and yet there’s something equally interesting about looking back at some of the earlier incarnations and thinking about the way they act, but with a false smile on the top of it all.

The other area that this episode is very strong at is the visuals. I can’t even begin to imagine how you go about planning to make an episode like this one, and it has to be said that the team do a great job of it. The Boneless themselves are especially well realised, and completely unlike any other Doctor Who monster we’ve ever had. 

And yet, for all that, it simply doesn’t work for me, I’m afraid. I’ll admit that I’ve perhaps gotten a little more in to it today that I did on that previous viewing, but not by a massive amount, and I’m afraid that it’s going to be ending up with a score lower than a lot of people would bestow upon it…

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