Very Brief Doctor Who Reviews – Season Eleven

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The Time Warrior – Sometimes I wonder what Robert Holmes thinks of Strax in the current series, and whether he’s rolling in his grave at what his creations have become. But then I remember that Robert Holmes didn’t create the Sontarans – he created a Sontaran, Linx. Of all the many things that we thank Robert Holmes for, one of the things that all too often gets forgotten is that his stories featured villains, not monsters, and sometimes the villains were aliens, but the two weren’t synonymous. People rave about the cliffhanger where Linx takes off his helmet to reveal his head is exactly the same shape; watching as someone who already knows what Sontarans look like, my reaction to this has always been ‘well, yes, what else was his head going to look like?’ I’d have been shocked if it were shaped like a sausage. Are Irongron and Bloodeaxe the first of the great Holmesian double-acts? I think they might be (last season’s Inter-Minorians were more of a triple-act). Sarah’s so clever and rational, when she finds herself in the middle ages, she reasons she’s in a renaissance faire-esque pageant – how then does she explain that the Doctor’s police box managed to transport her from UNIT HQ of the week to the woods outside a castle; or the fact that said police box is bigger on the inside? This story is fall of great lines; “wacking great spider” is a favourite (being Australian, I often have cause to use it) and “long shank rascal with a mighty nose” is how I describe my dog. 7/10

Invasion of the Dinosaurs – Everyone makes fun of the dinosaurs, and while they do kind of look like they’re made of play-doh (other childs’ salt-based modelling compounds are available), they still look pretty good, (and the model sceneries they wander around in a beautifully detailed) apart from the t-rex and his tiny, tiny hands. Also, I don’t know how to usually reliable writers like Malcolm Hulke and Tewwance Dicks managed to so massively mishandle the reveal that Mike’s turned traitor. Not only does it come way too early, but we just kind open on a scene with him and the baddies with no fanfare. Imagine how much better this would have worked as a cliffhanger at around part four, rather than another bout of ‘a dinosaur appears/dramatic close-up on the Doctor’s face.’ Having said all that, I was still new enough to Doctor Who when I first watched this to know who Mike was, but not know the twist and I remember being pretty impressed. I get real joy out of the scene of the Doctor and Sarah having their mug shots taken (“Now, what about one of both of us?”). And who knew even hippies could be totalitarian dictators? Yes, I probably like it more than it deserves, but I don’t care. 8/10

Death to the Daleks – I think this may be the dullest story in the history of Doctor Who. Yes, there are stories that are worse, but at least they inspire some emotion in me, even if it is anger or annoyance. The humans are so poorly acted and shallowly characterised, they may as well be played by puppets, and the Daleks, once the feared conqueres of the galaxy, now self-destruct when they lose their prisoners and can be defeated by what looks suspiscuosly like a vacuum attatchement. On top of that, it has some of the worst incidental music (although nothing in this comes close to the cue from Timelash that sounds like composer’s cat is walking across the keyboard). I appreciate the effort that’s gone into making Bellal a sympathetic alien, and the make job is pretty good (even if he is naked) but I think if I had to watch much more of him, I would be driven mad by his pure-of-hearted-ness. It amuses me on rainy days to reflect how the big heroic climax of this episode is the suicide bombing of an air/space craft. Oops. 2/10

The Monster of Peladon – There wasn’t really any reason for this episode to exist, aside from the parallels to the Miner’s strike, but even that had passed over by the time the story actually aired. It’s pretty much the same story as The Curse of Peldon but not as interesting and stretched out an extra two episodes. Again, because I was so green (ha ha) to the show when I watched this season, I was genuinely shocked when the Ice Warriors appeared – although anyone who’d seen already seen Curse probably wouldn’t have been. 5/10

Planet of the Spiders – The Pertwee era reminds me in a lot of ways of the Russel T Davies era, and that’s down to the fact that both eras had a cast of recurring contemporary earth-based characters, and both seemed more dedicated to developing characters than any other era of the show. Where this is all leading to is my saying how lovely it is that the Doctor reads a letter from Jo. Usually when companions leave they are either forgotten about completely or cease to be people and become fannish continuity references (looking at you early ‘80s episodes). Is it an indictment on the quality of this story that I’ve spent such an inordinate time on a single line in the first episode? Let’s face it; this story’s a mess. The cliffhanger reprises are ridiculously long (and in the case of part five/six, have been cut so poorly there are butchered scenes twitching on the floor in agony); Sarah’s possession seems to come and go (did the queen spider really take the time to notice that Tommy’s learning impairment had vanished, even if it did lead to that lovely exchange about not wanting to be like everybody else?); why does the Doctor apparently not question that his companion can suddenly teleport? Why can spiders, even super advanced ones, teleport at all? Is Metebellis III the most boringly realised planet of all time? Planet of the Spiders? Planet of the bad actors in dodgy ‘70s moustaches more like. 4/10

Originally published on 11 February, 2017
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