During the holidays, like many people, I lose track of the days of the week and these somewhat bloated, alcohol-laced days of little daylight and festive films race past. Here we are in 2015 already- a comically futuristic date and also one that marks the tenth anniversary of the tv revival of Doctor Who.
The Xmas special has become a fixture in the festive schedule but the Sunday Herald, with typical Glesga schadenfreuede, describes it as perenially disappointing. So, was Last Christmas this year’s Must-Have or a mouldy fruit at the bottom of the stocking?
For me, A Christmas Carol remains Moffat’s great success among the Xmas episodes certainly up there with RTD’s The Next Doctor, Voyage of the Damned and -first and best- The Christmas Invasion. This year’s offering- a mash-up of Inception and The Thing– seemed deprived entirely of plot and felt like a brandy butter -induced dream about TV Comic… with more than a whiff of sprouts.
Trapped in a polar base within a shared dreamscape created by repulsive parasites, the acerbic Glaswegian Magician and his bereaved school teacher pal are rescued by a blokey Santa. Moffat employed the very oldest schoolboy error- it was all a dream- to provide Yuletide sugar and spice. It wasn’t as manipulatively, mawkishly sentimental as 2011’s The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe but it was as story-free as last year’s regeneration vehicle The Time of the Doctor. Time, perhaps, to rest the format? As if that would happen…
On a positive note, while I would have been perfectly happy for the poignant glimpse of the elderly Clara to have been the reality- a final, very possible exit for the Impossible Girl- I have to admit that Coleman’s charm and vivacity makes me rather glad she’s continuing as The Magician’s Apprentice.
Back in the real world
I had a very good time in Glasgow between Xmas and New Year, catching up with family, friends and former workmates. I romaed from the douce delis of Clarkston to the hipster enclave of Finnieston, via fogbound Braehead and a gallus Glesga panto at the King’s. The soundtrack to my journey down and back was the third installment of Big Finish’s award winning Doctor Who- Dark Eyes series.
Dark Eyes 3 continues to track the journey of Paul McGann’s Doctor towards his Time War incarnation, as glimpsed in 2013’s Night of the Doctor. Here, he’s pitted against Alex McQueen’s fruity, campy Master in the final days of BF’s Eminence War.
The boxset opens on a desolate human settlement, where Molly O’Sullivan (currently a pawn of the Master) encounters teenage survivors, the eponymous Hope and her brother Leo. The Doctor is an observer in this story; it belongs to McQueen’s cooing, self-satisfied Master, playing at being the High Plains Drifter in a Space Western, the ominous Death of Hope. He is of course, exploiting Molly and the colonists to find a way through experimentation to seize control of the Breath of Forever.
The second disc drops the Doctor’s other companion, Medtech Liv Chenka into an internment camp for humans run by brutal scorpion-people, The Ramossans. In The Reviled, Fitton tells a POW story that ends in tragedy for the aliens, doomed by their contact with humanity. We also see the Doctor comtemplating breaking the laws of Time to save his companions- the Time Lord Victorious?
In the third episode, Masterplan, the two Time Lords are trapped on a crashing spacecraft. The Master’s other pawn, corrupt scientist Sally Armstrong, falls foul of another experimenter, the insane genius Dr. Markus Schriver. This was the most tense and harrowing installment, with the horrible trap for Sally and Liv mirroring the plight of the Doctor and the Master. It also presents an origin for the Eminence.
The final episode, Rule of the Eminence, was the most hectic and features guest stars Beth (Raine Creevy) Chalmers and Georgia (Jenny Who) Moffett. An epic space opera set largely on a future Earth, it features the climax of the Master’s grand design and the final defeat of the Eminence, although it’s very fast-moving and quite hard to follow.
I thought this was an improvement on DE2 although Ruth Bradley’s filming commitments meant her presence in the serial was curtailed. This was a great pity since her no-nonsense Molly is a great foil to McGann. He sounded bored and lethargic here, for the most part, which has often happened before – prior to the debut of Sheridan Smith (OBE), for example- and he’s not good at hiding it. Nicola Walker’s fatalistic Liv Chenka just doesn’t “zing” with McGann. good as she is.
The strength of the series was in its world-building and the scope of the conflict. It was also refreshing to have an original “baddy” in the Eminence- the megalomaniac sentient gas and its zombie-like Infinite Warriors have appeared in stories for the Fourth and Sixth Doctors but are not products of the classic tv series. BF has an obsessive desire to provide sequels for the majority of TV Who and it’s pleasant, therefore, to see something new – even if that’s something inspired, rather blatantly, by Babylon 5. However, I feel the story has reached its natural conclusion so I’m not at all sure why we need a DE4, in a few weeks time.
Coming soon: the 1975 Spider-Man Annual; Don Heck; Multiversity.
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