I really liked this week’s episode of Doctor Who. The conclusion to the main threat was ever more perfunctory than usual, mind, but that didn’t overly detract from the beauty of the character studies involved. But on with this week’s Ten Things…
1. Kate Stewart
When I saw the new head of UNIT’s full name listed in the latest Doctor Who Magazine, I knew that there would be a link to the organisation’s most famous member, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
And here she is: the daughter of the man himself. And, in a fan-pleasing touch, it’s a character that has already previously appeared in Doctor Who, having appeared in Gary Russell’s novel The Scales of Injustice, which featured the Third Doctor, the Brigadier and Liz Shaw.
Jemma Redgrave is a worthy addition to the Doctor Who roll call, I think. I hope we see her again.
Of course the mysterious cubes would have several Twitter accounts set up within minutes. Even the “Essex Lion” had at least two. But I do long for the day when the positives about social media can be referenced, rather than being the butt of cheap jibes.
Still, at least Doctor Who is referencing social media correctly. It’s light years on from when, in Utopia, Jack and Martha’s sharing of anecdotes about the Doctor is wrongly chastised as “blogging”.
3. Steven Berkoff
Yes, that was him. Yes, it was a waste of such a renowned actor. Nice to see that his distinctive facial moles were replicated on his Shakri make-up, though.
4. The life of Brian
What a joy to see Mark Williams being the comedy dad again. His total embracing of the time travellers’ lifestyle – staying in the TARDIS for four days watching cubes, because the Doctor told him to – makes his resistance to his son and daughter-in-law’s continuing travelling all the more convincing.
Again, I say – why couldn’t we have had more of Brian earlier? Still, could have been worse. At least Amy’s one-dimensional parents haven’t been seen since the couple’s wedding.
5. You were the first
Matt Smith and Karen Gillan’s touching scene on the banks of the Thames, dicussing why Amy was so important to the Eleventh Doctor, was sweetly written and perfectly delivered, I thought. But it also highlights something about the relationship, and that’s that Amy is the first companion to first meet the Doctor within seconds of his regeneration.
Other companions have been introduced in the same episode as a new Doctor – Liz Shaw in Spearhead from Space, Rose Tyler in Rose. Even in 1996’s TV Movie, Grace meets the Doctor on the operating table before she inadvertently kills him and triggers his regeneration into Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor.
Amy is different in that respect. That’s why the series can get away with the conceit that the Eleventh Doctor has a unique bond with her. And really, if the first face you saw had been that of Caitlin Blackwood (The Eleventh Hour’s young Amelia), I’m pretty much guessing you’d feel the same way too.
6. Threat to the everyday
The concept of alien threats to everyday, human lives was a staple of Russell T Davies’s Doctor Who revival like never before (even in the original Earthbound UNIT stories, events took place an unspecified number of years into the very near future). That desire may have been in part a nod to budget – it’s easier to film on a present day location that’s meant to be one than to create whole new alien worlds – but it was desire which existed prior to the series’ return seven years ago.
Back in 2000, I wrote a fun little short story, New Best Friend, which merged the worlds of Queer As Folk and Doctor Who. Rather too brazenly, I showed it to Russell, who to his credit didn’t hate it. But I do remember him saying that it was exactly what he wanted to do with Doctor Who – put alien encounters in the sitting rooms and kitchens of everyday life.
By the time he moved on to other productions, the series had maybe overexhausted the concept – not helped by having two spin-off series in Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures which, by necessity, were rooted in the present day.
7. Kisses and pants
Viva Rory. I got a bit of stick in my Ten Things about Dinosaurs on a Spaceship for not mentioning the Doctor/Rory kiss. So I’m mentioning the reciprocation here. The dynamic between Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill has been one of the delights of the last few years, and I think it’s what I’m going to miss most after next week’s departure.
Also, orange boxers. On spindly legs. On the one hand, yum – and on the other, thank goodness Darvill can carry the moment off with good humour.
8. Henry VIII’s bedroom?
The second mention in a row for Henry VIII, after the Doctor chastised Rory for leaving his phone charger in the en suite in last week’s episode.
Given that the Doctor’s wedding anniversary trip for the Ponds ended up being much longer than expected, it’s entirely possible that the events of A Town Called Mercy happened during that journey.
9. Cubed means the power of three
The working title for this episode was called Cubed. I don’t know why it changed, but I prefer the original. If we must have the second unnecessary opening and closing narration in a row (which worked slightly better here, given that it’s delivered by one of the protagonists), how much better would the power of that line have been if it hadn’t been given away in the episode title?
10. Fish fingers and custard
Still not tempted. Yorkshire pudding, on the other hand, is a gem. We used to have it every Sunday – as a starter to the main roast dinner, rather than on the side, as seems to be the habit these days. It is also rather tasty as a dessert too. Make small puddings and, once cooked, fill the centres with a hot fruit sauce, or just drizzle golden syrup over them. Not particularly healthy, but delicious.