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Enemy of the World

Original Series - Season 5

Six half hour episodes shown weekly from December 30, 1967 to January 27, 1968

Written by David Whitaker. Directed by Berry Letts

Starring Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Henry Stamper , Rhys McConnochie, Simon Cain, Mary Peach, Bill Kerr, Colin Douglas, Milton Johns.

The Doctor, Victoria, and Jamie land in Australia in 2018 and set out to have a little fun, but the Doctor is nearly assassinated. They are rescued by Astrid and taken to Giles Kent. The Doctor is an exact double for Salamander, an evil megalomaniac. Astrid and Giles believe the Doctor is not Salamander, in part, because he doesn't have Salamander's Spanish accent. They all decide to stop Salamander, so off they go on another great adventure.

Salamander came to power by controlling the sun's rays so more crops will grow, but now he is causing earthquakes and volcanos. The intrepid crew must stop him before he kills more innocent people. Much to everyone's surprise, Salamander also controls an underground colony of workers who cause the mayhem.

Until recently, most of this story was considered lost, but in 2013, BBC found the missing episodes. For Doctor Who fans, Enemy of the World has historical value. And it is an opportunity to see Jamie and Victoria interact. It also features Patrick Troughton as both the Doctor and Salamander.

All of the above are good reasons for watching this story. However, it isn't one of Doctor Who's finest examples of storytelling. As in many of the shows from this era, the supporting actors are stiff and wooden, posturing and shouting as if acting to the balcony rather than the camera. However, Milton Johns gives a wonderfully subtle performance as the conniving Benik, seen here pointing his gun at Victoria.

Although I love Patrick Troughton's take on the Doctor, his Spanish accent is less than superb. As Salamander and as the Doctor pretending to be Salamander, he does pronounce his lines in a different accent, but it isn't Spanish. I need to note here that I live where Hispanics make up almost half the population. My ears may be less tolerant to mangled Spanish accents.

Even without the clumsy acting and silly accents, the story is jumbled and too hard to believe.

If you are a long time Doctor Who fan interested in the history of the program, this is well worth watching. But, if you are a casual watcher interest in the latest sci-fi, the primitive production values may not be to your liking.

Reviewed by Romana Drew March 8, 2019

Web of Fear

Original Series - Season 5 Episode5

Six episodes were shown weekly from February 3, 1968, to March 9, 1968

Written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. Directed by Douglas Camfield

Starring Patrick Troughton as The Doctor, Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon, Deborah Watling as Victoria, Jack Watling as Professor Travers, Tina Packer as Anne Travers, Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart.

The Tardis stops dead in space, encased in spiderweb. The web eventually goes away, and the Tardis lands in the Covent Garden tube station. The lights are off, and the underground appears to be abandoned, except, of course, it isn't.

Professor Travers has a collection of Yeti memorabilia from his Tibetan expedition forty years ago. The Doctor was there, too. A control sphere comes to life and activates a Yeti, who are robots. The Intelligence takes over and wreaks havoc on London. The city is abandoned and the underground filled with dangerous fungus, webs, mists, and of course Yeti. How the professor's one Yeti multiplied into dozens, and how the Intelligence got to Earth, is never explained.

Everyone wanders around in the dark underground, stepping over rails. Although the scenes look like they were shot in the underground tunnels, they were filmed on sets. At first, the tunnels are interesting, but as sets go, they get dull pretty fast.

The Yeti are iconic villains of very early Doctor Who shows, but it is easy to see why they didn't persist into the later episodes. The costumes are clumsy, and the actors can barely walk. As much as they were supposed to be frightening, they were somewhat comical. And if they are robots, why are they covered in fur? Why do they have big, clumsy, un robot like hands?

The third episode in this recovered series is comprised of stills with mostly original dialogue. It works reasonably well to fill in the gaps.

This is the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Lethbridge-Steward. He is a colonel, and there is no mention of UNIT. I don't think any other character spanned as many doctors and episodes as Lethbridge-Stewart. He brings something magical to this episode. It gets better when his character is introduced. Courtney did appear in an earlier episode as a different character.

Anne Travers is an intelligent and reasonably strong female character. Victoria is just the opposite. She does do a bit of getting caught and asking why but contributes little to the story. This is not a criticism of Deborah Watling, but rather of the writing. As a point of interest, she is Jack Watling's (Professor Trevor's), daughter in real life.

This is one of the few remaining episodes where the Doctor plays the recorder. If I remember correctly, the only other doctor to play an instrument is Peter Capaldi.

The Web of Fear is a fun story, with Yetis, tubes full of fungus, and walls that might fall down if the actors pushed too hard. It is worth watching - at least once.

Reviewed by Romana Drew March 18, 2019

Jamie, Zoe, and the Doctor in the Tardis.

The War Lord, one of the aliens, and the War Chief, a renegade time lord.

The Doctor with a few of his advisaries.
War Games

Original Series - Season 6

Ten half-hour episodes broadcast weekly from April to June 8, 1969

Written by Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke. Directed by David Maloney

Starring Patrick Troughton as The Doctor, Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon, Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot, Jane Sherwin as Lady Jennifer Buckingham, Philip Madoc as the War Lord, and Edward Brayshaw as the War Chief.

The Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie land in the middle of World War One. They are captured and found guilty of spying. They get free only to run into a group of charging Roman soldiers. Escaping that, they find themselves in the American Civil War. After they discover an alien transport device, they make their way to the alien's headquarters where they get caught and escape into the middle of another war.

An unnamed alien race collects soldiers from different Earth wars, intending to breed an army from the strongest and best. This diabolical plot is spearheaded by the War Lord, with the help of the War Chief, a renegade time lord. Although this plan would require a significant number of women, Lady Jennifer appears to be the only one captured.

War Games is old and outdated. The fight scene choreography is sloppy. And, in typical Doctor Who fashion, the middle part of the story runs in circles. Being ten episodes long, that is a lot of getting captured and escaping. Still, it is surprisingly good. As Patrick Troughton's final episode, it is a must see for any die-hard Doctor Who fan.

All members of the alien race seem to be nearly blind. They wear impossibly thick glasses or masks with slits. Those super thick lenses and the dramatic lighting makes them look both menacing and a little comical. As does the rigid and commanding way they deliver their lines. Except for the Doctor and companions, much of the acting is stiff and stilted.

For Doctor Who, there is a lot of violence in this story. Even Jamie carries a gun and shoots several people. Normally, violence is caused by Daleks or Cybermen, or some other evil alien being that can be killed with impunity. Here it is humans killing humans, which seems a bit out of character for Doctor Who.

This is the first time the Doctor is identified as a time lord, and the first time he goes to his home planet, but it isn't named.

The War Chief looks and acts very much like an early incarnation the Master. The actual Master isn't introduced until 1971. Perhaps the War Chief was an inspiration for the Doctor's life long advisory.

I do recommend watching War Games, but not all at once. Five hours may be a bit much to take in one sitting.

Reviewed by Romana Drew January 31, 2019

Spearhead From Space

Original Series - Season 7 Episode1

Four episodes were shown weekly from January 3, 1970, to January 24, 1970

Written by Robert Holms. Directed by Derek Martinus

Starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, Caroline John as Liz Shaw, Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Hugh Burden as Channing,

The Tardis lands in a field, and the Doctor steps out, looks around, then falls flat on his face. At the same time, a hoard of plastic polyhedrons fly through space to land in the English countryside.

When Lethbridge-Stewart discovers the Tardis has been found and the Doctor is in a hospital, he rushes over to get help with the invasion of plastic balls. Instead of Patrick Troughton, he finds Jon Pertwee.

Although Unit, and a farmer, manage to find a couple of spheres, Channing gathers up the rest and uses them to create the Nestene consciousness and to animate plastic people, called Autons. He copies a few prominent individuals and stores the originals in the wax museum.

Spearhead From Space is Jon Pertwee's first episode and the first Doctor Who filmed in color. It introduces Liz Shaw as the Doctor's assistant and the Brigadier as a regular character. The Time Lords have sabotaged both the Tardis and the Doctor's ability to fix it, so the Doctor joins Unit and spends the next few stories fighting a series of alien invaders.

As stories go, the first three and one-half episodes are pretty good. The conclusion, however, is lame to the point of being funny. The Nestene Consciousness is a filmy web-like creature inside a box. When the Doctor messes with the box, it sprouts several huge tentacles and strangles the doctor. Fortunately, Liz Shaw is there zap it and save the world. The tentacles might have worked better had they looked like plastic instead of cloth and had they been less reliant on the Doctor holding them around his body.

Spearhead From Space shows the height of 70's technology. The Doctor's Nestene zapper looks like the insides of a pre-transistor television. Compared to William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee's Doctor has a dandy's flair for fashion, Inverness capes, and frilly shirts.

In general, this is a good fun episode, and a must see for any Doctor Who fan.

Reviewed by Romana Drew March 28, 2019

Terror of the Autons

Original Series - Season 8 Episode1

Four episodes were shown weekly from January 2, 1971, to January 23, 1971

Written by Robert Holms. Directed by Barry Letts

Starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, Katy Manning as Jo Grant, Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Richard Franklin as Mike Yates, John Levene as Sergeant Benton, and, of course, Roger Delgado as the infamous Master.

The Master steals a Nestene energy unit and takes over a plastic factory. He produces Autons, daffodils that suffocate people, and an ugly doll that kills people. He even programs a telephone cord to strangle the Doctor.

Using the Beacon Hill radio telescope, the Master channels energy into the Nestene unit. The Doctor sneaks into the Master's Tardis, which is disguised as a large truck, and steal his dematerialization circuit. This leaves the Master able to drive around the countryside but traps him on earth.

Terror of the Autons is Roger Delgado's first appearance as the Doctor's long running nemesis, the Master. A character was called The Master in the Patrick Troughton Episode The Mind Robber, but he was master of the land of fiction, not a Time Lord.

Not only is this a good episode, but it brings the whole Jon Pertwee group together, Jo, Benton, Yates, Lethbridge-Stewart, the Master, and even Betsy. As companions go, Joe is adorable. At first, she seems helpless, but she stands up to the doctor, never fails to defend him, and isn't afraid of the bad guys.

There is a great stunt of someone rolling down a steep cliff. Even Jon Pertwee has his share of Karate chops, tripping and flipping the bad guys. How he does it without his cape getting in the way is an example of good stunt choreography.

The BBC used different cameras and filming techniques when filming inside a studio and outside on location. The studio scenes are clear, the outside location shots are fuzzy. This holds true for many years of Doctor Who.

Reviewed by Romana Drew April 8, 2019

The Three Doctors

Original Series - Season 10 Episode1

Four episodes were shown weekly from December 30, 1972, to January 20, 1973

Written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Directed by Lennie Mayne

Starring Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton, and William Hartnell as the Doctor, Katy Manning as Jo Grant, Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Richard Franklin as Mike Yates, John Levene as Sergeant Benton, and Stephen Thorne as Omega.

A blob travels to Earth intent on capturing the Doctor, while a black hole drains the energy of the universe leaving the Time Lords powerless, so they send Doctors one and two to help Doctor three.

Doctor number one, William Hartnell gets trapped in a time eddy and cannot fully materialize. Doctors two, Patrick Troughton, and three, Jon Pertwee, along with Jo, Lethbridge-Stewart, and a few others, are taken to the antimatter universe of the black hole. There they meet Omega, the Time Lord who created the supernova that powers time travel.

Omega is one in a long line of the Doctor's megalomaniac protagonists. Although the character lacks depth, Stephen Thorn does a great job of strutting, shouting, demanding, and generally being unreasonable. Omega created the antimatter universe, but now he is trapped there. Unless he gets free, he will destroy everything.

Although the CGI is extremely primitive, in general, this story works well. Lethbridge-Steward is always a little clueless and a step behind the doctor. Patrick Troughton's recorder plays a pivotal role even though he doesn't play it. And the cyclopic bubble monsters are classic Doctor Who. If those actors had to move quickly, they would either fall down or run into something. If they had to manipulate anything, even a door handle, they couldn't do it with their 'hands.' But they can shoot things with those hands. I wonder if that is an intentional pun - handgun.

In another classic Doctor who trope, much of the story takes place in a quarry.

Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee play off each other in the most charming way. It's sad that William Hartnell wasn't well enough to join the action. He brings an acerbic wit to the show even if he is only seen on the viewer.

Reviewed by Romana Drew April 17, 2019

The Doctor, Romana, and Chronotis

Tom Baker, Lala Ward, and David Brierley as the voice of K9

Also starring Christopher Neame, Denis Carey, Daniel Hill, and Victoria Burgoyne.

Written by Douglas Adams

Original six-part series release date was January - February 1980, but it was never completed or released.

US release July 19, 2018, with the missing sections replaced by animation.

The Doctor and Romana visit Professor Chronotis played by Denis Carey, to retrieve a powerful book that has been taken from Gallifrey. Chronotis is an escaped time lord hiding as a university professor. The Doctor, Romana, and K9, along with a couple of university students, get caught up in an evil plot to use the book.

Although some of the sets look straight out of early Buck Rogers, the evil balloons are reminiscent of The Prisoner, and the action is a bit slow by today's standards, it is wonderful to see Tom Baker and Lala Ward playing off each other. Unlike the current Doctor Who episodes, the dialogue is never muddled or overshadowed by sound effects or music, which lets Douglas Adams' clever repartee shine.

The animation is primitive and stilted, but voiced by the original actors, as far as I was able to ascertain. The best thing I can say about the animation is that it lets the story continue.

Like most of the six-part original series shows the monsters are somewhat silly looking, and it bogs down in episode four and five with endless running around getting captured and escaping, but perks up at the end. This is made even more obvious as most of the animation is in the last half of the show.

As an added plus, Tom Baker, the 2018 Tom Baker, makes a brief appearance at the end, still every bit the doctor.

If you are a Doctor Who fan, this is well worth watching. Tom Baker, and Lala Ward had the most charming way of portraying their characters and interacting with each other. If you are only a casual viewer, you may find it rather strange.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 8, 2018

Reboot season 11

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

US broadcast October 7, 2018

Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, and Bradley Walsh

Written by Chris Chibnall Directed by Jamie Childs

Ryan Sinclair, played by Tosin Cole, finds a strange object in the woods and calls the police. A friend from his childhood, Yasmin Khan, played by Mandip Gill, responds. They examine the cold, pock marked, bluish purple object, which is shaped much like a Hershey's kiss. They don't know what to make of it.

Ryan's grandparents' call from the train they are on, which is being attacked by a ball of writhing tentacles. The group meets up just in time to be killed by the whirling mass of cords, but the doctor falls into the scene and chases the menacing alien away.

In the meantime, someone else takes the giant kiss home, an obvious mistake, but where would stories be if characters didn't do dumb things. The object bursts open. A giant tooth stealing alien pops out and starts killing people. He embeds their teeth into his face.

Well, it is Doctor Who.

From the first line, Jodie Whittaker nailed the doctor's persona. Unlike many recent episodes, the dialogue was never difficult to understand. The special effects were great, and they never overwhelmed the story or the characters.

Each of the new companions is well developed and interesting, a young man, a young woman, and an older man, but it will take time to see how well they work as a group.

I think I like this doctor a lot and am looking forward to the next episode.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 8, 2018

Ghost Monument

Season 11 Episode 2

Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, and Bradley Walsh

Written by Chris Chibnall, Directed by Mark Tonderai

US Broadcast October 14, 2018

The Doctor and friends are scooped up by the last two competitors in an intergalactic rally. They crash on a desolate planet with poison water, sniper bots, and flying rag aliens. They must reach the finish or die. As plots go, this one isn't bad, but the execution falls short.

The first few scenes on the competitor's spaceships are almost unwatchable. The jerky camera work and obnoxious sound effects make it hard to concentrate. All the noise overwhelms the dialogue. Exciting - perhaps, if you don't care what anyone says.

Once they land on the planet, things get a little better. It is easier to understand the characters. Unfortunately, the two competitors have really depressing backstories, and both Ryan and Graham, join in the woe-with-me moaning. Things perk up once the action starts, but there is a lot of running around not accomplising much, which is pretty typical of Doctor Who. If done well, it works fine.

End the end, the Tardis interior is rather disappointing, all dark and gloomy. Given brighter or more colorful lighting, it might work, but as shown here, it's not a place I want to go.

I can't fault the actors. Their performances were fine. Jodie did a good job of portraying the doctor. And it is great to see a woman in practical shoes. Adventures in stileto heals are ridiculous.

I just wonder what is the point of writing clever dialogue (I think it might have been clever) and then burying it under music and sound effects. With just a little change in volume levels, the dialogue could shine. Great dialogue can overcome a world of other problems. But this is a long-standing Doctor Who issue at least with the US broadcasts.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 14, 2018

After watching other episodes with sound issues online, the main problem is BBC America, and/or my cable company. I haven't rewatched this episode, but I expect the sound will not be an issue with a different broadcast.


Season 11 Episode 3

Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, and Vinette Robinson as Rosa Parks

Written by Malorie Blackman & Chris Chibnall. Directed by Mark Tonderai

US Broadcast October 22, 2018

Set in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955

Doctor Who is supposed to be a children's show, but this week it tackled a very adult subject.

Krasko, a criminal from the future, played by Josh Bowman, is tampering with events. His goal is to stop Rosa Parks from getting arrested, thus preventing the civil rights movement.

Segregation is challenging to portray with sensitivity, and from my point of view, painful to watch. This quietly powerful episode depicts the dehumanization of blacks by whites in the deep south as if it were the natural way of things, which it was at the time.

This difficult situatiion is handled with care and respect. Although it is always present, it never overwhelms the story. Graham and the Doctor are able to move about freely, but Yasmin and Ryan have to deal with the intolerance and hostility.

Vinette Robinson does a very believable portrayal of Rosa Parks. Her simple act of refusing to give up her seat even when threatened with arrest, made her a catalyst for a bus strike that lead to the civil rights movement, and to many difficult years for her and her family.

Ryan meets both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. In that, I envy him.

I'm not sure I want to watch this episode over and over again but think it may become a classic. We are not a colorblind society. Racial intolerance still exists. 1955 was only 63 years ago.

I want to thank the BBC for putting the dialogue on top of the music and sound effects. It was easy to hear and understand every word - finally.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 23, 2018

Even the Tardis has a bit of a spider look.

Arachnids in the UK

Season 11 Episode 4

Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Sallie Aprahamian.

US broadcast October 28, 2018

The Tardis lands back in Yorkshire just thirty minutes after it left only to discover an infestation of giant spiders.

The spiders are the result of research specimens being dumped into toxic waste. As a cause for giant spiders, that is not entirely believable. Environment toxins cause birth defects, disease, and cancer in wildlife, same as people. They make animals sick and deformed, not big and threatening. Get over that, and the rest of the episode works great.

The spiders aren't intelligent, or alien, or bent on conquest. They are just overgrown arachnids doing their thing, catching people, and wrapping them up in silk. Well, they do have a little more intelligence than real spiders, but not so much that it is kills the story.

The spiders move and look like real spiders, no absurd mouths or long stingers. Instead, fuzzy pedipalps and sharp, shiny chelicerae serve them well. The one that drops from the ceiling does so properly, extruding silk from his spinnerets. Ok, I'm a wildlife biologist, and I like spiders. The special effects people did a wonderful job.

Chris Noth steals a few scenes as a quick to fire people, luxury hotel owner, and presidential hopeful, Jack Roberson, gold tie and all. I really wanted to see a spider get him, but alas, he survives.

We learn a little more about Graham, Ryan, and Yasmin's family life. In this episode, Jodie Whittaker's doctor often reminds me of David Tennant's doctor. And that is a compliment.

This is a fun episode. The plot builds from a quiet beginning to increasingly dangerous encounters. Exactly what the doctor did with the spiders wasn't completely clear, instead the show cuts to a tender closing scene with Team Tardis.

The special effects are excellent, and camera work, music, and sound effects are never distracting.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 29, 2018

The Tsuranga Conundrum

Season 11 Episode 5

US Broadcast November 4, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Jennifer Perrott

The Tsuranga Conundrum has a pretty solid story and a great villain. The Doctor and friends are trapped on a spaceship far from the Tardis. A space monster the size of a toaster, Pting, invades and trashes the ship. Can the Doctor escape before the ship blows up? I don't want to give away any spoilers, but there is another episode next week.

Pting is one of the better alien creations, running around eating bits and pieces of the ship. The sets are beautiful all white and blue with computer screens and colored lights. I think the plot is pretty solid, but since I could only understand every third or fourth word, it is hard to say.

It seems as if there should have been enough plot without the completely unrelated sub-story about a pregnant man giving birth. As comic relief, it would have worked better, had the dialogue been easier to understand.

The background noise and persistent echo is so annoying and loud that ad breaks felt like quiet time. Had I not wanted to do this review, I would have abandoned the show after about fifteen minutes. To be fair, the sound could have been the result of local broadcast issues, but I doubt it.

I wish this had been easier to watch, but as is, it's not a keeper. If anyone knows how to get a copy with the voices on top of the background, let me know.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 4, 2018

After I wrote the review, I watched this episode online and the sound was fine. The episode was much more enjoyable.

Demons of the Punjab

Season 11 Episode 6

US broadcast November 11, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Amita Suman, Shane Zaza, and Hamza Jeetooa

Written by Vinay Patel. Directed by Jamie Childs

Yasmin's grandmother gives her a broken watch but refuses to explain why it is important to her, so the doctor and friends go back in history to find out. They arrive on the border between Pakistan and India the day before the two countries are separated. Yasmin's Muslim grandmother Umbreen, played by Amita Suman, is about to marry the love of her life, Prem a Hindu, played by Shane Zaza. Prem's brother, Manish, played by Hamza Jeetooa, opposes the wedding and supports the separation of the two countries and the segregation of Hindus and Muslims.

Marriage across religious, racial, family or political lines is the basis of many stories from Romeo and Juliet to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Brothers separated by ideology is also a common theme. In that way, Demons in the Punjab didn't cross any new ground. It did, however, cover a bit of history I missed in school.

The demons feel like an afterthought, something to give the story a more science fiction look. They don't drive the story and don't change anything. Instead of increasing the tension, they disrupt it.

The Manish and Prem characters are underdeveloped. I was initially confused thinking one was Muslim and the other Hindu. But they are both Hindu, one tolerant of Muslims the other not.These characters need more screen time to develop emotional engagement with them and to intensify the threat of impending doom they represent.

This episode must have been filmed in the spring. Several times the Doctor and friends run a through a lovely field overflowing of wildflowers.

Graham is becoming my favorite character with his gentle wisdom.

Although a bit slow and disjointed in places, this is an episode worth watching.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 12, 2018


Season 11 Episode 7

US broadcast date November 18, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Julie Hesmondhalgh

Written by Pete McTighe. Directed by Jennifer Perrott

A holographic delivery robot appears inside the Tardis with a (not holographic) package for the Doctor, something she ordered a long time ago, a fez, and a note saying "please help." She and friends go to Kablam! An intergalactic version of Amazon run amok.

With 10,000 employees and ten times that many robots, Kerblam! is the largest distributer in the galaxy, but something is wrong. People are disappearing. So, Team Tardis take jobs at Kerblam! to investigate.

As with the Tsuranga Conundrum, the sets, props, lighting, and special effects excellent.

Comic relief is put to great use. Ryan and Yasmin slide down several stories of shoots and ride on miles of conveyers with millions of packages. The Doctor's sonic fails to stop a murderous robot, so the prim and proper HR manager rips it head off. And of course, Jodie parades around in a fez. It all builds to an explosive ending.

Some of the background sound is rather irritating, not so much because it was too loud, but because it didn't go with the scene. Tension building sound effects are fine backing up a tense scene, but annoying in the wrong place.

Note: I tried to watch this off a BBC America broadcast as I normally do, but there were so many sound dropouts and the background sound tended to overwhelmed the dialogue. This has been a common problem with the Doctor Who broadcasts this season. I logged into the Daily Motion and fed that into the TV. All the problems disappeared. I don't know if the sound issue is BBC America, my cable company, or some combination of the two, but it only happens with Doctor Who.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 19, 2018


Season 11 Episode 8

US broadcast date November 25, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Alan Cumming, and Siobhan Finneran.

Written by Joy Wilkinson. Directed by Sallie Aprahamian.

The Doctor and friends find themselves in 17th century England near the village of Bilehurst Crag where a woman accused of being a witch is put on trial by the evil Becka Savage, played by Siobhan Finneran. After a lecture on not interfering in history, Team Tardis jump in to stop the mayhem. With a name like Bilehurst Crag, something just has to be wrong.

In typical witch trial fashion, if the accused drowns they must be innocent. If they survive, they must be a witch and therefore killed. Becka Savage, the ruler of the village, lives up to her name with her weekly witch trials always ending in the death of the accused. She claims to be ridding the village of Satan, but every woman drowns, which means they were innocent. That never occurs to her or to King James.

A while back, Ms. Savage cut down an enormous tree with only an ax, releasing a race of alien mud creatures who fill the bodies of the dead, making the episode replete with reanimated dead and twisted trees against cloudy skies, neither of which quite come off as frightening.

In a unique twist, the Doctor gets captured and accused of being a witch while her companions wander about investigating.

The episode bogs down a bit in the middle with too much rehashing, who, what, where, and how Satan manifests himself and what to do about it. However, both, Alan Cumming and Siobhan Finneran, do great jobs with their characters.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 26, 2018

It Takes You Away

Season 11 Episode 9

US broadcast date December 2, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Ellie Wallwork

Written by Ed Hime and Joy Wilkinson. Directed by Jamie Childs.

The Doctor and friends go to Norway and find a boarded up house in the middle of the woods. Inside, Hanne, a blind teenage girl, played by Ellie Wallwork, is alone. Her mother is dead and her father has disappeared. Every afternoon, a monstrous noise frightens her.

The show starts out fine with a creepy something is wrong feel and a mirror that is a portal to another universe. The alien in the cave never feels like much of a threat even though he is supposed to. Although, the carnivorous moths are a nice touch. They look soft, fly realistically, and eat anything that moves.

When the crew tries to get home, they find themselves in an alternate universe that is almost identical to this one, but nicer in some ways. Turns out the alternate universe is sentient, and now that so many people are there, it can no longer maintain its connection to this universe. If the Doctor and friends don't get back in time, the whole thing will self-destruct.

The adult in me thought a sentient universe was a really dumb idea, on par with Timothy Zahn's sentient black hole, but the kid in me didn't mind.

Most of this episode works. It gets a bit tedious just before the conclusion, as is typical for many Doctor Who stories.

There were nice moments with Graham and Grace.

Using a talking CGI frog as an avatar for a sentient universe is unique.

Erick's priorities are screwed up. He deserves the clueless, irresponsible father of the year award.

Hanne is self-sufficient and fits right into the story. Using a blind actress to play a blind character adds a degree of sensitivity and realism that isn't normally found in Doctor Who.

The sound effects and background music leave much to be desired. However, BBC America broadcasts in my area tend to have sound problems, so that may not be an issue in other areas.

Reviewed by Romana Drew December 3, 2018

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

Season 11 Episode 10

US broadcast date December 9, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole,

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Jamie Childs

The Doctor responds to a distress call from Ranskoor Av Kolos. Knowing the planet will mess with thought processes, she equips everyone with dampeners to keep them sane. They find a battlefield, a quarry, complete with hundreds of crashed ships and Paltraki, played by Mark Addy, who can't even remember his name.

The residents of the planet, two Ux, manipulate matter with their minds. Tzim-Shaw, played by Samuel Oatley, the teeth stealing megalomaniac from the first episode, has made them believe he is their god. To please him, the Ux to steal planets, compress them and keep them inside plastic containers. How that gives him power over the entire universe is never really explained. Now that the doctor has arrived, he wants revenge and tries to capture Earth.

Tizm-Sha was a pretty weak villain in the first episode. In this episode, the character has more power and depth. However, from Omega to Davros to the Jagrafess, megalomaniacs are all about the same.

Even though Tizm-Sha killed Grace, the Doctor forbids Graham to kill him. Graham doesn't listen. In the end, it is Ryan, who intervenes and finds a better way of decommissioning this villain. Graham and Ryan make major contributions to the plot, which gives them a chance to develop their characters.

This is a solid episode. The pace is even, building to an exciting conclusion, with enough wind down to give each character a future. Sound effects never overwhelmed the dialogue. There are well-timed comic relief and tender, thoughtful moments. But it is dark and dystopian throughout.

Reviewed by Romana Drew December 9, 2018



Season 11 Episode 11

US broadcast date January 1, 2019

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Daniel Adegboyegaand

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Jamie Childs, Wayne Yip

After celebrating New Year's day on several worlds, the doctor and friends get waylaid to Sheffield, where they find archeologists have unearthed part of an ancient Dalek. Now free of its tomb and activated, the Dalek joins with its other two halves and latches onto one of the archeologists, Lin, played by Charlotte Ritchie. Lin/Dalek goes about in typical Dalek fashion, killing people and causing havoc. Lin/Dalek finds various stashed Dalek parts and takes them to a farm workshop to reassemble a Dalek casing. Now, fully functional, the Dalek attempts to take over Earth.

Some things stand out. How did the partial Dalek, unearthed in Sheffield, connect up with the other two parts of its body, one on a south pacific island, and the other in Siberia? The farm workshop simply can't have had all the necessary equipment and supplies to build a fully functional Dalek shell that can fly and hook into the communications network. Why does a supernova pull things out of the Tardis? Although suns do have a great deal of gravitational pull, they keep planets in orbit, a supernova is an exploding sun. There is a lot of star stuff being flung out away from the sun. I am not an astronomer, but doesn't that push outward rather than pull inward?

This episode explores Ryan's relationship with his father, Aaron. Although, the scene is overly long. It looks for a while as if Aaron will sacrifice himself to get rid of the Dalek hanging on his back, but he lives.

UNIT is unavailable because of funding limitations. Even I got that Brexit dig, although it took a minute to sink in.

This is a solid episode. It does have a few problems, but overall it works well, especially for those who love to hate Daleks. The ability to suspend your belief when things are not quite logical is part of the Doctor Who world. After all the Tardis is bigger on the inside, and not by a little bit. It is enormous.

Season Review.

A new showrunner, a new Doctor, and new directions in storytelling marked this season. Some episodes worked better than others, but overall, I think it went rather well. My biggest beefs were with broadcast issues that made viewing dfficult. Several episodes had such bad sound that they were almost unwatchable. When I watched them online, the sound issues went away, so I have to blame my cable provider, although it did color my reviews of those episodes. Since my cable provider isn't carrying BBC America at this point in time, and I have not been able to figure out why, which is why I am three days late in watching this episode.

The companions are not as interesting as they could be. They all have difficult backstories, which are a bit dull. I miss Donna telling off the doctor, River Song's hello sweetie, Martha's falling in love, Captain Jack roving eye, and Romana's brilliance. Sara Jane, Teagen, Jamie and most of the other companions had vibrant personalities. They interacted with and stood up to, the Doctor, often driving the story, even when they merely got captured and had to be rescued. The current crop of companions lacks pizzaz. The acting seems to be quite fine, but too often they don't have much to do and what they do doesn't drive plot.

Change is essential to keep a long-running show like Doctor Who on the air. Change can be both exciting and disappointing. My biggest regret is that there won't be another new episode for at least a year.

Reviewed by Romana Drew January 4, 2018

The Doctor in prison

Captain Jack
Revolution of the Dalaks

Christmas Special

US broadcast date January 1, 2021.

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness.

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Directed by Lee Haven Jones.

The Doctor is in prison and has been for quite a long time. Captain Jack rescues her just in time to stop a Dalak invasion.

As story ideas go, this isn't at all unique. In fact, the Dalaks have invaded Earth far too many times. But it does have a unique take on Dalaks, how they came to power, and how to defeat them.

It is wonderful to see John Barrowman again. His character always improves the story.

There are many changes in this story. The Doctor was gone from Earth for ten months, but much longer from her perspective. Yaz, Ryan, and Graham have remained friends, but all have changed. The Doctor has also ruminated on her past.

A few things could have used a little more explaining. Why is the Doctor in prison? Why is she forced to walk the corridors each day? How does Jack get incarcerated along with his escape bubble and vortex manipulator? After all, he is wearing the same prison uniform as the Doctor, so how come he gets to keep those toys? And, not the last question, where did the other Tardis come from? How did Yaz find it?

During Jodie's tenure as the Doctor, hearing the dialogue over the music and sound effects was often difficult. It is possible that the sound issues were caused by how the program was broadcast in my area rather than inherent in the production. This episode didn't have those problems.

I often long for the original series Doctors who dive into solving the current crisis without debating the value of their existence, who they are, or who they should be.

All the grousing aside, this is a good episode. Hopefully, it portends a great season.

Reviewed by Romana Drew January 5, 2021

The Doctor and Donna

The Meep

Donna's Family
The Star Beast

Directed by Rachel Talalay. Written by Russell T. Davies.

First aired November 25, 2023

Starring: David Tennant as The Doctor, Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, Yasmin Finney as Rose Noble, Karl Collins as Shaun Temple, Ruth Madeley as Shirley Anne Bingham, Jacqueline King as Sylvia Noble, Cecily Fay as The Meep, and Miriam Margolyes as The Meep's voice.

Wgeb we last saw Donna Noble, she was getting married, and she had a winning lottery ticket. Now, having given all the money away, she lives in a middle-class house with her husband, daughter, and mother.

Of course, if she ever remembers the doctor, she will die.

The doctor can't figure out why he is now sporting a recycled face. With nothing better to do, he lands the TARDIS in London and wanders the streets. The first people he bumps into are Donna, her mother, and her daughter. Their reunion is cut short when a spaceship flies through the clouds as if on fire and crashes.

While the doctor investigates the ship, Rose, Donna's daughter, finds the Meep, a really cute furry alien, and the big, green aliens with giant red eyes who are chasing him. And just like the creature in Robert Heinlein's novel The Star Beast, the Meep isn't what it seems to be.

So, the adventure begins.

There are chases and escapes and all manner of exciting things.

David Tennant does a great job of reprising his doctor - facial expressions and endless energy, with a soft, caring side.

Catherine Tate also slips right back into Donna. Underneath the blunt sarcasm, she knows there is more to the doctor and to her past but can't figure out what.

The Meep is voiced by Miriam Margolyes, Professor Pomona Sprout, from the Harry Potter movies. Such a sweet and innocent character.

The special effects are spectacular. The streets crack down the middle, releasing fire and lava. But then they repair themselves?

The new TARDIS is quite a change from both David Tennant's and Jodi Whitaker's TARDIS, all shiny and white. The central consul is similar to Peter Davison's TARDIS. I saw the inside of David Tennant's TARDIS at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff a few years back. This TARDIS is quite a bit bigger.

The plot is simple, and although there are a lot of minor surprises, the main plot twists are predictable. But the action is fast and compelling. Shaun, Donna's husband, doesn't have much of a part. In many scenes, Donna's mother tries to prevent the doctor from being with Donna, but she doesn't drive the plot.

Her daughter Rose is a major player in this episode. Her character is quiet and gentle, but her actions cause a couple of major plot twists. Although the ending isn't very plausible, given a while to think about it, it works fine while watching.

After the conclusion, when the bad guys are defeated, and everyone is safe; there are the goodbyes. Donna wants to ride in the TARDIS, just a short trip. Oops.

The Star Beast is a pretty classic doctor who. It's a bit over the top but fast and fun.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 27, 2023.

The Doctor and Donna

The Doctor Trying to Fix the Ship

Donna, her grandfather and the Doctor
The Wild Blue Yonder

Directed by Tom Kingsley. Written by Russell T. Davies.

Original release December 2, 2023

Starring: David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott, Nathaniel Curtis as Isaac Newton, Susan Twist as Mrs Merridew, Daniel Tuite as The Doctor Acting Double, Ophir Raray as The Doctor Beast Double, Tommaso Di Vincenzo as The Doctor Contortionist Double, and Helen Cripps as Donna Acting Double.

In the previous episode, Donna spilled coffee on the TARDS console, causing a massive reaction. The Doctor and Donna escaped, but the TARDIS flew off in a panic. Now, they are stranded on a spaceship in the middle of nowhere with their evil doppelgangers.

This is an interesting concept that falls a bit short.

There is a mystery to solve: who are the doppelgangers, what do they want, why are they here, and where is everyone else? But there just isn't enough story to fill the entire hour.

In quite a few scenes, the Doctor and Donna are in the same room with their doppelgangers. So much so that their body doubles get well-deserved credit.

The scene with Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott was especially touching as it was filmed shortly before he died in 2022. He was 93.

Although some of the areas of the spaceship were actual sets, most of the ship had to have been filmed in a green room. The CCGI is excellent. The ship's interior looks quite real. And being so long, the actors have plenty of opportunity to run.

The individual twists and turns in the plot are interesting, but it felt like there was too much time and not quite enough story. Some of the dialogue and actions get a bit repetitious.

Also, pale blue light is used to illuminate both the TARDIS and the spaceship. I like that, but wonder if it is the set designer's choice or did the title inspire the color of the lighting?

Perhaps not the greatest episode, but it is beautifully filmed and fun to watch.

Reviewed by Romana Drew December 4, 2023.

The Doctor and Mel

The Toymaker

Two Doctors

Shirley Anne Bingham
The Giggle

Directed by Chanya Button, Written by Russell T. Davies

Released December 9, 2023.

Starring: David Tennant and Catherine Tate

With: Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor, Neil Patrick Harris as The Toymaker, Jemma Redgrave as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush, Ruth Madeley as Shirley Anne Bingham, Aidan Cook as The Vlinx, Nicholas Briggs as Voice of the Vlinx, Karl Collins as Shaun Temple, Jacqueline King as Sylvia Noble, and Yasmin Finney as Rose Noble.

The Doctor and Donna land in present-day London, where everyone has gone bonkers. Violent, uncontrolled anarchy rules. They are kidnapped and taken to UNIT, where they meet Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Melanie Bush.

Shirley Anne Bingham is an interesting character. She uses a wheelchair even though she can walk. The ability to walk is not always an all or nothing proposition.

The Toymaker has returned and is driving everyone nuts.

It was great to see Melanie again. After traveling the stars with Sabalom Glitz, she returned to Earth and was hired by UNIT.

This episode has the best and worst of Russell T. Davies' writing. The story and plot are well conceived. The pacing is fine, and events move along at a good clip. But, instead of intrigue, sensitivity, or suspense, everything gets shoved into the viewer's face. The few sensitive moments, although well-played, get lost. There isn't any lead-up to them, and they pass as if they never happened.

The Toymaker is an over the top, obnoxious character. Had the part been played with a little more subtly, it would have worked so much better. Instead of being obviously evil from the first second he comes on screen, why not let that evil develop slowly, more creepy. The Toymaker was featured in previous Doctor Who episodes, but they are mostly lost or never aired.

The regeneration leaves many questions unanswered. Ncuti Gatwa's Doctor seems fine, but what of David Tennant's Doctor? I'm not convinced that he would ever just settle down. Since David Tennant is very popular, perhaps Davies is simply hedging his bets by keeping two doctors around. Although in interviews, he denies it.

This is not the best Doctor Who episode ever filmed, but it is an improvement over the last episode.

Reviewed by Romana Drew December 13, 2023.

Ruby and the Doctor

A Goblin

The Goblin Master

The Church on Ruby Road

Directed by Mark Tonderai. Written by Russell T. Davies.

Originally released December 25, 2023.

Starring: Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor, Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday, Davina McCall as Davina McCall, Anita Dobson as Mrs. Flood, Michelle Greenidge as Carla Sunday, and Angela Wynter as Cherry Sunday.

Instead of a period of adaptation to his new form, this episode starts with the Doctor dancing in a club, wearing a kilt. He meets a young woman who has trouble keeping her drink from spilling. Little grey hands sneak in to mess things up. Nothing serious at first, just a spilled glass or an unplugged cord.

Then, a baby goes missing.

The episode is full of goblins. Instead of hulking evil monsters like the goblins in the Lord of the Rings, these look as if Dobby, the elf from Harry Potter, joined the crew of the Nightmare Before Christmas. They are somewhat silly but also kind of cute. However, their leader is a cross between Jabba the Hut and Jaws.

Ruby Sunday, the Doctor's new companion, is exuberant and daring. As a newborn, she was left at a church on Christmas day and raised by Carla Sunday. A DNA search failed to turn up any relatives at all. This sounds as if it might be fodder for a future episode or two.

It is always interesting to meet a new doctor. Ncuti Gatwa stepped into the role without any problems. He is enthusiastic, caring, and clever. And he even sings!

The plot holds together until the end. More about that later. The pacing is good, interspersing quiet informational scenes with exciting action scenes, all sprinkled with just the right amount of humor.

This is also a 'small story.' The fate of the world is not at stake. It doesn't have huge battles or the imminent destruction of London. Instead, it has well-developed, likable characters and a real problem to solve.

Just about everything in Doctor Who requires the viewer to 'suspend their disbelief' to some degree. Much of this story is realistically unbelievable, but it works fine. My disbelief is nicely tucked away, and the fictional world feels quite real. Except for the end.

Impaling the boat on the church tower failed the believability test. It felt like Davies wrote himself into a hole, needing to dispose of the goblins quickly and efficiently. But the Doctor is seldom so cavalier about killing, even the bad guys. However, the rest of the ending is quite nice.

This is a good start for the new Doctor.

Reviewed by Romana Drew December 26, 2023.