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Jul 18, 2006

Hot Stuff

It’s too hot for my PC. Almost as soon as I turn it on, the fans are straining to breaking point – Even though I put an extra one in at the beginning of summer. So, I’m writing this long hand and will have to decipher my writing and meaning once it cools down enough to type this up.

Why am I telling you this? Well in preserving the life of my computer, I am committing the heinous Technical_manual_2 sin of resting on a book to write. Not just any book! Oh No! This is the 1983 "Official Anniversary Volume" of the Doctor Who Technical Manual. It’s not too thick but is a comfortable A4 size, so I can write on my lap with greater ease. It just seemed an appropriate choice, having just watched an episode with Daleks, Cybermen, the TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver in it. Thanks to this amazing manual, I can now build my own TARDIS and can give you the measurements of three types of Dalek (Types I, III & IV), three type of Cybermen (Types I, II & V) and the Sonic Screwdriver. Although using the scale provided this does appear to be two metres in length.

So, armed with a screwdriver of Quarter-staff proportions, let’s talk about Doomsday.

Blimey, that was some good telly! They had a mid-season slump but pulled out of it with a tremendous double part season finale. Wow!

Which is all I have to say, really.

Okay, I suppose that there were a couple of things that I could mention, as I’m here.

I make it a point not to read any other reviews before I write my own (although afterwards I spend many hours kicking myself saying, "Why didn’t you think of that?") so I apologise if this is just so much repetition, but…

Four Daleks and a Pictionary board

Firstly I owe J Salem Gourley an apology for making him doubt his sanity. In my last post I claimed that there were three Daleks in the void sphere and JSG said that there were four. As it turns out there were four – so well spotted. I could never get on with counting on more than one hand so didn’t get past three.

Thinking about it, it does make much more sense having four Daleks in there – I mean, you can’t play Pictionary with three very well, can you? Charades would be no good – You could never have more than two words and then you’d be limited to miming words like up, down, left, right and wiggle. I may be being a little innocent here, but I can’t think of too many book or film titles that have the words up, down and wiggle in them.

Equally, eye-spy would be right out the window, too (Not that there were any windows in the sphere, of course). I can picture it now –

"Eye Spy, with my little eye-Stalk, something beginning with D-e-e-e-e!"

"Dal-ek!"

"Correct. Your go-o-o-o"

"Eye Spy, with my little eye-Stalk, something beginning with G-e-e-e-e!"

"Genesis Ar-r-r-r-r-k!"

"Correct. Your go-o-o-o"

"Eye Spy, with my little eye-Stalk, something beginning with D-e-e-e-e!"

After about three rounds of that and they’d be shooting each other just to put an end to it. So, Russel T Davies was right, it was far more sensible and much better plot-wise to have four Daleks and a Pictionary board.

Actually, who decided that it was called a Genesis Ark in the first place? It was a prison ship containing millions of Daleks, so I don’t know why the Time Lords would have thought the name Genesis would have been appropriate. They’d have come up with a suitably vague acronym like MUDPIE (Multi-Use Dalek Prison Impound Engine) and left it at that. So, if not the Time Lords, it must mean that it was the Alternative Daleks that came up with the name.

When I say alternative, I don’t mean it in the Alexi Sayle way. These are new wave Daleks. When the Doctor started talking about the amended thought processes I immediately assumed that these were left over from the Dalek civil war that Doctor 2 started waaaaay back in 1967 in The Evil of the Daleks. I thought that perhaps these were some of the Humanised Daleks that had hidden away from the fighting in a big ball. But apparently they were an offshoot of the original idea of free thinking Daleks who were to start the new race of Super Dalek. Or whatever the plan was.

Still alternative or not, they were your typical alien on Earth. They’d not been here for more than a couple of hours before they start talking about probes! And the Doctor really shouldn’t be so modest in his claims that it’s not a probe but a screwdriver. At last, we find out that there are three things that a Sonic Screwdriver can’t do – Kill, wound or maim! Although I’m sure if he looked at the instructions the settings would be there. There is one other thing that I don’t recall seeing the Sonic Screwdriver ever doing, namely tightening or loosening screws! He doesn’t even need to stand next to doors to ‘unlock’ them anymore. They just explode inwards at a single click.

Actually, weren’t those doors all sealed? Wasn’t Rose in terrible trouble at the end of Army of Ghosts because she was locked in a sealed room with the Daleks? How come the Dalek managed to wander through the door without unsealing anything? Do they perhaps have their own sonic probes?

The posturing and banter was new for the Dalek race, too. I can only assume that this was part of the alternative stand up routine. "There is one way in which you are superior…Dying". You just shouldn’t get posturing, one-upmanship like that from them. They’re all zap, zap, zappity, zap "We win! Who’s up for charades?" without any need to boast about it. I can only hope that the five million Daleks that were in the Genesis Ark were ‘normal’.

How did they recognise the fact that the Doctor was an enemy simply by seeing him on the screen in the background? He wasn’t even wearing his 3D Specs at that point, although that would only make them worry for his sanity rather than their safety. Perhaps there’s some kind of racial memory by now – Anybody that happens to stand around in slightly odd clothing and pays attention gets their notice. Do they have their own ‘stranger danger’ awareness sessions aimed at recognising this type of foe?

Abandoned Dalek husks lying in smoking ruins

I seem to be picking on the Daleks a bit here, don’t I? Oh well, they’re ‘ard - they can take it.

I remember saying that I had reservations about the battle between Daleks and Cybermen. It would appear that my concerns were justified. Just like in Alien Vs Predator we didn’t get to see much in the way of battles. I wanted pitched battles across continents with abandoned Dalek husks lying in smoking ruins and Cybermen ripping the lids off before being consumed in fire and melting on their enemies. You know that sort of thing. Picture the beginning of Terminator 2 where the Terminator stamps on the human skull – I wanted that to happen here. A Cyberman’s hissing, piston stomp smashing down through the discarded lid of a Dalek. Battles on a massive scale with cybernetic bits and bobs being blown to pieces with the plucky humans fighting on the sideline for survival.

Instead we get a few flying pepperpots zapping from on high and Cybermen just taking it. It was not so much mano-e-mano as mano-e-mouse. I was disappointed with that.

And whilst we’re on the subject of disappointment, there was a brief moment when I thought that He was back. The Cyber Leader and Doctor were talking about the weakness of emotion and then the Doctor pipes up with the existence of hope before a squad of a black clad soldiers pop into being and start shooting. For a wonderful, fleeting moment I thought, "It’s the Cardiff contingent of Torchwood come to save the day. Captain Jack’s back!" and it turned out to be Mickey’s ‘companion’ that we last saw heading off for a City Break in Paris.

I would have preferred Captain Jack.

And since when did Simon Says get a dimension travel level? Those round yellow buttons that theySimon_says  wore around their necks reminded me so much of the old MB Game that I wash expecting them to light up and beep whenever they were pressed. They weren’t exactly subtle either, were they? You’d have thought for a secret organisation that Torchwood could have come up with something slightly less eye-catching that a large plastic yellow button that you hang round your neck. They could have at least painted them a less garish colour.

Not such a Mr Smug Pants Know-It-All

It was good to see the Doctor being out of his depth a bit, too. There’s all this technology around that he either knows nothing about or claims to be impossible. He not such a Mr Smug Pants Know-It-All anymore, which I rather liked. Last week he claimed that the Void Sphere was a theoretical impossibility and this week he had no idea what the Genesis Ark was and claimed that the Simon Says buttons were impossible, too. Whereas before he’d have known everything about everything without pause for thought (except having to read up about werewolves in Tooth and Claw – Would that have been a paws for thought?) now he’s floundering and wondering where everybody "gets those wonderful toys".

Here’s a question somebody might like to answer. Who did build the impossible Void Sphere? Was it another Time Lord construct that the Daleks just happened to steal whilst they were also nicking the Genesis Ark? Where did it come from?

At least it was the Doctor that got rid of the bad guys this time. After taking a couple of weeks off from saving the day he’s back sucking everybody and everything that’s ever been in the alternative universe into the void. So what happened to all the Cybermen that were created on ‘our’ side of the void? They hadn’t been on any other planes of reality so wouldn’t have been drawn in. Unless, of course, the Cybermen bought all of the empty ‘suits’ with them when they came through from over there. You never know when you might need a change of clothes I suppose and that would certainly explain where they got all those Cybus Industry logos.

Not that I remember seeing any Cyberdudes at all being pulled through the rift into the void, now that I come to think of it. There were a couple of shots of them being sucked up into the air from London streets and sightseeing at the Taj Mahal, but none of them seemed to make it to the rift. Just all those millions of Daleks being swept up very conveniently through the window of Torchwood Towers rather than following a straight line which would have made more sense.

How did millions of Daleks get into the Genesis Ark in the first place? The opening was the exact size and shape of a Dalek (If we knew what model of Dalek they were, I could give you those measurements) so they must have gone in one at a time the same way they came out. If memory serves there were five million Daleks in there, and so it would have taken an awfully long time to ‘march’ them all in there. No wonder Time Lords need to live for a long time, they had to spend a few millennia counting Daleks.

My only slight concern is that there are now millions of Daleks and Cybermen wandering the void (assumedly killing each other) waiting for the next breach in the rift or transporter accident (sorry, wrong show) to bring them all back again. Which is a shame. Doctor Who has it’s own fan base now which it’s built up over the last two series and a lot of those seven million people are new fans who don’t much care for the forty year back story. Do we need to keep bringing back the old bad guys anymore? Okay, it was fair enough to begin with just to set some continuity and appease the old guard, but now it’s strong enough to be original and to make a new history for itself. This generation needs it’s own monster to hide from and impersonate in the playground. The Daleks, Cybermen, Autons et al have served us well, but it’s time to look forwards to the creatures we’ve not yet met. As long as they aren’t designed by a nine-year-old, that is.

Mickey_and_the_dalek

Of course, a greater concern is the possibility of the return of Rose by the same means. Although,  three years in the ‘other place’ did Mickey the world of good and he wasn’t at all annoying this time round. Quite the tough guy, in fact. So perhaps, Rose will loose the smug, ‘laugh in the face of danger’ attitude that she acquired over the last year. If she comes back a more humble and grown up person, then I’d welcome her back for a brief visit.

He’s been around for 900 years and I think it’s starting to show

There was some lovely dialogue in this episode. When the Daleks first saw the Doctor on the monitor and one of them registered the increases in Roses’ heart rate, I just loved Mickey’s dry, resigned aside "Tell me about it".

Then there was Rose’s slightly cock-sure line to the Daleks, when she identified the Doctor, about them not worrying about a few million Cybermen, but they shake in their cases at the mention of the Doctor.

And I actually laughed out loud at the exchange of looks between the Doctor and Mickey when Jackie claimed that there had been no one else in her life since Pete had died.

I was moved, too, when at the end they declared their love for each other. Or at least Rose did, the words tellingly stuck in the Doctor’s throat, the tears only rolling down his cheek when he was alone and unobserved. He’s been around for 900 years and I think it’s starting to show. He’s appears unable to open himself up to anybody because he knows that it won’t last. That it can’t last. Back in School Reunion, he called it the Curse of the Time Lords and I can quite see his point. He is alone in the universe with only momentary flashes brightness and life to punctuate his suffering. Poor chap.

This was a very well written episode and even most of the science made sense. Or at least as much sense as crossing between universes using a jumped up Speak and Spell can make.

There are only two actual complaints that I have about this episode.

One was the overuse of the ‘From here to Eternity’ rushing into each other’s arms shot. Once was too many to be honest, but to reprise the shot at the end of the show was just too much. It would have been far more effective if Jackie had walked up quietly behind her daughter and laid a sympathetic hand on her shoulder or something. It would have been subtle, understated and more in keeping with the gravity of the scene. But, what do I know?

The other slight problem is the Yvonne Cyberman. Now I though the concept of either Torchwood training or her own loyalty to the cause was very well done. She went into the upgrade chamber thinking only that she did her duty and that overlying impulse to continue to carry out her orders was her one driving impulse, even after Cyber-conversion. Excellent, great idea. But what was with the tear? From a purely practical point of view, why would Cybermen be designed with a tear duct that could leak oil? Or, assuming that it was just a coincidental leak, what are they odds that a brand new Cyberman would spring a leak in an appropriate place just at the height of a dramatic moment? That was just a bit too much for me.

However, I must point out that the crying Cyberman idea was not without precedent. I have a strong memory of a Doctor Who comic strip from many years ago the final frame of which showed a Cyberman, who I want to call Kroton, sitting on a rock crying to himself.

(Post writing note: Now that it’s cooled down enough to use the PC, I just Googled my hunch and came up with this link which shows how far I’ve fallen behind in the extended universe goings on with the good Doctor. I was right in that my cry-baby Cyberman was called Kroton but hadn’t been aware that he’s made something of a comeback in the intervening years)

Ruanaway_bride

So there we have it. A very long and positive review of one of the best, certainly the most exciting,  episodes of the season. I’m now very much looking forward to the Christmas episode (even if they have stolen the title from a Julia Roberts/Richard Gere movie) and seeing how the Doctor recovers from losing Rose and how he hooks up with the new girly – Whose name I fear I have already forgotten. Then of course, there’s the triumphant return of Captain Jack in Torchwood (man I am going to be so upset if it’s rubbish).

It’s going to an exciting time and all I have to keep me going until then is my fact filled Doctor Who Technical Manual. Well, on the plus side, I’ve already found it to be a great support in these troubled times.

Comments

It's cool, Jon, I just felt like I was being interrogated by Cardassions(THERE ARE FOUR DALEKS/LIGHTS!).

By the by, does that technical manual say anything about the level of spatial displacement caused by TARDIS materialisation, and if it varies by model or by size of assumed exterior?

Wonderful review, I just wanted to point something out:
"There is one other thing that I don’t recall seeing the Sonic Screwdriver ever doing, namely tightening or loosening screws!"
Didn't he do that in Ark in Space?

Also, about the Cybermen not being sucked into the rift, RTD said on the audio commentary that there were rifts like that all over the world where they would get sucked in. Though he might just have thought about that after he noticed the mistake. :D

"There is one other thing that I don’t recall seeing the Sonic Screwdriver ever doing, namely tightening or loosening screws!"

Fury from the deep was it's first appearance & use to unscrew something IIRC.

The War Games it was used to unscrew something to convince & subsequently break conditioning of Lieutenant Carstairs.

IIRC also in The Monster of Peladon to open screws on a panel, just before the closing credit cliff hanger of the Ice Warriors reveal.

Salem,

For a technical manual, it's surprisingly light on the mechanics and mainly provides a potted history of the featured items and some scaled drawings.
I'm trying to remember who played the Cardie in that episode and I just can't. I know he was a proper actor like Patrick Stewart, but...
Help?

Fleur & Rassion - If I were being pedantic (which is highly likely) I could say that the old screwdriver did that, but there's been no evidence of the new one being screwy. But I won't

I've not listened to the commentary yet, but I'm sure RTD had already worked out the Cybermen issue.

Funny you should mention that, Jon. The Cardassian in question was Gul Madred, played by none other than alt-universe Unbound 3rd Doctor, David Warner(ALSO responsible for playing distinguished Klingon Chancellor Gorkon in ST6).

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