Sue: Is this the fabled 10-parter I’ve heard so much about?
Me: It is, but don’t get fixated on that. The bigger news is there’s a new producer at the helm – Derrick Sherwin.
Sue: Bit of a strange time to take over the reins, isn’t it? That would be like the Moff producing David Tennant’s last story. How very odd.
The TARDIS crew are stumbling around a war-torn landscape.
Sue: They left the TARDIS as soon as it arrived – it’s as if they were standing by the door waiting for it to land. They didn’t have enough time to check whether it was safe outside, or if this planet has any oxygen or not. That was a bit reckless.
Jamie immediately pricks himself on some barbed wire.
Sue: What an idiot. That’s typical Jamie, that is. However, I do like the music. Who composed it?
Sue: Did he?
Me: No, Dudley.
When our heroes come under fire from an artillery barrage, they are rescued by Lady Jennifer and her trusty ambulance.
Sue: It’s Valerie Singleton. Well I wasn’t expecting that.
Me: Actually, it’s the producer’s wife.
Sue: Blimey, he didn’t waste any time!
It becomes clear we’re in the middle of the First World War.
Sue: We haven’t had a good historical in ages. I like the historicals. The direction is really good so far, too. The whole thing looks amazing.
The Doctor and his companions are escorted to the officer commanding the British troops – the mysterious General Smythe.
Sue: This guy is very suspicious. I’m guessing he must be a German spy. Yes, I thought so – here he goes to report to his superiors in secret. Hang on a minute, that monitor looks a bit sci-fi. Is he in league with the Daleks or something?
Sue is gripped by the court-martial scene.
Sue: I’m really glad Troughton is going out on a high. Does it take them nine episodes to execute him? Is that the basic plot? And then he regenerates?
The Doctor is sent before a firing squad.
Sue: Maybe they’ll shoot him in the wrong heart and it’ll take him several hours to regenerate, just like David Tennant.
Me: That just felt like several hours, Sue.
The episode concludes with a gunshot.
Sue: That was a brilliant cliffhanger. We’ll have to watch the next one straightaway.
Of course, the Doctor hasn’t been shot. The gunshot came from a sniper’s rifle, which allows the Doctor to make his escape.
Sue: That was a very clever resolution to the cliffhanger. Very nicely done.
General Smythe continues to act suspiciously, never more so than when he’s telling his subordinates not to interrupt him if he’s ensconced in his office.
Sue: Why doesn’t he just put a bloody lock on the door? You’d think that would be the first thing he’d do.
And then a SIDRAT turns up.
Sue: Is that a TARDIS? It sounds like a TARDIS, although it looks like an IKEA flat pack wardrobe. But I guess that’s possible for a TARDIS, isn’t it?
Jamie is locked up with a Redcoat from 1745.
Sue: 1745? Eh? So are there lots of different time zones or something?
Sue: Okay, so can we please skip forward to episode 10 now that I’ve worked that out?
Me: No, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Sue: I like how the Doctor bluffs his way into a position of authority. He doesn’t need any psychic paper. The other Doctors are complete amateurs compared to Patrick Troughton.
When his bluff fails, it’s up to Zoe to save the day with some brute force (and a vase of flowers).
Sue: You go, girl! This is great stuff. I find it hard to believe that this is the same programme that gave us The Space Pirates last week.
Me: That’s the trouble with Doctor Who: you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.
Sue: Jamie can’t wait to leg it back to the TARDIS – the Doctor has to convince him to stay and help these poor sods. What a ****.
Sue is impressed with the SIDRAT’s handling.
Sue: At least this bloke can steer his TARDIS (if that’s what it is) – he can park it on a sixpence. Why doesn’t the Doctor just nick that one?
The Doctor and his friends make their getaway in an ambulance and they drive into some heavy mist. When they emerge on the other side, they find themselves in Roman times.
Sue: So it’s a Stargate. But without the gate.
As the Romans advance, Sue nods appreciatively.
Sue: That was another great cliffhanger. So far, so good.
Our heroes manage to escape from the Roman centurions, only to be captured by German soldiers from the First World War instead.
Sue: I like the way this is in German but you still know what’s going on. It isn’t patronising at all. In fact, it’s rather good.
General Smythe meets the War Chief.
Sue: Nice medallion. Very butch.
The War Chief isn’t very happy when he’s told that the Doctor and his companions might be time travellers. We even get to hear his innermost thoughts on the subject.
Sue: Is that the first time we’ve heard internal dialogue in Doctor Who? It’s all go, isn’t it? The new producer is definitely making his mark. It feels very different. Why couldn’t all of Patrick Troughton’s stories be as good as this one?
When Doctor and his friends arrive in the American Civil War Zone, they become embroiled in yet another action-packed set piece.
Sue: The choreography is excellent. Really exciting. I’m sure that bloke punched that other bloke in the face for real. David Maloney is even better than the Camfield.
Carstairs sacrifices himself so his friends can escape. Sue isn’t pleased about this, to put it mildly.
Sue: Why are they leaving Carstairs behind? What the **** are they playing at?
The Doctor and Zoe pop inside a SIDRAT to take a closer look.
Sue: Hey, it’s bigger on the inside! It must be a TARDIS. Is the bloke with the beard the Master?
The door closes behind them and the machine dematerialises.
Sue: Another good cliffhanger. They’re definitely on a roll.
Lady Jennifer and Jamie stumble into a battle between Union and Confederate soldiers.
Sue: The kids probably loved this story. It’s one action-packed fight scene after another.
Meanwhile, back at Central Control, the War Chief is questioning his Chief Scientist.
Sue: What’s the deal with the clown-eye sunglasses? What’s that all about? They must play merry hell with your peripheral vision. Not that anyone in Doctor Who has any peripheral vision.
And then Sue became so engrossed in the story, she stopped talking for a while. In fact, she doesn’t say another word until the Doctor and the War Chief obviously recognise each other.
Sue: That confirms it, then. He is the Master. It’s about time, too.
Me: What about the Monk?
Sue: Nah, this is too well-organised to be him.
Zoe runs into Carstairs, who has been processed by the aliens’ machine. He pulls a pistol on her and cocks the hammer.
Sue: Another fabulous cliffhanger. Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke can definitely come back again.
The War Chief interrupts Carstairs before he can shoot Zoe. But then he goes ahead and shoots her anyway. Luckily, his gun is out of bullets.
Sue: That was shocking. He would have shot her in the throat, given half the chance. That was very bleak. I didn’t like that at all.
In the American Civil War Zone, the fisticuffs never end.
Sue: The fight scenes in this story are very realistic. Normally it takes one punch to sort the bad guy out, but here they have to pummel their opponent into the ground. Although I suspect they’re trying to pad this story out a bit, as well.
Zoe is taken to see the Security Chief.
Sue: He sounds like a human Dalek. He must be working for them. I knew the Daleks were in this.
The Security Chief subjects Zoe to some intense questioning with a truth machine that fits snugly over his head.
Sue: Now he’s working for the Cybermen!
Me: He’s wearing an evil 3D View-Master.
Sue: The background music sounds like Pink Floyd.
Me: You’re right, it sounds like ‘On the Run’. Funnily enough, it’s possible that Roger Waters was inspired by this. He was a big fan of the Radiophonic Workshop.
Sue: I’ve decided that the Master looks like Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones crossed with George Michael and Engelbert Humperdinck.
Me: Not Mr Meaker from Rentaghost?
Sue: I was out drinking cider in the park when that was on, love.
The Doctor, Zoe and Carstairs end up in the aliens’ landing bay.
Sue: It looks like Palitoy designed an Air Traffic Control centre.
When Jamie emerges from a SIDRAT, he is ambushed by a platoon of security guards.
Me: That’s Jamie dead, then.
Sue: **** off. I don’t believe you… Is he really?
The War Chief is a Time Lord.
Sue: Yes, we know that already. He’s the Master. But I’m still confused. I thought the Time Lords were wiped out in the Time War, so how can they be around now?
Me: Well, the Time War hasn’t actually happened yet.
Sue: Yes, but if it was a Time War then it must have happened in the past and the future at the same time. Or the Doctor could just go back to the past to save Gallifrey.
Me: Are you insane?
Sue: I thought he couldn’t go back home because his home didn’t exist any more. Stop looking at me like that, Neil.
As much as it pains me to say this, I think Sue fancies the War Chief.
Sue: His sideburns are very cool. It must take him hours to trim them in the morning. Or does he get a minion to do that for him?
Jamie appears on an examination table, alive but unconscious.
Sue: Jamie isn’t dead, you lying bastard! I knew it!
Me: Ouch! That really hurt!
The alien who’s masquerading as Captain von Weich is imprisoned by a young British private named Moor.
Sue: This guy looks familiar.
Me: He should do.
When I finally put her out of her misery, she can’t believe it.
Sue: It’s nepotism gone mad in this story! First the producer’s wife, and now the lead actor’s son. Who’s next? Zoe’s second cousin twice removed?
Me: He’s the third frogman on the left in the next scene. He doesn’t have any lines.
Carstairs duffs up an alien technician.
Sue: This is a rubbish fight. The other fights have been great but this one is a bit slapdash. Perhaps the stunt men are knackered? Or maybe they’re all on holiday this week?
The episode concludes with the Doctor and Carstairs trapped in a SIDRAT as it rapidly becomes smaller on the inside.
Sue: Another great cliffhanger. We haven’t had a duff one yet.
The Doctor surrenders, but it turns out to be a ruse and he escapes in a SIDRAT. The War Chief and the Security Chief bicker over who gets to break this news to the War Lord.
Sue: They’re really hyping up the War Lord. He’d better be good.
Philip Madoc doesn’t disappoint. In fact, he’s probably the most menacing character in Doctor Who so far.
Sue: Why are these aliens obsessed with glasses? They have this amazing technology but they still haven’t invented laser eye surgery yet. The War Lord looks like he’s wearing a pair of milk bottles. The music’s gone a bit weird, too. That fanfare sounds like the theme to a completely different series. Like Public Eye, or something like that.
Me: Yes, the music is very Austo-Hungarian this week.
Sue: At least they’re trying. There’s an epic quality to this story that we’ve never seen before. It’s a great way to end an era.
The War Chief and the Security Chief are still bickering (“Get a room!”), but the War Lord has heard enough.
Sue: The War Lord is the aliens’ version of Alan Sugar. He’ll fire the Security Chief if he’s not careful.
Me: I love Philip Madoc. His performance in this story is incredible. I could watch him all day.
As luck would have it, Nicol walks in on us as the Doctor de-processes a French soldier.
Nicol: That’s the worst French accent I’ve ever heard.
And she should know, what with her being half-French and everything. She leaves the room in disgust.
Sue: How can the Doctor not speak French? That’s a bit shit.
A platoon of security guards emerge from a SIDRAT, their futuristic guns a-blazing.
Sue: The frogmen’s guns look like fence posts. And they’re top-heavy, too. They must be a bastard to aim.
The episode concludes with another fantastic cliffhanger as the Doctor is kidnapped by the Security Chief.
Sue: That was very nice. But I’m beginning to wonder how they can possibly drag this out for another three episodes.
The War Chief claims to possess a unique method for getting information out of his compatriot, the Doctor.
Sue: A nice champagne dinner for two, I bet. I never knew the Master was so camp. Was he paid by the eyebrow?
When yet another fight breaks out (you can practically set your watch by them), Sue picks up on something that’s been bugging her for ages.
Sue: There are some terrible extras in this. I thought learning how to die properly was the first thing you were taught at drama school. This guy was obviously off sick that day. It’s a shame because everything else is so good. Normally I wouldn’t notice stuff like that, but in a production this good, it sticks out like a sore thumb. In fact, all the non-speaking parts are pretty poor, especially the frogmen.
Me: That’s Wendy Padbury’s second cousin you’re insulting now.
Finally, after several hours of foreplay, we are treated to a showdown between the Doctor and the War Chief.
Sue: That was epic. But now that they’ve revealed the plot, I can’t say I’m convinced. It sounds okay on paper, but are foot soldiers from the year 1917 really worse than the Cybermen and the Daleks? I doubt it. I mean, does this plan actually make sense, or is it just me?
Me: Don’t worry, their plan is completely bonkers. Just go with it.
Sue: It would have been a lot better if the aliens were just doing this to get their kicks. If they were televising it back home, and making loads of money from spread betting, that would have made more sense. I mean, what’s going to happen when the Redcoats take on the Daleks – it doesn’t bear thinking about!
The episode ends as the Doctor appears to side with the War Chief.
Sue: Another great cliffhanger. That’s eight for eight.
Me: Do you think the Doctor has betrayed his friends?
Sue: Don’t be stupid.
The War Chief wants the Doctor’s TARDIS (because SIDRATs have a sell-by date).
Sue: Could the Master fly the Doctor’s TARDIS if he really wanted to? Properly fly it, I mean. I still can’t tell if the Doctor’s TARDIS is faulty, or he just didn’t pass his driving test.
And another thing…
Sue: The War Lord looks like an advertising executive, or a graphic designer. What’s his real name?
Me: I have no idea. He’s the War Lord.
Sue: I’m going to call him Saatchi.
Things are so bad, the Doctor considers asking his own people for help. This prompts the War Chief to do a runner, but the War Lord’s personal guards shoot him down before he can get very far.
Sue: Regenerate then. Come on, regenerate!
The camera cuts away.
Sue: He’ll be back later with a different face.
The Doctor tells the soldiers that he had to go along with the bad guys because they would have dropped a neutron bomb on them if he hadn’t.
Sue: Surely they wouldn’t know what a neutron bomb was. How is a Redcoat supposed to process that information?
And the less said about the Mexican soldier named Villar, the better.
Sue: Didn’t anyone tell him that we’re in the middle of a serious drama, here? Look at him! He’s shooting at the floor while he looks in the wrong direction, and still the guard drops down dead! What’s that all about? Oh, and the aliens have bouncy tables. That’s shoddy carpentry, that is.
The Doctor contacts his own people with a cube that he constructs out of thin air.
Sue: What the hell?
Me: Don’t you remember a distress cube like this in a recent Matt Smith episode?
Sue: Oh yeah. Now that you mention it, I do. Is there anything in Patrick Troughton’s era that doesn’t appear in Matt Smith’s?
Me: Well, I have heard rumours about the Krotons and the Quarks appearing in the 50th anniversary story…
Sue: Oh no. The Doctor is going to do a runner and leave Jamie and Zoe behind. That’s a bit grim.
The Doctor’s companions would rather stay with him to the bitter end, and the episode ends with all three of them desperately trying to reach the TARDIS.
Sue: I didn’t realise the Time Lords were so scary.
The Doctor tells his companions why he abandoned his home planet. He wanted to explore the universe instead of watching it.
Sue: I like the Doctor’s reason for leaving Gallifrey. It’s simple, it’s straight to the point, and it’s completely understandable.
The Time Lords bring the Doctor home.
Sue: Oh dear, Gallifrey looks a bit shit. I was expecting something a lot more impressive that this. It looks like an NCP car park.
Me: To be fair, we’re only seeing a tiny part of their civilisation.
Sue: Yeah, I suppose it’d be like judging New York City without leaving JFK Airport.
The Time Lords put the War Lord (no relation) on trial, and when the accused refuses to answer their questions, they torture him with their mental powers.
Sue: How come the Doctor doesn’t have this superpower? Why can’t he stare the villains into submission like this?
The War Lord responds with a blistering rant, which makes our blood run cold.
Me: Seriously, I think I love Philip Madoc.
Meanwhile, the Doctor’s TARDIS is being examined by some technicians.
Sue: Oh look, they’ve sent in the techies to fix the Doctor’s TARDIS. I assume they must be fixing its navigation systems?
Me: They’re probably doing the exact opposite.
And then, just when we think it’s all over, some aliens try to rescue the War Lord.
Sue: Gallifrey’s defences are terrible. If they’re godlike super beings, how come these frogmen got in so easily?
They aliens are captured with ease and erased from history.
Sue: I didn’t know the Time Lords could do that. Can the Doctor do that?
Me: I don’t think they did that with their minds. I think they used a machine to do that.
Sue: Really? How can you tell?
It’s the Doctor’s turn to be put on trial, and he begins his defence by showing the Time Lords some of the monsters he’s fought.
Sue: I wouldn’t have started with the Quarks, mate. You’ve blown your case straight away.
As the Time Lords consider their verdict, Jamie and Zoe are returned to their own time zones. But there’s a disturbing twist: their memories have been wiped and they’ll only remember their first adventure with the Doctor.
Me: Don’t you think that’s cruel and tragic?
Sue: Not really.
Me: But Jamie will never remember Zoe! It’s heartbreaking!
Sue: Yes, but look at it from the Time Lord’s point of view – if they let Jamie keep his memories, he’d know about neutron bombs and hovercrafts, and stuff like that. He could ****-up established history. The Time Lords are being careful.
Me: So you aren’t moved by this scene?
Sue: Not really. We should be pleased for them – they made it back home in one piece (although it looks as if Jamie will be killed by the end of the week).
The Time Lords deliver their verdict. The Doctor will be exiled to 20th century Earth (“That’ll be cheap!”) and he has to regenerate, too. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that this episode concludes with the biggest cliffhanger in Doctor Who’s history.
Sue: Well, that was weird. Was it supposed to be funny?
Me: Funny? What’s so funny about it?
Sue: Well, it was a bit silly. Goofy. Daft. You know, funny.
Me: The Doctor is floating in space without a head! It’s horrific!
Sue: I wish I’d seen him turn into Jon Pertwee. I feel a bit cheated.
Sue: What can I say? It was epic. I was really impressed by the script, the direction and the acting. It was a really strong ending for Patrick Troughton as well, which I’m really pleased about. There was a point when it was on for a 10 out of 10 score, but it’s definitely at least one episode too long, and I’ll have to knock off a point for the bouncy tables, so:
Sue: I do have one question, though.
Me: What’s that?
Sue: What happened to the Master?