We begin Doctor Who’s 25th season with Sue in her favourite new T-shirt and an atmospheric pre-titles sequence.
Sue: What the hell is this? This isn’t Doctor Who.
And then the theme music kicks in. By the way, is it just me or does the freeze-frame really irritate you as well?
Sue: Ooh, new music!
Me: No it isn’t.
Sue: Oh yes it is. And it sounds great.
Me: It’s exactly the same music. The only difference is this is a 5.1 surround sound mix. Consider it a special treat.
Sue: It sounds so much better when it comes out of every speaker.
And then she notices the story’s title.
Sue: Daleks. And a bloke with a funny name. Excellent.
We open on a sign.
Sue: Coal Hill… Oh, it didn’t give me enough time to read that.
I rewind the DVD.
Sue: Okay, Coal Hill School, Shoreditch. Thanks.
Sue: And what?
The Doctor and Ace are walking down a suburban street. Ace is carrying an extremely loud ghetto blaster on her shoulder.
Sue: I hated people who did that in the 1980s. Selfish ****ers. I wouldn’t mind if the music she was playing was any good. What a racket.
Ace: Oi, Professor, can we get something to eat now?
Sue: I thought she said she wouldn’t call him that again? I’d give her a written warning if I were him.
The Doctor sends Ace to the nearest cafe.
Sue: This is the place where they wait to get fired on The Apprentice.
She is joined by a young man named Mike.
Sue: Oh look, it’s Captain Jack’s cockney brother, Captain Mike.
Meanwhile, a young girl is playing hopscotch in Coal Hill School’s playground.
Sue: I looked like her when I was that age. But she has much better hair.
The girl sings a very spooky song.
Sue: Ooh, I like this. I think I’m going to enjoy this one a lot.
The Doctor jumps in the back of a van parked outside the school.
Sue: Is that Diana Rigg? Hang on a minute. What year is this?
Sue: Is it? A caption would have been nice.
Ace’s new friend isn’t a captain, he’s a sergeant.
Sue: It’s UNIT!
Me: It isn’t UNIT. UNIT didn’t exist in 1963, for ****’s sake. How can you forget something like that? Has this experiment been a complete waste of time?
Sue: But that’s the young Brigadier, isn’t it?
Me: No! Stop getting Who wrong!
I pause the DVD.
Me: Look, you missed three very important references to Doctor Who‘s past in the first five minutes. You should know this stuff, Sue. You’re not a Doctor Who virgin any more.
Sue: So what have I missed?
Me: The date, the significance of the school and the location where we have just arrived. That’s all.
Sue: Okay, so what’s the school called again?
Me: Coal Hill.
Sue: That’s the school where Susan used to go. Okay so where are we now?
I rewind the scene.
Sue: Trotters Yard.
Me: Totters Yard! Totters!
Sue: That’s where we find the TARDIS in the very first episode… In 1963… Ahhh, I see… I should have got that.
Me: The typo probably didn’t help.
Sue: There’s a typo?
Me: They spelt Foreman wrong on the gates to the junkyard.
I press Play.
Sue: Okay, so that’s the Brigadier, she’s Barbara and he’s Mike Yates. It’s clever, this.
Me: Think of them as the UNIT Babies if it helps.
The Doctor gets annoyed when Group Captain Gilmore doesn’t believe in death rays.
Sue: Don’t take this the wrong way but McCoy has a bit of Mr Bean in him. It’s the way he mumbles his lines sometimes.
And then we meet Allison Williams in the back of a van.
Sue: Is she supposed to be like Jo, only prettier? I bet you wouldn’t complain if she was the next companion, eh, Neil?
Gilmore rallies his troops for a final assault on a shed.
Sue: The direction is excellent. I like the moving camera. And we’re on location, too. This is how you make Doctor Who. This is much better than the last few weeks. It’s as if they’ve suddenly remembered how to make proper television again. If only Steven from Canada had held on a little bit longer. I bet he would have enjoyed this.
Me: He’s started up his blog again. He’s halfway through Delta and the Bannermen.
Sue: Has he really? Good for him. I knew he could do it. Wait. He won’t beat us to the finish line, will he?
A soldier is unexpectedly killed by a death ray.
Sue: Ooh, that looked fabulous. Did a Dalek do that?
Me: No, it was a Zygon. Of course it was a sodding Dalek!
Sue: Why does the Brigadier have his gun attached to some rope around his neck? Is he worried that he might lose it? I’ve heard of soap-on-a-rope, but that is ridiculous.
Mike runs to the van to call for reinforcements. A death ray is fired through the van’s windows.
Sue: He didn’t last very long. Great effect, though.
Sue is extremely impressed when the Dalek is taken out by some falling masonry.
Sue: Proper London bricks. Nice.
Me: Thanks for that, Sue.
The Doctor and Ace take a van back to the school. During their journey, the Doctor gives Ace a potted history of the Daleks.
The Doctor: The Kaleds were at war with the Thals. They had a dirty nuclear war. The resulting mutations were then accelerated by their chief scientist, Davros.
He then tells Ace that the Daleks are after the Hand of Omega.
Sue: Thals… Davros… Omega. I feel like I should be taking notes or something. Ooh, he’s famous.
It’s George Sewell as Ratcliffe. His men take what’s left of the Dalek away on a flatbed lorry.
Sue: They should tie that tarpaulin down. A strong gust of wind will blow that off. Amateurs.
The Doctor and Ace enter Coal Hill School and they meet its Headmaster. Sadly, any 1980s Grange Hill references are completely wasted on my wife, although, to be fair, she does recognise Michael Sheard from various episodes of Doctor Who. Just don’t ask her to name them.
Headmaster: Doctor, eh? Well, you’re a bit over-qualified for the position, but if you would like to leave your particulars and references.
The Headmaster begins to act very strangely indeed.
Sue: Either he’s extremely rude and listening to the cricket, or he’s been taken over by the Daleks.
The Doctor and Ace explore a classroom.
Sue: Wow, this reminds me of my old school, Sacred Heart. This takes me right back.
Ace picks up a book from a desk.
Nah, I didn’t think she’d spot it either.
The Doctor is pleased that the Daleks are following him.
The Doctor: You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies.
Sue: That was a nice line. The script is very good.
The Doctor points out some markings in the school playground, but Ace doesn’t believe that they were made by a spaceship.
Ace: This is Earth, 1963. Someone would have noticed. I’d have heard about it.
The Doctor: Do you remember the Zygon gambit with the Loch Ness Monster? Or the Yeti in the Underground?
Me: Do you remember the Zygons and the Yeti in the Underground, Sue?
Sue: Of course I do.
Me: Thank **** for that. This blog hasn’t been a complete waste of time after all.
Sue: Which ones were the Zygons again?
The Doctor left the Hand of Omega behind when he was last here in 1963.
Sue: I don’t remember him leaving anything behind in the very first episode, but my memory is terrible. But if he did leave something behind, why has it taken him 25 years to come back for it? Is this the first time he’s managed to park his TARDIS in the right place so he can pick it up again? And is it a hand in a jar?
Ratcliffe is working for the Daleks.
Sue: It’s Davros. I don’t know why they are trying to hide him like that. It’s obviously him. I don’t think much of Davros’ new voice by the way.
The Doctor and Ace explore the school’s cellar.
Sue: This is nicely lit. Very atmospheric. Oh, look – flat Daleks.
It’s actually a transmat station, and when the Doctor examines it, a Dalek begins to materialise.
Sue: Ooh, it’s a white Dalek. That’s a Colin Baker Dalek. That’s interesting.
The Doctor destroys the Dalek before it can complete its journey, but he forgot all about the transmat operator lurking behind them.
Sue: That Dalek took his sweet time getting there. He must have been on a tea break or something.
Ace makes a run for it but Mr Bronson has other ideas.
Sue: Right in the crotch. What a ****.
Mr Bronson traps the Doctor in the cellar with the Dalek.
Sue: ****ing hell! It’s flying up the stairs!
And then the theme music crashes in.
Sue: That’s how you do a cliffhanger.
Me: Remembrance of the Daleks Part One got me back into Doctor Who. It was my first episode in four years. I saw it completely by accident, in a Halls of Residence TV common room in my first week away from home in the North East. This episode – especially that cliffhanger – pulled me back in.
Sue: I can see why. It’s really good.
Me: If I’d been a child prodigy, and I’d gone to university a year earlier, I would have walked in on Time and the Rani instead.
Sue: And we wouldn’t be sitting here now, doing this.
Me: And I would have no friends or any interests to speak of. Yeah, 1988 was a big year for me.
Sue: I gave birth to Nicol in 1988. I think I win that one.
Sue: BOOM! I really like the surround sound mix of the theme music. It sounds brilliant. Did Keff do it?
Me: No, it was Mark Ayres.
Sue: Is Mark certified to use Pro Tools? If he is, I might ask him to talk to our university students one day. I bet he’d be good.
The episode begins with Ace taking revenge on Mr Bronson.
Sue: Right in the balls. Serves him bloody right.
Ace frees the Doctor from the cellar. The Dalek throws a dicky-fit behind the door.
Sue: Why doesn’t it just blast its way through? A small child could kick that in.
And then… BOOM!
Sue: What took it so long? What was it waiting for?
Me: Its cue.
The Doctor and Ace take delivery of a consignment of anti-tank rockets.
Sue: So any Tom, Dick or Harry can just walk up and take UNIT’s weapons away from them? It’s that simple?
Me: For the last time, this isn’t UNIT!
Sue: At least they made the Doctor sign for the rockets. They aren’t completely mad.
The mysterious school girl watches this transaction take place.
Sue: I’m telling you – that’s what I looked like when I was her age. Do you think I was an ugly child?
Me: I refuse to get into this.
Thankfully, Sue is distracted when Ace destroys a Dalek with a rocket launcher.
Ace: (under her breath) Ace!
Sue: I can live with that. She’s toned it down a lot. And the explosions are ace, I suppose.
The Doctor visits a cafe for some refreshments and a philosophical debate.
Me: Did you like that scene?
Sue: Yes, it was very nice. I like it when the Doctor drinks tea. Does that cafe grow up to be the cafe in EastEnders? It’s very similar.
The transmat in the school starts up again.
Sue: Oh dear. The music is going a bit Keff, now.
Me: It is Keff.
Sue: Is it? I thought it was just leaning towards Keff. It’s not as bad as it usually is.
The Doctor meets with an undertaker.
Me: If I’m not mistaken, that actor is the first person to appear in both the classic series and the new series.
Sue: Really? Which part did he play?
Me: It was in Christopher Eccleston’s season. It was the one set in Wales.
Sue: No shit, Sherlock. Do you remember when milk bottles looked like that?
Sue: Oh, thanks. I feel really old now.
The Doctor is reunited with the Hand of Omega.
Sue: It’s a bloody big box for just a hand.
Meanwhile, Mike is one his way to an Association meeting.
Sue: So is he a communist or an alcoholic?
His boss, Ratcliffe, is hanging out with a very special Dalek.
Sue: Does Davros look like shit? Is that the reason why they won’t show his face? It’s obviously him, so why are they hiding it?
Mike is attacked by Mr Bronson in a cemetery.
Sue: Okay, the music is full-blown Keff now.
Mr Bronson accuses Mike of working for a renegade faction of Daleks.
Sue: So there are two types of Daleks, yes? Am I supposed to know this? And which Dalek is which? Are the grey ones the renegades,or are the white ones with all the bling the renegades? I should know this, shouldn’t I?
Me: You’ll figure it out eventually.
To be honest, I forgot myself for a second there, but I think I managed to bluff it..
Mr Bronson is deactivated and he slumps to the ground, dead.
Sue: That’s was a bit heavy-handed. I could have done without that visual gag.
Mike Smith turns out to be a bit of a twat.
Mike: Sorry, Ace. Work to be done. Back at six. Have dinner ready.
Sue: **** ** ****, sunshine.
The Doctor buries the Hand of Omega.
Sue: So if William Hartnell’s Doctor had stuck around for a couple of weeks, he would be the one dealing with all this shit now?
Sue: It doesn’t bear thinking about it, does it? Everyone would be dead by now.
Back at the boarding house, Ace turns the television set on. It doesn’t seem to work.
Sue: Whack it with your baseball bat.
Me: Televisions took a long time to warm up back then. Don’t you remember that?
Sue: Do you want a cushion in the face or what?
Ace finds a sign on the window with ‘No Coloureds’ written on it. This elicits a sharp intake of breath from Sue.
Sue: She’s staying in a house run by racists. That’s what the Association is – it’s the cockney branch of the Ku Klux Klan. I knew there was something fishy about Mike.
Me: Yes, he’s working for the Daleks, remember?
Sue: Oh yes. The white ones, I bet.
And then we zoom in on the television set:
Continuity Announcer: This is BBC television. The time is a quarter past five and Saturday viewing continues with an adventure in the new science fiction series, Doc–
Sue: Oh, very funny. He almost said Doctor Who… Hang on a minute, how does that work?
Me: I think the programme is called Doctor X in the Doctor Who universe.
Sue: So in the Whoniverse…
Me: Please don’t say that word.
Sue: Is there a couple watching Doctor X and blogging about it?
Me: No, it got cancelled after 13 episodes. Now shut up and watch this.
The Doctor warns Gilmore not to underestimate the Daleks.
The Doctor: That spaceship up there has surveillance equipment capable of spotting a sparrow fall at fifteen thousand kilometres. Any sign of a military build-up and they may simply decide to sterilise the area.
Sue: I’ll tell you what – McCoy is bloody good.
Ace returns to the school for her ghetto blaster. She accidentally picks up a Dalek transmission, so she retunes it.
Sue: You are listening to Drum Solo FM.
Ace gets out her baseball bat.
Sue: I like Ace. She’s brave.
Ace sees a Dalek and scarpers.
Sue: And she’s not stupid, either. Mel would be crying in a corner by now.
The Dalek follows Ace back to the classroom and then all hell breaks loose.
Sue: Bloody hell!
Ace throws herself through a window to escape the Dalek.
Sue: This is brilliant.
The episode ends with Ace surrounded by Daleks.
Daleks: Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!
Sue: Now that is proper Doctor Who.
Sue: What are they waiting for? Why don’t they just shoot her? Are they waiting for another Dalek to make the first move? “No, you shoot her first” – “No, you shoot her first. I went first last time.” What’s that all about?
The Doctor disorientates the Daleks and then the army blow them sky-high.
Sue: Have they spent the whole budget on TNT? Not that I’m complaining.
The Doctor peers into a Dalek casing and he’s shocked when a claw tries to throttle him. But he’s not as shocked as Sue, who spits tea all over herself.
Allison comes to the rescue with Ace’s baseball bat.
Sue: Bloody hell! Calm down, love, it’s dead already! She has some serious anger management issues.
Meanwhile, in the Daleks’ mothership.
Sue: Look at that set. That looks fabulous. This is one of the best directed stories for a very long time. Look at that camera move. Lovely.
Ratcliffe heads to the cemetery to locate the Hand of Omega.
Sue: Is he a friend of Adric?
Me: Is that a euphemism?
Sue: No, he’s wearing a blue badge, just like Adric did. Is that another reference to the past? And what are a pair of golden tits doing on a gravestone?
In the local cafe, the UNIT Babies are chatting over bacon sandwiches.
Sue: She is basically Barbara crossed with the clever one that Jon Pertwee used to hang around with. It’s very clever, this.
On the Dalek mothership, the Emperor Dalek graces the bridge with his presence.
Sue: What the hell is that? That doesn’t work at all. It’s too friendly. Where are its guns? It’s about as threatening as the robots who used to sell mashed potato back in the seventies.
Me: It’s based on the Emperor Dalek from the old comic strips.
Sue: Like I give a shit. It looks stupid.
The Doctor and Ace return to the school.
Ace: If this place is so out of the way of the action, what are we doing here?
The Doctor: Keeping an eye on Group Captain Chunky Gilmore. Although why his men call him Chunky, I’ve no idea.
Sue: So why do they call him Chunky?
Me: He has a very large penis.
The Doctor gives Ace a lesson in Gallifreyan history. But Sue has other things on her mind.
Sue: Ace has a Blue Peter badge. Did she get that for blowing shit up?
The Doctor: I didn’t expect two Dalek factions, and now I’ve got to make sure the wrong ones don’t get their grubby little protuberances on it.
Sue: I love the way he rolls his Rs. He’s very authoritative when he does that.
Me: Don’t you mean he’s very authorrri… authorria… authorrrrn… oh, sod it. I can’t do it.
Back at Ratcliffe’s building yard, Sue notices a problem:
Sue: Those breeze blocks don’t look very 1963 to me.
Me: Maybe the Daleks brought them over?
Sue: And what about that moulded MDF door over there? That’s a huge mistake.
Two Dalek factions are gearing up for war.
Sue: So which Daleks are the good Daleks? Which ones am I supposed to be rooting for?
In the Renegade Daleks’ base, we finally discover the identity of the mysterious figure in the chair.
Sue: WHAT THE ****? I did not expect THAT! Bloody hell. I’m genuinely shocked.
Ha! I enjoyed that.
Sue: So, is Davros in this or not? Is he dead? I can’t remember what happened to him the last time we saw him, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t die. So where is he?
The Doctor leaves a calling card on the Daleks’ time controller, which I am reliably informed you can now buy from the Gadget Shop.
Sue: Is that his phone number?
Me: No, it says he’s available for children’s parties in High Gallifreyan.
And then Keff lets rip.
Sue: (Singing) “When the going gets tough, the tough get going…”
Me: Yeah, you might want to place your hands over your ears for the next few minutes.
Sue: Keff’s starting to spoil it, now. The music wasn’t that bad in the first two episodes but he’s back on form now.
Mike lets slip that he’s a double agent.
Sue: Mike Yates was a bad bugger, too.
Me: Yes, the basic message of this story is “Don’t trust anyone called Mike”. Very wise.
The Doctor watches helplessly as a Dalek shuttle lands in the school playground.
Sue: You know, that doesn’t look that bad.
Its arrival blows the classroom’s windows out.
Sue: Yes, this is pretty good.
And if that wasn’t enough damage for one episode, the Doctor wraps things up by breaking the fourth wall.
The Doctor: I think I might have miscalculated.
Sue: They didn’t need that bit at the end, but this is so good, I can forgive almost anything.
Me: Even Keff’s music?
Sue: Don’t push it.
Sue: Does the bloke with the funny name write any more?
Sue: Good. Was he a Doctor Who fan?
Sue: You can tell. This is proper Doctor Who for a change.
The science classroom is obliterated again when the shuttle lands in the recap.
Sue: Ian won’t be very happy when he gets back. He loved that Bunsen burner.
The Dalek shuttle touches down.
Sue: It looks like the shuttle from Alien. I’m really impressed that they managed to pull that off.
Mike and Ace fall out because Mike hasn’t been telling the whole truth.
Sue: I don’t know why she’s so upset. It’s not as if they shagged or anything.
It turns out that Ratcliffe and his men are members of.
The rival Dalek factions decide to duke it out in the street. The Imperials wheel out their Special Weapons Dalek.
Sue: What the…? Hang on, haven’t I seen that somewhere before?
Sue: Bloody hell, that nearly blew the speakers out! Hey, how does this Dalek see where it’s going? And why does it look so familiar?
Me: Well, there’s a model of one on my bookshelf, and you met one in the Doctor Who Experience about a year ago, remember?
Sue: Oh yeah. It didn’t make any sense at the time.
BOOM! Two more Daleks bite the dust.
Sue: I love it. It got two for one, there.
The Doctor slides down a rope to the roof of the Dalek shuttle.
Sue: That looks great. It’s believable. It really works.
The Doctor disengages the Dalek pilot before his friends join him.
Sue: I want to see them all slide down the rope. That’s not fair. What did they use instead of an umbrella?
Mike escapes from the soldier who’s been assigned to guard him.
Sue: A proper fight for a change. That was well directed. I almost felt that punch.
The Doctor tells his companions to jump through a hatchway inside the shuttle. Allison is the first to take the plunge.
Sue: I think I just heard her ankles snap.
The Doctor plans to monitor the Daleks using the transmat in the cellar.
Ace: You can’t do that. You mashed up the transmat, remember?
The Doctor: I can do anything I like!
Sue: That was very Troughton.
A battered and bruised soldier informs Group Captain Gilmore that Mike has escaped.
Sue: Hang on… isn’t that Jerome from Robson and Jerome?
The Special Weapons Dalek makes short work of Ratcliffe’s builder’s yard.
Sue: Oi! You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off! Wow… That has to be the best explosion in Doctor Who‘s history. This is intense. Why don’t they just make all the Daleks like this special one? They’d be unstoppable.
I think it’s fair to say that Sue is enjoying Remembrance of the Daleks.
Sue: This is such a massive leap in quality from the last one we saw. I feel like I’m watching the new series. I can see why you came back to Doctor Who, now. I really can.
The Hand of Omega floats into the Dalek’s shuttle.
Sue: Even that looks great, and it shouldn’t. The only person letting the side down is Keff. Everything else is great.
The Doctor rigs up a communication relay so he can broadcast to the Dalek mothership.
Sue: That is very Matt Smith. You could actually show this story to normal people and they’d probably enjoy it.
The Emperor is none other than…
Sue: DAVROS! I ****ing knew it!
Me: No you didn’t.
Sue: Yes, I did. You can’t have a Dalek story without Davros in it. Everybody knows that. I should have known that’s where he would be hiding. I’m kicking myself now.
Davros has a jolly good rant.
Sue: It’s great to have him back. I love it when he goes off on one.
The Doctor rants back.
The Doctor: Crush the lesser races! Conquer the galaxy! Unimaginable power! Unlimited rice pudding, et cetera, et cetera!
Sue: ****ing brilliant.
The Doctor tricks Davros into using the Hand of Omega. It destroys Skaro.
Sue: Shit. Did that just happen?
Me: Yes, the Doctor just committed genocide.
Sue: **** off! He can’t do that.
The feedback from the supernova heads for the Dalek mothership.
Sue: Has the Doctor just started the Time War?
Me: Yes. Yes he has.
Hey, you can’t prove that he didn’t.
Davros makes it to his escape pod.
Sue: He’ll be back. He’s like the Master. You can’t kill him.
Ace follows Mike back to the guest house, but the little girls kills him before he can convince Ace that he’s a nice racist after all.
Sue: That was brilliantly directed.
While this is going on, the Doctor confronts the last remaining Dalek.
Sue: The Daleks don’t take bad news very well, do they?
The Dalek becomes so angry and confused, it blows itself up.
Sue: I almost felt sorry for that Dalek. Does that make me a bad person?
With the Daleks gone, the little girl is set free (which pleases Sue no end) and then we get another reminder that Mike is still dead at the bottom of the stairs.
Sue: Good. I never liked him anyway.
The final scene sees everyone come together to pay their final respects to a racist.
Sue: Nice funeral for a traitor. Mike should be lying in an unmarked grave, the tosser.
Ace isn’t convinced that blowing up a planet was the right thing to do.
Ace: We did good, didn’t we?
Sue: Ace doesn’t trust the Doctor. That’s very interesting. I don’t blame her, though. He’s a mass murderer!
Sue: I loved that. I’m still a bit shocked by the ending but it feels like the show just reinvented itself again. The only thing that let it down was the music. Apart from that, I really, really enjoyed it. It was quite deep in places, and it’s one of the few stories I’d happily watch again, just for pleasure.