The 13th Doctor has finally made her glorious arrival and we here at FANGRRLS couldn’t be more excited. In honor of her, and to catch up a few of our FANGRRLS who haven’t yet experienced Doctor Who, our resident Whovians will be helping some of our less TARDIS-fluent FANGRRLS get up to speed on their favorite Doctor. Since we didn’t think any of us could binge 840 episodes, 36 seasons, and numerous specials before the 13th Doctor’s arrival, we’re writing a series of special Late to the Party: Doctor Who articles.
Before I wrote my last Late to the Party about the Fifth Doctor, I hadn’t really seen any Doctor Who. I am slightly more informed now, though the episodes were all from 1982, so my knowledge is definitely outdated. What I do know is that the Doctor is simultaneously arrogant and childlike, at once all-knowing, yet fallible. There were some elements of Doctor Who that were teased in the episodes I’ve now seen, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver, and time travel.
Luckily, Brittany Vincent had just the cure for my cravings: her favorite Doctor, Ten, played by none other than David Tennant. He’ll be my first doctor from NuWho, a term that refers to the episodes of Doctor Who that have been created since the revival that took place in 2005.
So, grab your trench coat and let’s see what the re-re-re-re…re-incarnated Doctor has in store for us.
Christmas Special: “The Christmas Invasion”
The Doctor has just regenerated and in fact, he’s still regenerating while Earth is under siege from the Sycorax, a species interested in dominating and enslaving humanity. The Sycorax have only come to our planet because they could sense the power the Doctor was giving off. (It has something to do with his regeneration cycle, but honestly, I didn’t follow.) They have something called “blood control,” which allows them to manipulate people whose blood they possess.
The Prime Minister and three of her employees are teleported aboard a Sycorax ship where they’re commanded to hand over the planet (and two of them are electrocuted into dust). Sensing a unique technology, the Sycorax also teleport the TARDIS aboard. Right as they are about to kill Rose, when the whole world is assumed lost, the Doctor finally wakes and challenges the leader of the Sycorax to a duel, which he wins in a very dramatic fashion. He commands the Sycorax to leave Earth forever and returns to the planet’s surface.
The PM approves shooting Torchwood technology at the Sycorax and blows up the entire ship. The PM and the Doctor butt heads over the decision and he weakens her position by whispering a sexist stereotype in her aid’s ear: “Don’t you think she looks tired?”
An overall amazing episode is really undermined by the Doctor’s actions at the ending. What he says to the PM is just so disappointing. The phrase is a reference to Thatcher, which only further illustrates how sexist and problematic the Doctor’s power play is. Plus, it works. The media begins questioning the PM’s health, and thus, her leadership. It’s not a good look, Doc.
I really enjoyed the monster of the week, the Sycorax. Their weapons, powerful electrified whips, are both lethal and hysterical.
I do appreciate that the Doctor wanted to be a ginger. We are truly the best.
Plus, I got to see the sonic screwdriver in action, which makes me a happy camper!
Sonic screwdriver sightings: 1
Sonic screwdriver use: to fight off a murderous Christmas tree!
Season 4, Episode 4: “Planet of the Ood”
An alien species called the Ood, who are bought and sold as if they were willing slaves, have contracted an illness that turns their eyes red and their goals homicidal.
The Doctor and his new companion, Donna Noble, travel to a new planet in the year 4126. As they’re exploring the wintry land, they find a dying Ood who says, “The circle must be broken.” Ominous, I know. Curious as kittens, the Doctor and Donna sneak into the facility where the Ood originated from, where they’re being bred and sold. It leads to the Doctor, posing as a buyer, to question, “What do the people do to make the Ood docile?”
A full-scale revolt breaks out among the Ood and they begin slaughtering the humans. We find out that the humans, being the excellent people they are, have been cutting off one of the Ood’s two brains to make them ideal servants. There’s also a third giant brain, the collective brain, that enables the Ood to sing. The humans have been keeping said brain inside some kind of force field, the circle that needs to be broken. The Doctor and Donna help break the circle and the Ood sing a song so beautiful it would bring a tear to your eye.
I really enjoyed this episode. The Ood are a very cool species and the way their consciousness works is pretty neat. The plot is also great, filled with hijinks and mystery and philosophical rumination.
This episode also revealed more about the Doctor. He’s somehow jaded and fresh as a newborn babe, but oh buddy, does he have a dark streak. He also makes wild jumps in logic that seemingly come out of nowhere, but are always correct. How exactly did the Time Lord get to be so brilliant? Oh right. The whole Time Lord thing.
Sonic screwdriver sightings: 3
Sonic screwdriver use: to open a gate and a door, and to overload a circuit breaker!
Season 4, Episodes 9 and 10: “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”
The Doctor and Donna were planning on going to the beach, but end up at The Library, a city filled with books, instead. The Library, which should be bustling with people, is completely empty and also apparently inside a girl’s brain. (More on that later.) Something has infiltrated the Library and killed everyone inside. A recording that was left behind warns, “If you want to live, count the shadows.”
The Doctor and Donna run into an expedition that includes a man whose family built the Library and Professor River Song, an archeologist and real cutie who clearly has some history (or rather, future) with the Doctor. When he doubts her and says he doesn’t know her, she shows him her own sonic screwdriver and whispers something in his ear that makes him trust her.
The Doctor identifies the murderous unknown in the library to be the Vashta Nerada, aka swarm, aka piranhas of the air. They usually only hunt in forests, being scavengers more than anything, but as far as their concerned, the Library is their forest, books having once been trees.
There are nodes within the library that have the faces of real humans, which the Doctor postulates have been donated in the same manner as one would donate their body to science on our planet. It turns out that the little girl they keep seeing is actually a family member of the folks who own the Library. When she got sick, they created the Library for her as a sort of heaven filled with books where she could interact with new people. And that little girl took her job so seriously that she saved everyone in the Library from the Vashta Nerada by downloading them to her hard drive.
All the lives she saved, 4023 including poor Donna who has been living a pseudo-life where she has children and a husband (but none of it is real), could be re-downloaded/re-animated. The Doctor tries to hook himself up to the drive, but River stops him and hooks herself up, saying that his death would prevent them from ever meeting and she could not stand for that. It turns out the word she’d whispered in the Doctor’s ear was his own name. River dies, but she gets to save the day.
Then the Doctor realizes he can use her sonic screwdriver to save her to the drive where she can be reunited with her crew.
The whole episode is very dramatic and quite scary. There’s lots of chasing and fighting and hiding from the shadows without knowing what is happening. And the way the Vashta Nerada hunt and kill is really quite creepy.
We get to see new depths of Donna in this episode, from her talking a woman through her death to her facing the disappearance of her children who are illusions generated by the girl/computer. It’s truly devastating and damn, the writers really twisted the knife when we see Donna’s partner from her fake life is actually real but is transported away before he can call out her name.
Seeing River and the Doctor navigate their time-crossed, missed connection is heartbreaking. There’s a moment when he hears her talking about the Doctor she knew and she says, “The Doctor I knew could open the TARDIS with a snap of his fingers.” He tells her that no one could do that because it’s impossible. When the final scene of the episode occurs, after River has died and been resurrected and saved to the computer, the Doctor concentrates, snaps and opens the TARDIS, which made me weep, of course.
Sonic screwdriver sightings: so, so many (with bonus points for a second sonic screwdriver owned by one River Song)
Sonic screwdriver use: everything!
Season 4, Episode 11: “Midnight”
On a planet named Midnight, made of diamonds, unpopulated because its surface is poisoned by an x-tonic sun, Donna and the Doctor go on vacation. Donna prefers to stay poolside at the Leisure Palace, but the Doctor goes on a train to see a tourist attraction. From there, it’s a train-in-a-bottle episode, where all the characters are stuck in a train car together.
Of course, the train gets stuck and they sit on the tracks, working themselves into a panic. Something starts knocking at the exterior of the train car and the panic reaches a fever pitch.
Sky, a woman who has just gone through a breakup with her partner, becomes most fearful of the knocking and is then possessed. She starts repeating everything everyone says. Then she begins to say things simultaneously, just as they open their lips. Everyone freaks out and mob mentality takes over and they decide to throw the woman out of the car, but the Doctor warns them against murdering what might be a brand new life form.
And, as mobs do, they turn on the Doctor and decide to throw him out as well, yelling things like “immigrant.” As if on cue, Sky stops repeating everyone. The Doctor offers to help the thing inside Sky find its own body, but it doesn’t seem to be interested and begins speaking before the Doctor does, now he’s the echo, frozen still. The trip attendant realizes the thing has taken the Doctor’s voice and throws herself and Sky out the pressure-locked door before they can throw him out the back door.
Wow. What an amazing episode — well-written, full of commentary on how paranoid humans are, and very, very eerie.
When they almost kill the Doctor by throwing him out of the train car, but don’t, there’s a moment when they all look like the monster wasn’t really the thing on the train, but themselves. And, that, I think, is a pretty great commentary on humanity.
The Doctor returns to Donna at the end and he looks distraught. This is the first time I’ve seen the Doctor really shook up, so I really enjoyed getting to see new depths of him as well.
Sonic screwdriver sightings: 2
Sonic screwdriver use: to turn off the annoying entertainment options and investigate the knocking sound!
Fine. I like it. Ugh, fine. I love it.
Overall, the show itself is delightful. I didn’t realize how mystery-focused Doctor Who is. (No wonder y’all stan so hard.) It balances heavy storylines with silly hijinks, questions of life and death with the sonic screwdriver, which I obviously love. The companions so far have given a nice counterweight to the Doctor, but I’m still not clear why he has any companions to start with. He’s mentioned here and there that it’s lonely to travel alone, but is that really it?
As for the Doctor, what do I think of his 10th incarnation? Well, David Tennant is quite the actor. Before this, I think I’d only seen him in Jessica Jones, so it was nice to see some range. What stands out to me about the 10th Doctor is how erratic he can be, one minute barking orders, the next cracking wise. While he certainly is intelligent and a good leader, he also has a very dark streak and can be a real arrogant bossy pants. But, I love how often the Doctor finds cause to use his stethoscope and sonic screwdriver. It shows how curious he can be, how childlike. He’s an enigma.
I may not have made up my mind about what I think of the 10th Doctor, but I will definitely be watching more episodes because these have been enthralling.