The Fella!

Simon and I have been meaning to sit down and complete a new series marathon for a while now and since he has plenty of holiday over Christmas this seemed like an appropriate time. Simon really enjoys the New Series but is a little fickle when it comes to the Doctor, seeming to prefer whoever is the current incumbent in the role. These aren't going to be in depth reviews because he can't bear that sort of thing but at the end of the episode I am going to ask him a handful of questions about the episode and see what he thinks. Expect crudeness and irreverent comments.

Series One archived:
Series Two archived:
Series Three archived:

The Players... 

Latest Update: Planet of the Ood

This is Donna's first sojourn on an alien world, How do you think this was handled (particularly when you are always saying that you want more alien planets)?

I do say I want more alien environment. The snow planet wasn't exactly alien but the Ood were obviously very different for Donna. I thought it was a pretty good effort but they were only running around a factory.

Except for when they were going across the ice tundra. I suppose that could have bee Siberia.

Except it wasn't, was it? It was probably just a quarry in Wales. They went to an alien planet but realistically they were only running around a factory.
But it was a pretty impressive factory.

Yes, it looked a bit like a movie setting. For the most part, anyway.

This is the second episode that has quite a serious idea behind it. The last one was all about changing history and this one was slavery. Do you think that was handled quite well? What did you think about the comments that were made about the clothes on our backs and where they come from. That really brought the idea of slavery home to our time and how we are happy to ignored workers on terrible wages as long as we can afford cheap clothes.

Yeah, that was done very well. It wasn't too preachy because the Doctor only mentioned it once. Donna bit back at him too, which was nice but she couldn't really object to his point either. It's not exactly slave labour but cheap labour, the comparison isn't really there because the Ood don't get paid.

Do you think the idea is worth pursuing that the Ood are hideous creatures to our eyes but they are benevolent. Is that a lesson worth learning?

They were a bit too different, don't you think? I didn't understand why they were born with their brains in their hands for a start.

Hang on. Normally you are complaining that monsters aren't alien enough and now you are saying that they are to alien!

See using the word monsters is derogatory. They are an alien species.

Don't be facetious with me and try and duck the point.

I like things being alien...but I need an explanation too. You can't just have weird shit happening and go 'well that's just how things are on this planet.' I didn't understand the enormous brain either. Big brains and little brains. Just like me and you.

Oooh burn. He did explain about the big brain.

He did? I was probably distracted by all the action.

But that's your problem, isn't it? Not the episodes problem.

If I didn't understand it how could a child understand it?

You put yourself to the intellectual level of a child?


Did you notice how the Doctor and Donna contributed nothing, plot wise, to this story. They didn't do anything...they were just there to comment on the action. Is that something that is worth exploring?

Yes, I remember you bringing this up during the episode and trying to sway the reviewer.

For the negative, not for the positive.

I didn't realise until you had pointed it out. But doesn't that say something about the strength of the writing and the characters involved? They were there to ask the questions for us. They were like the companions of ours, the viewer who were going on the adventure.

But if you can so effectively remove the Doctor and Donna from the action and it can still play out in exactly the same way does that make it a good Doctor Who story? Or just a good story?

They did it with Blink.

Yeah but they weren't involved at all in Blink, they were present all the way throughout this story. Do you think the Doctor and Donna have to be actively involved in the narrative or can they just be present on the sidelines commenting on the action? Did it affect your enjoyment of it?

No because I didn't notice. I don't sit here pulling plots apart like that. I can just sit back and enjoy something for what it is. And as far as I could see the Doctor and Donna were both present and certainly a part of the action. Donna effectively acted as the Doctor's conscience again, making him think about things that he wouldn't consider.

In the first episode they were only really treated as villains. Do you think it was worth bringing them back and showing them in a new light as victims? Do you think it is worth having recurring monsters?

There you go again - monsters. They are just called the Ood. Friends of the Ood will be in touch. I think it's nice to see new monsters if they are done well but then again recurring aliens are nice because it gives the show a certain continuity. If you can remember them from last time you get a little thrill. If aliens appear over and over again for no other reason but to please the fans you are in trouble.

Are you talking about the Daleks and the Cybermen.

Oh yeah, sometimes.

I want to talk about the scene at the end where Halpen peeled his head open and vomited up a brain. Is that too much? You have quite a weak stomach and you were visibly repulsed.

It was sick...but don't kids like sick?

Do you think it might be too much for the adults then?

What putting themselves in the kids positions and worrying about it? Possibly. But on the other hand there was an attempted mass execution earlier in the episode that played out like something from a concentration camp during the Second World War. Isn't that just as disturbing?

Again, I think that might be more disturbing for adults who can make the connections to the Second World War. The kids probably just see that as bit of action.

Ood were being whipped and shot to death, it's quite a violent episode.

Do you think the tweeness at the end where they all held up their hands and sang was justified then, after everything they have been through?

I can't imagine things getting organised that quickly if I'm honest with you. We go from everybody running around, being shot, beating each other up and then suddenly the song of the Ood strikes and everybody puts their guns down and all is hunky dory. It feels like somebody has thrown a switch and decided that the story is over and everything is fine.

It's not a natural development, you mean?

Yeah. I don't think all the soldiers would just give up and except defeat after trying to murder the Ood two seconds earlier.

You think turning the brain of is an easy solution then?

Too easy. I know it was set up with 'the circle must be broken' but things do come to an abrupt halt and then the Doctor and Donna are suddenly leaving just like that.

After contributing nothing. What about Sonali. She was quite an interesting character because she had a chance to redeem herself and chose not to...and what did you say when she was killed?

She got what was coming to her.

You think if somebody betrays the Doctor and Donna...

Why are you bringing them into this? It wasn't for that reason. It was because she had the chance to do something right and didn't take it. She thought about it for a second and chose the wrong option. She opted for her job over her morals and paid the price.

Did you think Tim McInnery was a good villain?

He was suitably horrible, yep. His ending certainly was. It was great how they kept mentioning his baldness, leading to that conclusion.

I like the bald stuff for a different reason. It strikes me that the more horrid he is, the more opportunistic and violent his methods become, the uglier he gets physically. Losing his hair is like an extension of his repulsive capitalism and greed.

Ooh, good call.

Sum up your thoughts overall then on this violent, twee, action packed episode on slavery?

It was good to go to an alien planet but I do think they could have tried harder.

Their going to several this year. The Doctor's Daughter, the Library, Midnight...

But this wasn't set on any of those other worlds. I liked the chance to redeem the Ood after their first appearance. Donna was great, especially her reaction to the Ood.

Do you think a lot of people expect her to just be a comedy character and are quite surprised by her compassion?

There are times when you can hear her comedy characters in Donna. 'Why d'you say Miss, do I look single?' I'm going to go for a four. I thought the acting was pretty good and I didn't notice they weren't involved a lot until you told me. It looked good and there was plenty of action. Although I didn't understand the ending where all the soldiers all put their guns down. Nobody thought that since the Ood were placid now they could very easily take the compound again. I think you needed to see that the Ood could be a threat to them and it wasn't worth them fighting back. Oh and the Doctor at the end 'the song has gone out...they are all coming home.' What? The entire human race over three galaxies decide to give up their Ood? If you want to have an Ood to have your bidding for you chances are you're pretty lazy. You're not going to go 'oh off you go then, if they're singing a song for you.' That is a bit lame. Actually no, three ad a half. I've talk myself out of half a point for how easy that ending was.

***half out of *****

Voyage of the Damned

What did you think of that?

It was a good episode. It was probably one of the best Christmas specials.

One of the best? The best?

I can’t remember all the others.

Umm…The Christmas Invasion. The one with the Sycorax.

Oh that one was good too. This one was better.

The Runaway Bride?

‘What the hell is this place!’ That was very entertaining…Catherine Tate is a big draw. But I still think this one is better. It looked great, this. It managed to keep the pace up throughout…there was no point where it lagged. Kylie was in it too which despite what people might say does add something. I bet this one had great figures.

One of the highest rated Doctor Who’s ever.

It doesn’t surprise me. Do you think they managed to pull off an effective disaster movie?

I thought watching this that you could easily watch this on the big screen. I’ve seen plenty of movies that don’t look this impressive. Do they give the Christmas ones more money because it just felt as though the production values were a cut above the average episode of Doctor Who. How good did the spaceship actually look and the comets hitting the side was exciting.

Do you think it was worth bringing in a huge celebrity as a guest companion?

It’s a shame that she couldn’t be a permanent companion really. I thought she really worked. You get the sense that she really enjoyed the chance to do something a bit different. I mean Kylie is so huge that she could probably ask to anything. The fact that she agreed to do Doctor Who means she must have been really up for it. I thought that she worked well with David Tennant. Certainly I got more of a sense of that Doctor and companion friendship than I did with him and Martha because they were equals from the start. You felt with Martha that he was always trying to make her prove something where there was never the sense of that here. I remember seeing a documentary once where David Tennant was so excited because Kylie was about to walk on set. He probably felt quite privileged to get to act with her.

Do you think it was a good cast. What about Russell Tovey?

Hot, despite the ears. Good actor too.

Clive Swift?


The guy from Keeping Up Appearances.

Oh, he was sweet. So sweet. It was quite a nicely balanced cast. An interesting mix.

Did the way Russell T Davies killed people off defy your expectations?

There’s some very real about the horrid guy staying alive at the end and all the nice characters dying. Considering the fantasy nature of the story it was quite nice to have a little touch of real life.

Do you think it was a bit too Disney? A bit too twee?

It should be, it’s Christmas! It has carte blanche to be bit sweeter than usual.

What about The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe then? I remember you complaining that that was far too twee.

What was that one?

The one where they went through the present into Narnia.

That was just shit. Just that description sums up why it was so shit. I think I lost the will to live when they were wandering around that forest on Christmas Day. The last thing you want from Doctor Who on what is supposed to be the most important day of television in the year is to be bored by it. This one had pace and excitement. That one had bloody irritating children with geeky specs. It is Christmas though and it is supposed to leave you feeling happy. I mean, he massacres pretty much the entire cast in this story and kills off most of the heroes and still makes you feel happy and cuddly. That takes some skill. This isn’t Eastenders which is always horrible and miserable.

I really don’t know what else to ask you about Voyage of the Damned. It is such a style of substance episode that once you have discussed the former there isn’t a great deal of the latter left to explore. Are you excited about watching Catherine Tate in season four?

Oh definitely. One of the best years. The trailer at the end of this was really good but I always get terribly confused because I think the clips are always from the next episode only because that’s how they usually roll. I always wind up thinking ‘Is that what’s happening in the first episode? It’s terribly busy!’

Pompeii! Fat people! Sontarans! Ood! All in one episode. Mind you, you probably would get all that in one episode these days.

One thing I do want to say about this episode is that it would have been nice if they had been able to get the Queen involved for a little skit. She did the James Bond skit at the Olympics which was great fun and I remember reading that she was a fan of the early series of Doctor Who. If they had asked it might have been cool. As it was it was clearly a double.

Oh don’t, it’s precisely those scenes that get the anal fanboys in a tizzy. ‘Make Doctor Who serious again!’

But Doctor Who isn’t serious? It’s always had an element of humour in it. Especially the old series. They were always cracking crappy jokes and the villains were always over the top and the stories were always a bit crazy and laughable. That’s all part of the fun. If that type of Doctor Who fan were making the TV series could you imagine how boring it would be? It would be Stargate. It would have no personality or entertainment value.

Do you not think you can push the humour too far?

The thing you have to remember about these people, these fans that lay claim to this show that have been watching this show for years…they are middle aged now. They forget that this show has to appeal to children. I find it funny that people can complain that Doctor Who has lost its innocence and yet when it tries to do something innocent and amusing it is criticized for that too. The writers cannot win with these people. More importantly, the show has to appeal to children now.

It’s interesting that when I talk to people now that they think the storytelling was far more sophisticated for children back in the day whereas nowadays it is somewhat dumbed down.

Perhaps the stories were more intricate in the sixties and seventies but they had more time to tell a story in those days and they didn’t have the budget to make it more pacy and flashy. Telly these days is 45 minute episodes. I’m not saying that’s right but it is what it is and you have to squeeze an awful lot into that time. The main difference between now and then is now there is an awful lot of competition for peoples attention. Before there were only a couple of channels to choose from but now you can watch any one of a thousand on Sky. You’ve got to capture peoples attention now.

We’re in a celebrity culture these days too and we were talking about Kylie and viewing figures earlier but she was probably a massive draw. Maybe she wasn’t the best actress in the world to play that part but she sure got people to watch.

You can’t rest on your laurels and say that because something worked in 1970 that they should be making it that way now. You have to move with the times if you want the show to last another 50 years and that means it becoming something flashy and attention grabbing and packed full of celebrities. What is the alternative? Cancelling the show. Because if they were making it like the olden days it would be off like a shot. You have to adapt and Doctor Who has always been good at that. That’s why it has lasted so long.

You don’t have to convince me. I liked the humour. The Great God Santa.

…going to war with the Turkey people and then eat them!

Did you like the foreshadowing?

The what now?

Donna’s granddad. And all this stuff about ‘you can choose who lives or dies…’ which is what happens later on in The Waters of Mars.

Was that intentional?

He probably looked backed when he was wrapping up the Tennant era and thought ‘oh we mentioned that…’ I don’t think there is anything wrong with exploiting happy accidents though and making it all look planned.

It was nice to see Bernard Cribbins. He’s so lovely. I suppose you could say that this was the first step to the Doctor’s next death.

You sure could. Okay sum up Voyage of the Damned.

I thought it was well executed.

What a lovely word.

Thank you. And I thought it was very well paced and a good Christmas episode. It wouldn’t work in a normal season but as a standalone one off it worked really well. There was some good Christmas music in it too.

The Stowaway song? You play that every year at Christmas now.

I know it’s a great song. One of my favourite Christmas songs. I’m going to give it full marks because I really enjoyed watching it again.

Full marks?


You think that should be the template for all Christmas specials?

Absolutely. I don’t want them crashing the Titanic into Buckingham Palace ever year but the tone and the pace and the style of it, sure.

Series four has a lot to live up to…

***** out of *****

Partners in Crime

I should say welcome back after the break.

What took you so long?


Borderm from Doctor Who? You've had enough of it?

No, we just got busy.

What was your overall impression of Partners in Crime?

It is a very good first episode. It's fun, it's a re-introduction of a companion, which to my mind has never been done before. It puts a lot of things in about what is to come. On the sticker on the taxi it says about ATMOS, it mentioned the bees disappearing, the Adipose planet disappearing...and Rose is in there. There is so much content in there beyond the episode you are watching. I can really appreciate an arc, I love and arc but I always thought the Steven Moffat was better at that sort of thing so I was surprised to see how well Russell T. Davies was setting up this series. Moffat has gone a bit off the rails hasn't he? But we'll come to that later. This has such a different feel to it than the current Peter Capaldi episodes and the late Matt Smith ones.

Do you think that the opening story needs a lot of energy to it?

It needs to have enough to grab you. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think hat ratings are usually really high at the beginning of the year, drift off in the middle and perk up again at the end.

Spot on. Except this season unusually where it peaked again mid season.

The opening story needs to grab you enough to make you want to put the show on again next week. To say, I'll give an hour of my life to this show every week.

This one scored nine million. And nine million came back next week.

There you go then. All those people came back again. It must have done something right.

What did you think about all the comedy at the beginning with the Doctor and Donna missing each other?

He pulled off some very funny comedy, I think. The characters and the actors seem believable in that very funny situation, that's how he pulled it off. You probably need a comedian to help you to do that...hence Catherine Tate.

I've always said that comedians are the strongest actors. What about Donna's desire to travel, the Doctor being on his own and the two of them coming together? Do you think that worked?

Well you could say it was contrived but then most situations are but at least they both had a good motive for why they were there and we get to see before hand why she wants to travel with him and why he needs her to travel with him. You could see halfway through when he was alone in the TARDIS that the Doctor likes to be listened to, he likes company.

What about when they see each other through the windows?

That was just sublime, wasn't it? I can't stop smiling watching that scene.

Do you think Davies managed to pull off a successful species that wasn't like the Daleks or the Cybermen? A bit quirky and a bit different. A lot of people take issue with the Adipose.


Ella watched it and couldn't bear it because it was just too out there for her. Mind you she hates Doctor Who with a passion's Barry that forces her to watch it.

You have to remember that this is aimed at children, not adults.

I think it is aimed at adults. You wouldn't get nine million children watching.

It's a children's show!

Is it?


I would say it's a family show.

Okay if we're being pedantic it is a family show. Don't forget it isn't nine million people watching...but nine million TVs. It's probably double that amount of people watching.

But at that time on a Saturday night the smaller percentage would be children and the larger percentage would be adults. For this to be in the top ten programmes of the week the majority of the audience would have to be adults watching. Did you like the Adipose?

They were so cute. I thought they made it a nice, smooth introduction into the new series. Not like Capaldi's boring introduction. I think Russell T Davies understands the audience well enough to know that the first episode of a new year has to be quite light and enjoyable.

In series two they tried to pull off the same thing with the Isolus flower. A benevolent alien.

Oh that was so shit! I forgot about that!

But why were the Adipose successful and the Isolus not?

Because that crappy episode had children in it. Children on this programme does not work!

Oh please! You loved In the Forest of the Night!

No! That was rancid! See children again! Chloe Webber, the children in the forest, those two that went inside the Christmas present...and those fuckwits at the amusement park that I literally wanted to murder.

Amusement park?

'I'm bored!' - that awful girl!

Oh Angie and Artie! I had erased them from my memory.

So had I until we had this conversation. Don't put children into Doctor Who! It doesn't work.

It can work. What about The Sarah Jane Adventures?

But that's a kids show!

So surely they should be written down anyway?

The kids in The Sarah Jane Adventures they are children being written as young adults and that makes a massive difference. Children are irritating though, let's be honest. I was in Tesco earlier and all I could hear everywhere was annoying children. I kept thinking put a muzzle on them. If they aren't your children they are irritating. Fact.

Okay, let's try and get back to talking about this episode. What about David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

It's a great combination. Perhaps the greatest combination.

Is it his best companion?


Rose, Martha, Wilf...

Wilf? Is Wilf a companion?

He was in the TARDIS for one story.

Is that all it takes now?

I guess.

I wouldn't consider him a companion. I think all the tenth Doctor's companions bring something different out of him. I love the fact that she is not mooning over him and that she is an equal. I love the fact that she will tell him off and not back down. I did like Rose though, once she had settled in.

As much as people moan about her, she was integral to the shows success.

They wouldn't keep bringing her back if she wasn't popular.

To be honest I think the audience at large love Rose whereas a small percentage of fanboys don't.

Don't get me started on the fans again.

Do you think Donna is like a modern day Tegan done right? Bolshie, full of attitude, argumentative...but with humour and vulnerability that humanises her. 

She's miles better than Tegan. She's probably the person that people would like to be. She's certainly the sort of person I would like to be. Speaking her mind and that says the sort of things you need to say when you need to say it.

But if she was just like that then she would be unbearable. I think she needed to be vulnerable too.

Yeah the balance is excellent, it's a good mix. I really like her.

Overall then how would you rate Partners in Crime with a star rating?

I think because it made me smile so much and because I was enjoying it so was never a chore I am going to give it five stars out of five. It was a really enjoyable way to come back to this.

***** out of *****

The Fires of Pompeii

Did your opinion of The Fires of Pompeii change at all from original transmission to our recent watch?

I don't think so. I really enjoyed it the first time round and thoroughly enjoyed it this time. I think it was another example of how well the Doctor and Donna work together. In episode 1 - she asked him "what do you need" as in "talk to me because I can help" and in this one she made him see the value in saving someone. Despite what the laws of time might have to say about it. Donna is proving to have a massive influence on the Doctor and we really saw that here.

Do you think it was about time that they handled a serious historical event like the eruption of Vesuvius?

I think it was good to show the consequences of something this dramatic - he treats the universe like a playground sometimes ('where would you like to go?') but actually these are real people and not something to be read in a history book - it's all happening around him and it's not as easy as to say that this is a fixed point in time as an excuse to walk away from having to do anything. If that had been the case in this episode, if he had just walked away because of some law it would have been very unsatisfying. Instead we saw him struggling to cope with having to murder all those people because history said that the volcano went up on that date. What a shocking surprise that was, when he realised that he was directly responsible,,,or had to be.

Do you think Donna acted as the Doctor's conscience in this episode?

100%- I think Martha would have too but I'm not sure about Rose. She may have gone along with what he wanted because she was so head over heels for him. Although she could fight back when she chose too, I suppose.

I don't know about Martha, she was always a little shy to do her own thing. Never a problem with Donna! Do you think Donna was right about warning people to get out of town? What would you do in that situation if you had fore-knowledge?

I think anyone would have. You couldn't in all good conscious know something bad was coming and just go about your business like nothings wrong. 

Could you kill Hitler then?

Ummm...what as a baby?

Who said anything about killing babies?

Sorry when people say about killing Hitler they usually use the example of him as a baby.

You could just shove him in a cupboard. 

Oh that was lame...

Yeah...anyway was the episode delivered in an effective enough way to make you think about consequences of your actions like that?

My actions?

Their actions. Did you feel the dramatic weight of what the Doctor and Donna were facing?

Yes I think so. Things changed as soon as they entered the volcano. As soon as they realised the volcano had to erupt to save the world but kill the people of Pompeii. Quite a different sort of dilemma, I think. Do we ever see the consequences (apart from Father's Day, which was shit) when they try and save the day and something and it goes wrong?

Not really, that is one of the recurring motifs of the series. That the Doctor runs away before having to deal with the consequences of his actions. Margaret Slitheen said that in Boom Town. Do you think it was about time he saw the devastation he leaves in his wake? Was it effectively done?

Definitely, like I said he treats it as his playground sometimes and it was worth showing him that sometimes the playground bites back. Although I would like him to do something in a story, perhaps not realise what he has done, and then jump forward to see the outcome

That has been done twice in the classic series but not in the new series that I can remember. Oh yes - Satelite Five! When he left it after bringing down the media...100 years later the planet was under Dalek rule!

I'm talking about performing a benevolent act - like saving Pompeii - and then realising the terrible consequences of doing that and having to go back a wipe out Pompeii to put things right.

That is the oldest story in the book. 

I think it would be interesting to see.

Okay what did you think about seeing Capaldi and Gillan in different roles?

If only he played the Doctor softer in this way - he's a good actor but a little harsh I feel. He's hard to warm to. Whereas the character he played here I liked straight away.

I think he will soften, I think he already has a little

Karen Gillan didn't really do much but obviously did enough to get a lead role later on. 

I don't think that was anything to do with her performance here. It was odd to here her with an English accent

Is Karen Gillan really Scottish then?

Are you for real?

I don't know!

Given how Moffat bangs on about it in every episode! Let's move on before I stick your head in a blender. Do you think this was impressive enough visually to pull off Pompeii and the destruction after the volcano erupted?

The effects were very good- a very good effort. Especially the erupting volcano. I thought that was really impressive. To be honest with I think with just some minor tweaking they could show this at the cinema.

Russell T Davies gave the whole script a spring clean...could you feel his influence in the dialogue?

I think that it's obvious that someone knows the characters but the actors have a massive input too. They both have a big hand in how it's played and where they want to take the character. And I thought David Tennant and Catherine Tate made the whole thing work really well, the funny bits and the dramatic bits. 

Sum up Pompeii then...

5/5 I think it really showed who Donna was and gave Catherine Tate a chance to flex her acting muscle. I think it showed growth within the Doctors character as well

That's two fives in a row! Three if you include Voyage of the you think Doctor Who has reached its peak?

It's definitely riding high at the moment

Before we wrap up can you tell me a historical period you would like the show to visit?

That's a good question - probably the war again but without monsters. A proper wartime story without any gas mask zombies or River Song. 

***** out of *****