Category Archives: doctor who

The Unicorn And The Wasp

Doctor Who Review
Starring David Tennant

The Unicorn And The Wasp is from David Tennant’s last full season as the Doctor, before his time turned into occasional specials only. Featuring Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, the story was transmitted in the Spring of 2008, immediately preceeding the two-parter set in The Library which would introduce River Song for the first time.

Looking back on it from the perspective of 2013, The Unicorn And The Wasp is a refreshing stand-alone story, from before the period where all stories in a season somehow fitted into a story arc. It can be watched entirely on its own, and enjoyed solely for the characters, the setting and the plot.

The Doctor and Donna just arrive in the 1920s at this country house in time for a garden party given by Lady Edison. The interplay between Tennant and Tate is excellent from the start, with “What do you think, flapper or slapper?” and “Flapper, you look lovely” as they set off to gatecrash the party, Donna in a 1920s dinner gown, and the Doctor with his handy telepathic paper to pretend that he has an invitation.

It is of course no coincidence that the plot resembles that of an Agatha Christie novel, though at first the presence of Agatha Christie at the country house serves to confuse the issue somewhat because, as Donna says, she didn’t go round getting involved in murders, not really!

That said, the plot is something of a pastiche of Christie plots, right down to the murder in the library and the assembling of the suspects in the drawing room while one-by-one the sleuths, now with Christie and the Doctor playing this role, eliminate them one-by-one, whilst revealing their darkest secrets more or less by-the-by.

Best Regards
Grey Wolf

No Future by Paul Cornell

by Paul Cornell

This is one of my go-to books, one I head for when I am depressed and need to have my faith in fate restored. That said, I probably read it noce every five or so years, so this was either my third or fourth reading, probably the latter since I own at least two copies of this book.

Curiously, Paul Cornell does not much like this book, despite it being so well-written, so well-plotted and with such excellent characterisation that you can hear the actors, envision them in your head. I think he disliked it because it was part of an arc, the end of someone else’s plot, the last instalment of something that was not his idea.

But as a fan, and especially as a fan of both UNIT with the Brigadier, Yates and Benton on the one hand and of McCoy’s Doctor and Ace on the other, this novel sings to my soul. In addition, the Meddling Monk as seen in ‘The Time Meddler’and ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’ is personified perfectly, and the period, the mid 1970s, the birth of anarchy and punk rock, the build up to the Silver Jubilee, and the last real Labour government, it is all done to perfection. I can breathe the hot summer sun and feel the discordant notes of a future ill-born.

Of course, this being a novel in the New Adventures, it builds on the idea od interference with time, CDs before their time, video discs, and so on, the result of the Monk’s meddling with time. But of course, it is not as simple as it seems, and the Monk is playing a double game, and in cahoots with strange ephemeral aliens. At the same time, these aliens are launching their own invasion, taking over bodies, destroying the integrity of UNIT from within, and subverting the national consciousness by giving out waves of aggressive intent.

So much for the plot. It is important, but it is the background structure to the novel, it is what the characters and their interaction is played out upon, and it is where the great decisions are anchored.

In many ways, ‘No Future’ is a novel about trust, friendship and all the relationships in between. Benny, a character created by Paul Cornell in an earlier New Adventures book, is central to the start of the novel; she joins a punk band, hooks up with young Danny, Kit and Cob and makes a name for themselves as Plasticine. The Queen gets shot, and Big Ben is blown up, but in a sense these are just scenes in this story.

The novel could be about Ace and her feeling of betrayal, about how she has become hardened as a soldier, but at heart still wants to go back to what she was. It could be a story of her betrayal in kind, of how the Monk offers her the role she had always wanted, or it could be a story of how Ace finds her reality amidst a torrent of internal confusion.

At the same time, it could be a story of how the Brigadier creates Broadsword and amongst Buddhist practice and undercover operations they survive against the mind-influencing body-snatching aliens to be there when the Doctor needs them, when the time is right, and when they can strike back.

Black Star as anarchists are at their heart idealists, but the aliens have infiltrated and driven them into open insurrection, but even then things are not as they seem. It is an interesting picture of what was not,

In a way, this book is all about friendship and trust. If you re not a fan of McCoy’s doctor and of 1970’s UNIT, then there is still an excellent story here, but it might not pull at your heartstrings so if this is not your Soul’s Home.

Best Regards
Grey Wolf

The Mind Robber – Doctor Who Review

The Mind Robber is a story from Patrick Troughton’s last season as the Doctor, and features Fraser Hines as Jamie and Wendy Padbury as Zoe. It was transmitted in the Autumn of 1969.

The Mind Robber starts off where the last episode of the previous story had left the TARDIS and its crew, about to be engulfed in molten lava. The Doctor initiates an emergency boost which takes the ship outside of time and space, and works on trying to repair its systems, whilst warning companions Jamie and Zoe that what they are seeing on the viewscreen is unreality. But the visions have a powerful emitional effect, appearing to be of their home and both eventually venture outside the TARDIS, entering a white realm, and running into the white robots. Meanwhile, something is trying to get inside the Doctor’s head…

The second sees the crew arrive in a weird and magical land, first Jamie, then Zoe and then the Doctor. Redcoats and life-size toy soldiers, controlled by a mysterious Master, abound in a fake forest and the plot of the next four episodes is laid out in these early encounters.

The Lemuel Gulliver figure is highly amusing, speaking only lines from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, but so as to answer the Doctor’s questions, albeit somewhat obliquely. The bit with Jamie’s face is also funny. Apparently Fraser Hines had chickenpox so his cousin stood in for him, the transition being carried out by means of the Doctor putting together a jigsaw of Jamie’s face incorrectly.

It becomes clear that they are in a world of words, where metaphor can literally come to life. In some way this can seem childish to the modern science fiction viewer, but it is all rather clever and if it is viewed more as Doctor Who doing Fantasy, than as Science Fiction, it all works rather well. Looking at the story from over forty years on, it seems as if the production crew looked at the success of The Celestial Toymaker a couple of years earlier, and decided to see if they could replicate that in a different way.

And I didn’t mention Zoe’s catsuit once…