V is for Village of the Angels

Series 13 of Doctor Who did something a bit different and had one larger story told over the course of six episodes. It was called “Flux” and there was a lot of moving parts to it, personally there were some I liked, some I didn’t, and some stuff I still didn’t quite understand even having now watched it twice but one thing that did stand out was the fourth episode in this story arc; “Village of the Angels”.

It’s my favourite episode of this story arc because it’s one of the more self-contained ones. Set in Devon in the 1960s, a little girl has gone missing, Professor Eustacius Jericho (Kevin McNally) is conducting psychic experiments, and in the village graveyard, there is one gravestone too many – it’s the Weeping Angels.

As mentioned before when I talked about “Blink” which is the first episode these creatures appeared in, the Weeping Angels are proper scary when done right. By this point it’d been a while since we’d had an episode with Weeping Angels, and the last time they were used it had got a little samey for me so they didn’t feel as terrifying as they once were. “Village of the Angels” changed that and made the Weeping Angels a proper threat again. Characters got caught by the Angels and sent back in time, some characters we care about, others we don’t, and the realities of getting stuck in the past feels real and dangerous.

As well as giving us a scary villain, “Village of the Angels” gives us some great new characters in Professor Jericho and Claire (Annabel Scholey). There’s a lot happening in these Flux episodes and new characters are introduced all the time but those two really stood out. Jericho is smart, kind and quickly adapts when the Doctor arrives and starts talking about moving statues and the importance of not blinking. Claire is a woman out of time with some psychic abilities meaning there’s the opportunity to do something different with the Weeping Angels and her mind. The highest accolade I can give to characters like Jericho and Claire is I’d love to see them have more adventures in the TARDIS. They are both companion-material.

“Village of the Angels” is a really atmospheric story that does push the overarching “Flux” plot on, but also puts characters in proper peril, has a relentless villain, and has the kind of cliffhanger that is almost impossible to live up to the potential it sets up.

U is for Utopia

“Utopia” is one of my favourite episodes of series three (and of the whole of Doctor Who in general to be honest) and it’s a great lead in to the series finale.

“Utopia” does for Martha what “School Reunion” did for Rose, showing what the fate of the Doctor’s companions can be; left behind somewhere and no longer being mentioned to the new people the Doctor travels with.

It also has Derek Jacobi as both the Professor and the Master and absolutely killing it as both. The contrast from a well-meaning and brilliant scientist to someone who has just realised all that’s been hidden from them, the power and knowledge they really hold is excellent. Though he only portrayed the Master for a few minutes, they were great and were a nice stepping off point for John Simm’s more eccentric take on the character.

What I really love about “Utopia” though is how it’s the return of Captain Jack Harkness and both the character and the viewer gets some answers about what happened to him. I watched Torchwood so knew about his newfound immortality and with being a viewer could put together that it had something to do with Rose and the heart of the TARDIS, but Jack wouldn’t know any of that – just that he’d been left on a satellite full of dead bodies in the year 200,100.

The dynamic between the Doctor and Jack is interesting from the outset. It’s clear that the Doctor doesn’t want to see him and he’s standoffish until the mention of Rose. There’s resentment from Jack for being left behind and there’s annoyance from the Doctor for having to face up to his past when all he ever wants to do is keep moving forward.

Their conversation when Jack’s in a chamber full of radiation is so good – it’s honestly one of my favourite moments in Doctor Who. Having this door between the two of them with the Doctor standing at the window, gives them the opportunity to talk without being in each other’s personal space while simultaneously not being able to avoid any questions because they’re both right there waiting for a response. You get your reasoning behind the Doctor leaving Jack behind and seeing what a prejudiced Doctor is like, calling Jack “wrong” and it being painful to look at him because of his Time Lord senses. It’s such a different side to the usually tolerant and open Doctor that it’s jarring and really drives home how different Jack is to the rest of humanity. At this point Jack has lived for almost 140 years as an immortal and it’s clear that the thought of never being able to stay dead is taking its toll on him.

This scene is great as they get a chance to be honest with each other and while the Doctor still has issues with Jack being a “fixed point of time” having hashed it out a bit, they can start to work together better and without snapping at each other as much. The Doctor is practically immortal, so I do like the idea that they can meet Jack at any point in their life and have a friend that is pretty much a near constant – the Doctor could always do with someone like that.

T is for Jackie Tyler

Back in 2021 when my A-Z theme was my favourite characters, Rose Tyler made the list but this year I’m going to be talking about her mum, Jackie.

I’ve always liked the relationship between Rose and Jackie, even when I was watching the first series back when it first aired in 2005 as a young teen and now rewatching the series as an adult I have a different appreciation for their relationship. It is such a well-written mother/daughter relationship and though my mum is very different to Jackie, there’s so many things Jackie says and does that remind me of my mum. That’s because it’s the ways she shows Rose how much she loves her, the way she’s always there for her daughter and will always stand up for her and protect her. Jackie is such a mum. She can be overprotective and reactive but she’s also kind and funny and has a shorthand with her daughter that just shows how it’s been the two of them against the world for so long.

In my Doctor Who rewatch last year, I’ve always cried during the series two finale (because Doctor/Rose has always been my OTP) but this time what really set me off was when Rose turned to Jackie on the beach, and she didn’t have to say or do anything, her mum knew and just ran to her. I was bawling as Rose ran to her mothers’ arms.

Another one of my favourite Jackie Tyler moments is in the series one finale – how those two series finales have such a focus on Rose and her family (which includes Mickey and the Doctor) is something I noticed and loved on this rewatch. After Rose tells her she went back in time to be with her dad as he died, Jackie is at first angry she would say such a thing, to bring up something so painful, but then she uses it to go and do exactly what Rose wants, she gets a truck powerful enough that will let Rose open up the heart of the TARDIS and get back to the Doctor.

I just the love and respect and trust Jackie has in her daughter is wonderful, even in those moments when she can see how much travelling with the Doctor has changed Rose – for better or for worse.

S is for Sarah Jane Smith

As I’m a new Doctor Who fan, I first met Sarah Jane Smith in the series two episode “School Reunion” and I immediately liked her a lot and that only grew over seeing her in more Doctor Who episodes and leading the spinoff children’s TV show The Sarah Jane Adventures which is fab.

I think Sarah Jane is used in “School Reunion” really well because she acts like almost a cautionary tale for both Rose and viewers like me who were young and hadn’t watched Doctor Who before the revival. You got to see that companions get older, the Doctor leaves them behind and doesn’t even mention them again. Companions see and do amazing things throughout time and space and then they’re back on Earth and have to go back to a normal life when what they’ve been used to for months or years is anything but normal. Sarah Jane is the future for Rose, whether she likes it or not and she is an example of how the Doctor moves on and while companions may be able to sped their life with him, he can’t spend his life with them.

I love how inquisitive Sarah Jane is. After her travels with the Doctor she becomes a renowned journalist, investigating things that seem unusual partly in the hope it’ll allow her to meet the Doctor again – which eventually it does. Sarah Jane is loyal and confident and she becomes quite the pacifist over time. Her pacifist nature actually helps her sometimes as enemies consider it a weakness and a sign of naivety when it makes her strong and clever as she has to think of solutions that are more unorthodox.

I love Sarah Jane’s relationship with the variety of characters she meets in both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures. She’s very caring towards her young neighbours, Clyde, Maria, and Rani, and acts as a mentor figure to them and her adoptive children Luke and Sky. I especially love her relationship with Luke as before he came along, she’d been quite alone, with just a robot dog (K-9) and a super alien computer (Mr Smith) for company and she’d been so focused on her work and defending the planet in any way she can. Luke helps Sarah Jane come out of her shell a bit more and start making more human connections and their mother/son relationship is one of my favourites.

R is for Rose

No, this post is not about Rose Tyler (who I do love a lot and wrote a A-Z post about a couple of years ago), it’s about the episode “Rose” – the first episode of the first series aka the episode that started it all.

I enjoyed “Rose” when I first watched it back in 2005 and watching it again years later I probably love it even more now. It’s such a great introduction to the world of Doctor Who and having it focus on Rose Tyler and her everyday mundane life with her mum and boyfriend was a great choice. As the viewer you’re right alongside her trying to figure out who this man is that took her hand and told her to run, what was going on with the mannequins and how can she just carry on as normal when she’s learnt there’s so much more out there in the universe.

“Rose” also shows the dangers of being a part of the Doctor’s world, even briefly. Clive, the man who’d researched the Doctor and told Rose all he knew, saw the chaos first-hand before being killed. Straightaway the audiences learns that characters will die, and it won’t just be the bad guys. Nice, normal, everyday people who don’t do anything wrong can still get hurt or killed when the Doctor is around.

There’s so much great character work for a first episode. You immediately can see and believe the dynamics between Rose and her mum and her boyfriend Mickey, as well as her home being so incredibly normal and lived in. With hindsight as you can see the character choices laid out and see how these connections will evolve over time – especially Rose and the Doctor’s. From the outset Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper had such great chemistry and a really interesting dynamic.

One of my favourite scenes is where Rose convinces the Doctor to tell her what’s going on. Not only is it a cool sequence as it’s a couple of long takes with the two of them walking and talking, but over the course of the conversation, Rose impresses the Doctor with her questions and he starts being honest with her. They already can laugh and joke but she is also ready to listen even if she’s not 100% sure she believes what he’s saying. When the Doctor takes her hand and explains how he can feel the Earth move, Christopher Eccleston feels ancient in that moment. You truly believe he’s an otherworldly creature that has seen so much, perhaps too much, and his life isn’t anything like Rose’s. Also, that sequence highlights Murray Gold’s score which has echoes of motifs that we’ll end up hearing across the series and instantly connect with characters.

“Rose” does everything you want a first episode of a “new” series to do. It introduces new characters, it has a mystery that you’re trying to solve along with the characters, and it’s still funny. It blends the drama and the outlandishness so well, and even moments that are kind of corny work because that has always been a part of Doctor Who’s charm.

REVIEW: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Translated by Susan Massotty and audiobook narrated by Helena Bonham Carter.

This will hardly be a proper review because how can someone review the thoughts and musings of a teenage girl living under the Nazi regime of World War II? Instead, it’s going to be more about what this book made me feel and how it surprised me.

Perhaps because it’s because it was written over 80 years ago, I thought it would be hard to read due to the language or the subject matter – a misconception that seems to be proven wrong repeatedly anytime I try a “classic”. I listened to the audiobook and that was a great way to take it in as it was if Anne was speaking directly to me, but I think even if I’d read a physical copy, it would’ve been easy to read and get engrossed in it.

Naturally Anne writes about the day-to-day life of living in hiding with seven other people, her parents and older sister, another family and a dentist, and all the highs and lows of that from the camaraderie to the arguments when living in such close quarters with no chance to escape. There’s a lot of talk about rationing food, being terrified when there’s unexpected visitors to the house below them, and the people who helped hide and feed them. There’s also her and the other’s thoughts on the War, how the Allies are doing, what’s happening to their fellow Jews, and when it will all be over.

The thing that surprised me the most (though in hindsight it really shouldn’t have) was how so much of Anne’s diary was relatable teen girl angst and musings. So much of it was how she felt about the people she was living with, how she loved her father wholeheartedly but didn’t understand or get on with her mother, how she had all these ideas and feelings about herself but no one seemed to see that side of her or understand what she meant when she did try and express herself.

There are her thoughts about girls and boys and desire and over the course of the entries she can be so contrary about different things or people depending on her mood or what happened that day which is very true to life. One thing that made me smile was her fascination/obsession of Greek and Roman mythology – that is such a teenage (girl) thing, being obsessed with one aspect of history, whether it’s a specific event or a mythology or time period. There’s something almost reassuring that decades ago teens were fascinated by the same stuff teens are often fascinated by today – even while living through such horrors.

It’s the juxtaposition of the relatable teen thoughts and feelings with the incredible hardship Anne is going through that makes her writings so effective and important. So often with any event in the past, the people involved become just names or statistics. Anne Frank’s diary brings the events and statistics into life in an unflinching way, and allows readers to experience that fear and dread while still having the everyday experiences of birthdays and holidays, though gifts of jam and butter are held to the highest regard in this scenario.

It is such an important work, and one that is accessible and thought-provoking. While naturally Anne was all too aware of the threat hanging over her and the others and writes about it often, it’s knowing the fate of Anne and the people she’s with that makes reading her diary give you such a sense of foreboding – especially as the years past and the moments when Anne experiences some joy.

Q is for Queens

Q was a bit of a hard letter to find something Doctor Who-related for and then I remembered the various historical figures and the many Queens that the Doctor has met. Here’s a few of the more memorable ones.

Queen Elizabeth I – “The Day of the Doctor”
Elizabeth I is referenced a lot in Doctor Who and from those references you think that her and the Tenth Doctor must have a history long before we actually meet her properly. She has a prominent role in “The Day of the Doctor” aka the 50th anniversary special and in fact she and the Tenth Doctor get married and their wedding is attended by Clara Oswald, the Eleventh Doctor and the War Doctor – multiple Doctors in one place, it’s very confusing and timey-wimey. I quite like how Elizabeth I was so smart and capable and while she was infatuated with the Doctor, it didn’t stop her being a good leader and someone her soldiers listened to.

Queen Elizabeth X – “The Beast Below” and “The Pandorica Opens”
Liz Ten’s story is a bit bleak as she’s unknowingly stuck in a loop, living the same ten years over and over again as when she wipes her own memory after finding out a horrible truth. She’s actually a lot older than she looks. The Doctor and Amy met her in the 29th century and when River Song meets her in the 52nd century, she’s still alive and protecting the Royal Art Collection, even though she must’ve been at least 2,150 years old. Liz Ten is a lot of fun though, she’s charming, confident and brave and will do anything to protect her people. I liked how she wears a mask to be able to investigate what’s happening in her nation without her people noticing her too.

Queen Nefertiti – “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”
“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is such a fun episode. It features Queen Nefertiti who is one of the eclectic mix of people the Doctor recruits to stop a spaceship from crashing into Earth. Nefertiti is wonderfully regal and effortlessly cool and I love how she puts other people, mostly the misogynistic men she meets, in their place. Nefertiti is brave and is willing to sacrifice herself for her newfound allies and how she interacts with the others who are from different times to her is interesting.

P is for Bill Potts

I adored Bill Potts from her very first episode, so naturally I was worried that something terrible would end up happening to her as I knew she wasn’t in Jodie Whittaker’s series. I won’t go into spoilers but her last few episodes certainly did break my heart and (before things get kind of weird but better for her) I thought it was the most tragic things to happen to a companion since Donna Noble’s fate.

Bill was like a breath of fresh air after Clara Oswald (who I never really liked) and I loved Bill’s relationship with the Doctor as it felt so different to his and Clara’s dynamic. They are like a grumpy professor and an inquisitive student and it really works. I love the kind of questions Bill has for the Doctor. Like, how she wonders why the name of the TARDIS works in English when it and the Doctor are from a different planet and would therefore have a different language. She just see’s things in a different way and sometimes it really throws the Doctor for a loop which is always fun. Side note: the Doctor going back in time to take photos of Bill’s mum so she could have photos of her and see what she looks like was one of the sweetest things the Doctor has ever done.

Bill Potts is amazing because even though she cares for the Doctor a lot and knows how brilliant he is, when she thought he had turned on the people of Earth and was working for the enemy she legit pulls a gun on the Doctor and shoots him! She was willing to kill her friend in order to save the world and while companions have put their own lives on the line before, I don’t think I’d seen one put the whole of humanity above what they think of and feel for the Doctor before.

Bill is thoughtful and observant but isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and to just unapologetically be herself. Her standing up to sexist and/or racist people was always great. She’s bold, brave and thoughtful and I would’ve loved to have had another series with her in the TARDIS. Also, on a purely aesthetic level, I adore Bill’s style and outfits. She just looks fab in every episode.

O is for Ood

The Ood is one of those new Doctor Who creatures that have been developed over multiple series and each new appearance has added depth to who or what the creatures are.

The Ood are quite tragic as they are an example of how awful humanity can be. The Ood are a peaceful, generally calm race, with low-level telepathic abilities, and because of that, humans saw them as no smarter than animals and enslaved them. It’s been interesting how the Ood have been developed over time because in their first appearance in “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit” it was just seen as the norm to have Ood as slaves/manual labourers and were just seen as the help. The Doctor and Rose Tyler did question it and Rose especially would ask the Ood how they were and if they got paid for their work.

Seeing how the Ood became this docile race in “Planet of the Ood” is interesting and adds depth to their previous appearances while also being horrifying as the Ood are mutilated in order to communicate with humans.

I liked it when Doctor Who takes the time to criticise human nature and shows how dangerous people, especially people who will do anything to make money, can be. The perils of capitalism is something that is featured in various Doctor Who episodes, in pretty much all of the series’, and it’s always good when Doctor Who has something to say about the state of the world and also to give some hope or guidance on how people can do better. That being said, it’s still a bit disappointing that however many thousands of years in the future, people are still being cruel and making the same horrible decisions that we did hundreds of years ago from today. Time and technology may change, but how far can human nature and corporate profit really change?

N is for Donna Noble

Donna Noble was like a breath of fresh air in the TARDIS after the romance/infatuation from Rose/Martha. It was so much fun to see a different dynamic between the Doctor and a companion, and for them to be best friends with no underlying tension was so great. You got to see another side of the Doctor too, sure they’re still showing off and wanting to show Donna the wonders of the universe but she isn’t afraid to answer back and perhaps even insult him now and again so he doesn’t get too big headed. It’s all said with love though.

Donna is bold and sometimes brash, she’s a bit of a drifter but all her temp jobs means she has other skills and is perceptive in ways other characters aren’t. Overall though she is compassionate and her travels with the Doctor made her less selfish. The scene in “The Fires of Pompeii” when she took on the responsibility and guilt of destroying Pompeii to save the world alongside the Doctor so he didn’t have to bear it alone is one of my favourite moments of hers.

I also love Donna’s relationship with her family, especially her grandfather Wilf. They are such a great duo; they have a similar sense of humour and it’s one of those instances where you can see the family resemblance in how they react to things, including injustices.

Rewatching series four with the benefit of hindsight is a bittersweet experience. There are so many small moments that are easy to miss but when you know Donna’s fate and what the series finale is about, they add so much more to it.

I am so excited and intrigued to see what’s going to happen in the 60th anniversary specials later this year. I’d love for Donna to be able to get her memories so she truly knows how amazing she is and how she helped save the world. She deserves to be the best version of herself, and travelling with the Doctor did make her better – it brought to the forefront her best traits and smoothed out some of her more harsher ones.