“It’s funny, the day you lose someone isn’t the worst. At least you’ve got something to do. It’s all the days they stay dead.”

portraitHeaven Sent’, written by Steven Moffat, finds the Doctor teleported to a mysterious castle. Still haunted by the death of Clara the Doctor quickly learns that the castle is designed to be his personal hell where he is stalked by a horror from his past that will never ever stop. Not unless he gives up his secrets.

This is a powerful, dark piece of drama showcasing Peter Capaldi’s talents and giving Moffat an opportunity to explore the Doctor’s thought processes and what he does when there is no hope.

Spoilers From Here On In!

This is a wonderfully constructed episode, proving once again that Steven Moffat excels at puzzles. The nature and purpose of the environment the Doctor finds himself serves as the main focus of the plot, as the Doctor investigates and slowly learns the truth.

It also serves as a metaphor for how the Doctor deals with morality. Within the castle he is hunted down by the Veil, a phantom surrounded by flies that is drawn from a memory of an old woman who died when he was young and left out in the sun too long. She represents the death that you can delay or run from but eventually catches up with everyone.

The Doctor does this by running up and down corridors solving puzzles. Confronted with a dead end the Doctor actually says that this sums up his life.

It gives the Doctor time to dwell on Clara’s death. Her presence is felt throughout, whether it be the fading painting in the bedroom or the image of her he holds in his mind.

Alone the Doctor keeps up his dialogue, intercutting with his TARDIS mindscape. It is here that he works out how he is going to escape certain death, putting a new spin on the TARDIS scenes in ‘Listen.’ It is also here that Clara (sometimes invisibly) chalks her questions on to the blackboards, prodding the Doctor in the right direction.

This insight both reveals how the Doctor seems to achieve the impossible and why he needs a companion asking the right questions (even if they are only in his mind).

In the real world though the Doctor is still on his own. We later learn just how long that time period is returning to the idea that no matter what, due to his nature and his extended lifespan, his time with a companion is always brief.

There are two clear influences to this episode. The Veil is a clearly a nod towards ‘It Follows’ which the music references in its electro synth styling. In both the monster slowly walks towards you, where ever you are. In both the main character has to work out the rules that governs the threat.

The neat twist here is that televisions positioned throughout the castle serve as a constant reminder of its approach. The Doctor always knows how close it is to him and how long he has.

Indeed, if the Doctor so desired, he could keep running from it forever once he learns the layout of the castle. Delaying the inevitable is not really for the Doctor, especially if it means being alone.

The second influence is ‘Triangle’. In both the location serves as a source of mystery and both are shaped by multiple iterations of the same events, played out over and over again. A particularly gruesome sign of that is the lake filled with skulls, which we later learn all belong to previous 12th Doctors.

If there is one flaw it is that the rules that govern the reset of the rooms is not always clear. For example the Doctor finds a dry set of clothes waiting for him by a fireplace, which he changes into leaving his own wet clothes to dry. We can assume that the dry clothes was left by the previous Doctor but why didn’t that reset (the removal of the Doctor’s bloody trial would indicate that individual items are removed during the reset).

For that matter were the scrawled messages around the castle left by the Doctor and if so why were they not removed?

Regardless, the revelation that the Doctor has been trapped in a loop for thousands of years is breath taking. Confronted with a diamond barrier between him and escape the Doctor refuses to lose (spurred on by the Clara in his mind) and chips away at it, even knowing that he will die in agony and is doomed to do so for a long time to come.

The montage of the Doctor’s repeating their journey through the castle is chilling, depressing but a glimpse of hope (and makes moments like the Doctor ‘unexpectedly’ leaping out of a window ironic in retrospect) .

Each time his observation of how long he has been there increases, from thousands to millions to billions of years in the castle. The human mind can not comprehend just how long the torture of the Doctor has spanned.

This can be seen not only as the Doctor’s refusal to ever give up when there is a chance but that fact he is willing to sacrifice to save others (in this case another version of himself).

In the past the Doctor has sacrificed himself to save the universe, planets or single people. He has sacrificed his life adventuring in the stars to stay in one small town until old age claims him.

This ties back into Clara’s self sacrifice which we glimpse again at the start of the episode, which the Doctor comments to himself was her trying to be him.

The conclusion seems to be that while death is inevitable it can still be turned into a ‘win’.

For the Doctor his reward is that he is returned to Gallifrey, the castle itself apparently held within the mysterious confession dial. In retrospect the Veil’s desire for the Doctor to confess and the rotating design of the castle make the connection obvious.

The return home is not a triumph for the Doctor, especially as they appear to be behind the events that cost him a friend and put him through hell. As the episode ends it reveals the prophesied hybrid will shortly bring doom to Gallifrey (whether in the form of the half human Doctor or mire infused Ashildr remains to be seen).

Peter Capaldi is the star of the show here, and not just because he is one of the few people in it. He has to carry the story and his performance is the best it has ever been. From the Doctor’s fury to the depths of his depression, fear and the torment of his death Capaldi makes his portrayal of the Time Lord unforgettable.

After the lacklustre two part conclusion of last season this is a return to greatness for Moffat. The ideas and themes are both creepy and thought provoking. Few other stories get to the heart of what makes the Doctor tick.

This is definitely the best episode of the current season and maybe one his best the whole show.

Posted in 12th Doctor, First Thoughts, Heaven Sent | Leave a comment

“Well, they’re not holograms, that much is obvious. Could be a theme park from the future.”

tournementNot believing that Robin Hood was real the Doctor explored several possibilities to explain the situation in ‘Robot of Sherwood’. Ultimately it was revealed that Robin Hood was real but your players may find themselves in a similar situation with a different outcome.

It has been said that the past in recent series of Doctor Who are theme-park versions. That they are not how history actually was but how we imagine it to be. Things are simplified, locations reduced and there is every historical figure you’d hope to meet only a stones throw away.

Having a TARDIS arrive in a theme park version of the era PCs were hoping to reach can have its benefits. It avoids the potential for history being altered and if there are any period inaccuracies they can be explained away by poor work from those who made the theme park.

PCs need not be aware that they are in a theme park, especially if it is well made. It could be big enough that they never reach the limits of the park. The locals could either be very committed actors or artificial creations (either robots or clones) programmed to believe that they are in the era the park hopes to emulate.

The PCs could bump into other guests who are also looking for adventure. They might play along with the scenario, explaining why certain people the PCs meet don’t take issue with the appearance of an alien (believing their lame ‘its a skin condition’ excuse) or help cover up elements that don’t fit into the period. PCs might think they are dim, very accommodating or  fellow time travellers.

This allows you to have an adventure that is based in a setting that is actively trying to ensure the PCs have a good time. The park could be designed to funnel the PCs to be the centre of attention and be the centre of an action set piece (carefully managed behind the scenes).

Thing can go wrong in theme parks, meaning there could be real elements of danger. Both ‘West World’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ show that a theme park can turn deadly. This could be the result of sabotage, simple errors or chaos breaking an organised system.

This could reveal the nature of the PCs environment. An investigation into a wave of madness in Victorian London could reveal that the inhabitants of the city are robots, their programming corrupted. The PCs now know that they are in a theme park but still must find out what has caused the problem and solve it before they and the other guests are harmed by malfunctioning robots.

An outside element could be the source of problems in the theme park. It might be invaded by aliens or targeted by a misguided time traveller. These intruders could be unaware of the nature of the theme park. Their presence and actions could in turn causes problems and malfunctions in the park.

Players may feel cheated if they learn that they’ve been adventuring in a theme park but it is important for them to realise that events there still matter. Their exploits could be remembered and they can still be responsible for not saving the park but the lives of those who work and visit there.

Historical theme parks allow a form of time travel for those who are in a suitably futuristic time frame but lack a time machine of their own. It could also act as a testing ground for a Time Lord, to see how their companions act in what they believe to be the ‘past’.

In ‘Robot of Sherwood’ the Doctor is fairly certain he is in the right time frame, having setting the co-ordinates himself, so his suggestion is that this is a theme park from the future. This would indicate that he believes a Robin Hood theme park has some how found its way into the past.

We’ve had several examples of spaceships from the future crashing in the past. It is feasible that one such vessel might be carrying a theme park or the components of a theme park, which could then be released into the local area.

This could result in an adventure where two or more time periods clash. The PCs would need to identify which is real (made more difficult if their TARDIS doesn’t tell them the correct era) and stop history from being corrupted.

This could result in a pre-destination paradox if the presence of the theme park influence the legends and myths that led to the creation of the theme park in the first place. For example if a Robin Hood theme park crashed into 12th century Sherwood forest and was responsible for the legends of Robin Hood.

If time travel becomes commercially viable it might be decided to create theme parks to make history conform to what people are expecting. This is the premise of the Doctor Who novel ‘The Last Resort’ by Paul Leonard.

PCs hoping to remove such theme parks will have to work out what is pre-destined and what is unnecessary. Removing the wrong elements could rewrite history as a consequence.

The existence and exploration of historical theme parks could be the basis for several linked adventures or a campaign setting. PCs might use their TARDIS to act as historical advisers and researchers.

They could be despatched into the past to ensure that a new theme park is accurate or to brain storm new attractions. They could also act as trouble shooters, sent to solve problems that arise in different theme parks and ensure that there isn’t any bad publicity caused by guests meeting unfortunate ends.

For further inspiration the Doctor Who novel ‘Earthworld’, by Jacqueline Rayner, introduces New Jupiter, where a variety of historical time periods bump up against each other.

Posted in 11th Doctor, Robot of Sherwood, Setting | Leave a comment

“The death’s already locked in.You can pass it on, but…you can’t cheat it.”

facetheravenFace The Raven’, written by Sarah Dollard, features the return of Rigsy from ‘Flatline’. He phones the TARDIS after finding he can’t remember the last 24 hours and he now has a tattoo counting down to 0.

Investigating what happened leads the Doctor, Clara and Rigsy to discover an alien refuge camp hidden in the heart of London by the immortal Ashildr (last seen in ‘The Woman Who Lived’). They must race against time to save Rigsy’s life but is Clara’s increasing recklessness putting her in danger?

This is a good murder mystery in an interesting location and a host of intriguing characters. It takes Clara’s story arc to its natural conclusion and could be a major turning point for the series.

Spoilers From Here On In!

A reoccurring theme this season (and part of the last) is that Clara is becoming too much like the Doctor. She takes risks and has come to believe that if she thinks like the Doctor she’ll come out unscathed.

We’ve seen how she treats it like a game and how that alienates others around her. The Doctor has expressed concern over this but the headstrong Clara has ignored him, believing she can handle anything.

This is touched upon in the opening, as the Doctor and Clara bundle back into the TARDIS narrowly avoiding death. Clara is laughing, enjoying herself and boasting about her feats while the Doctor implies that Clara is responsible for placing them in danger in the first place.

When the phone rings director Justin Molotnikov makes it feel ominous. The time travellers adventures have been interrupted by this jarring event. The bell tolls and it tolls for Clara as she takes the fateful call that signals the end of her journey.

They are summoned by Rigsy to solve the mystery of his tattoo and the stakes are established as we are shown he has baby and partner. When the Doctor discovers that Rigsy will die the viewer understands that this won’t just affect him but his family.

The addition of Rigsy, who was also one of the high points of ‘Flatline’, is well handled. He is a more grounded companion that Clara, who puts the events in their proper context, showing compassion and concern contrasting with Clara’s giddy joy (such as when she is dangling out of the TARDIS flying over London).

The scene in which Rigsy pleads for his life and for the Doctor to save him is very effective and Joivan Wade plays it well. It is interesting that Clara doesn’t need to say anything further here, it only takes a glance at her from the Doctor for him to decide to do the impossible and save Rigsy.

The sequence in which the TARDIS floats over London searching for the hidden trap street in which the aliens must be hiding is exhilarating. Reminiscent of when the 11th Doctor dangled from the TARDIS in ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ it makes effective use of the sonic glasses, with Clara scanning the city below. The music goes a long way to give this an epic feel.

The search for the trap streets with the data collected is another fun sequence, even if they can’t disguise the fact that they are in Cardiff rather than London. It captures the feel that the heroes are approaching the edge of the normality and about to cross the boundary into weirdness.

Discovering the trap street they run into a collection of aliens under the rule of Ashildr, now calling herself ‘Mayor’. She hides the aliens away, brokering a peace treaty to keep everyone safe.

Despite early impressions from the trailers this wasn’t too much diagon alley from ‘Harry Potter’. The special effects allow little flashes to show the human appearing inhabitants as they really are without blowing the budget. It plants the idea that everyone is alien so that throughout we always keep that in mind and wonder about the true nature of the people the main character encounter.

The trap street continues the politically charged themes of the season, as it is effectively a refuge camp. The idea of aliens hiding on Earth has been touched upon in Who, from the Doctor Who book ‘Return of the Living Dad’ and the short story ‘A Big Hand For The Doctor’ to the recent Zygon story line (which at least gets referenced.)

We discover that Rigsy was found standing over the body of Anah, an alien from Janus (who has two faces to see the future and past), and was assumed to be her killer.

As punishment Ashildr marked him with a quantum shade (an ability that hasn’t yet been explained), giving him time to be with his loved ones. Ashildr believes that she is been just here but both the Doctor and Clara point out the flaw in becoming both judge and executioner without any solid evidence.

The fate that awaits Rigsy is demonstrated by an old man who stole medical supplies for his wife and is hunted down by the quantum shade. Taking the form of the titular raven it swoops down on him, turning to smoke and choking him to death from the inside. The transformation effect of the quantum shade is effective, illustrating that it is an inescapable death.

With time continuing to countdown the heroes interview the hostile refuges for clues that might clear Rigsy’s name. They find out that Rigsy was summoned to the street by a mysterious phone call and that Anah’s daughter (who is disguised as a boy to hide her similar psychic gifts) senses there is something not right about the mayor.

Unfortunately Clara also learns that the curse of the quantum shade can be passed on. Believing that she has been clever like the Doctor she persuades Rigsy to pass the curse to her, hoping that Ashildr’s boon of protection will save her.

Following the clues leads them to Anah’s body where they find she is in a stasis device and not dead at all. In releasing her the Doctor surrenders the TARDIS key and has a teleporter bracelet attached to his arm.

Ashildr arrives, revealing that this has all been a trap so once again the Doctor is indirectly responsible for placing an innocent companion in danger. After forcing the Time Lord to hand over his confession dial Ashildr attempts to remove the curse but finds that Clara’s actions have broken the terms of the contract. She is powerless to stop the quantum shade collecting its prize.

This is an effectively dramatic scene as the characters deal with Clara’s impeding death. Having already moved past bargaining the Doctor makes threats before Clara reaches the stage of acceptance.

This is a nice moment as the Doctor and Clara say their goodbyes. Clara has had a big impact on the 12th Doctor and obviously been very important for him, helping him through a difficult transition.

Her concerns for his future and instructions for how he is to behave are very affecting. Knowing she is going to die her thoughts are still for his wellbeing. As ‘The Zygon Inversion’ demonstrated she’ll have left a lasting impression on him when she is gone.

As much as I grew to dislike the cocky attitude of Clara there is no denying the impact of her demise. It is a great high for Jenna Coleman to go out on, with Clara realising that maybe she had a death wish which kept her running and pushing her luck. She accepts that and rather than stay with the Doctor she runs, praying that she’ll be brave in her final moment.

When death comes it is beautiful handled, with moving music replacing her screams which affect all those around her. The Doctor can only watch as she dies yet again in front of him.

The Doctor can barely keep him promise to Clara not to seek vengeance for her death, warning Ashildr to keep out of his way. Teleported away by Ashildr mysterious employer we can only speculate who the true mastermind of these events were and what their motives are.

In a rare post-credit stinger we see that Rigsy has tagged the abandoned TARDIS with a memorial to Clara, surrounded by flowers.

Peter Capaldi is on good form here full of emotion and communicating his loss without a single word. This is a more serious 12th Doctor, demonstrated by his Pertwee-esque costume, who is far removed from the buffoon we saw in ‘The Girl Who Lived/The Woman Who Lived’.

Maisie Williams is much improved over her previous performances but is still not great. She at least nails the final scenes where she has to transition from the villain to being filled with remorse that her plan has led to Clara’s death.

It remains to be seen how final Clara’s demise is (it is, after all, part of her nature to come back from the dead) but this is a well crafted, emotional story. It explores what happens when those around the Doctor have so much faith in him that they believe they are untouchable and are sadly proven wrong.

With two episodes left there are lots of questions that remain and the Doctor’s future seems uncertain.

Posted in 12th Doctor, Face The Raven, First Thoughts | Leave a comment

“Oh, I can’t believe this. You really are Robin Hood and his Merry Men!”

803_001308Having established that Robin Hood is real within the Doctor Who universe you may wish to explore his further adventures. You could have a whole campaign, with the players taking the role of the famous outlaw and his merry men.

The tales of Robin Hood can easily be emulated with the rules. Each outlaw is usually identifiable by a distinctive trait, indicating that they specialise in one particular trait. This allows characters to shine while working together in a group.

Awareness is excellent for tracking targets through the woods or identifying potential traps. Coordination is a must to be an accurate archer. Ingenuity is useful for pulling off successful heists and ruses. Presence is good for bards and to have enough charisma to be a folk hero. Resolve can allow characters to resist torture or keep going when things aren’t going well. Strength is good for close combat and to represent characters like Little John (at least the version of legend).

Bold characters like Robin Hood might have a combination of Attractive, Brave, Charming and Lucky. Those wanting to escape from guards by blending in might choose Face In The Crowd and Run For Your Life! to just outrun pursuers. Most outlaws should select the Outcast trait to represent that they are hunted by the local authorities (although the peasants they help will still aide them).

Athletics, fighting, marksmanship and survival should be a priority for most outlaws, with subterfuge being useful for thefts and convince good for those who are prefer to use tricks. Technology and transport shouldn’t be selected without good reason.

Players can create new Merry Men if they wish. These could include stranded time travellers and aliens, if you wish to have more of a connection to the Doctor Who universe. Non-human aliens might be able to disguise their appearance so as not to alarm the locals.

At the end of ‘Robot of Sherwood’ the Castle of Nottingham has been partially damaged by the spaceship taking off and the Sheriff apparently killed after he plunged into a vat of gold (but given his non-human body he might still survive).

It wouldn’t take long for a new Sheriff to be appointed, with the people still oppressed and Robin Hood and his Merry Men hunted. The typical plots in such a setup would include:


The outlaws learn about some treasure or other valuable item within the local area. Can they steal it and get away clean? The exact nature of the treasure, its location and the security surrounding it will make the adventure varied. There will always be the possibility that it is a trap.


The peasants live miserable lives and the local authority only make it worse. They might once again be forced into slavery or their homes and property taken from them. The outlaws must fight to free them, thus winning their support.


Whether it be Maid Marian, an outlaw or a local there is usually someone in the dungeons that needs rescuing. This plot can naturally occur if anyone is captured during an adventure. It can also be the start of an adventure if the prisoner has valuable information or abilities the outlaws need to advance their own agenda.


Some of the lore about Robin Hood indicate that his Merry Men consisted of over a hundred men. This gives you plenty of room to introduce new members of the group, either as PCs or NPCs.

NPCs might have unique skills and abilities that can help the outlaws. The group will have to decide if their personality and motives make them suitable candidates. Their agenda can create adventure ideas, such as someone who seeks revenge or wants to keep what they steal rather than give to the poor. When these conflict with the PCs goals this can create friction.

Some new recruits might not be what they seem. They could be working for the Sheriff to gain valuable information or lure them into a trap. They could also be shape shifting aliens in disguise.


This type of story line concentrates of the particular time period. Whether this be the state of their society, their political relationship with countries, the absence of Richard the Lionheart or how people are treated based on their station in life, gender or skin colour.

This can be combined with the other plots to give historical context.


We don’t know everything that Clara told the outlaws (nor what Robin might have glimpsed on the spaceships database). An adventure could be based around events which the group have foreknowledge of.

The layer of legend means that they can’t be sure exactly what does happen. Can they engineer evens the way they were supposed to happen or will they discover that the stories told were wrong?


Now that Robin Hood and his Merry Men are aware of threats from outer space they might be more watchful for them. They can bring their guerrilla tactics to repel alien invaders or prevent further alliances with the Sheriff.

The robots could have left further advanced technology in the local area (maybe scattered after their ship exploded) that could attract others. This technology could fall into the wrong hands and cause further trouble until the outlaws can acquire it.

If you want to take the outlaws further afield they might here of others who fight aliens and exchange information. This could lead to an organisation that protects the UK from other worldly forces during the 12th century.


For the most part, no matter which plot you choose, the status quo should remain. The New Sheriff is still in power (if a little worse off), the Outlaws retreat back to the safety of the forest and the struggle continues.

Not to say that individual characters can’t grow. Their relationships can grow, they can re-evaluate their methods and their reputation with the locals might improve or worsen depending on how successful they are.

No matter what adventures should strive to be filled with daring do and witty banter. PCs are playing the role of heroes to cover their own fears and weaknesses to inspire others. They oppose wickedness and hope that they live up to their legends.

Posted in 12th Doctor, Robot of Sherwood, Setting | Leave a comment

“You must NOT watch this. I’m warning you. You can never unsee it.”

sleepnomore In ‘Sleep No More’, written by Mark Gatiss, something has gone very wrong on a space station orbiting Neptune. The crew are dead and rescue effort is about to meet similar disaster. These events are assembled from recorded footage, slowly revealing how the Doctor and Clara were involved and how the viewer is in danger from the threat.

Presented as found footage this is an interesting experiment in making the format of the episode part of the story. With a unique take on body horror and a sinister twist this is a new take on the familiar ‘base under siege’ story let down only by some shallow characters and lack of development.

Spoilers From Here On In!

The plot is fairly typical of Doctor Who. On a space station in 38th century Morpheus sleep pods condense rest periods to just 5 minutes, allowing workers to be more productive. An upgrade to the pods creates sentient sleep dust which devoured the crew and now want to spread to other worlds (starting with Titan).

It is the way that the episode is presented that makes it stand out and will determine whether this is a hit or miss for the viewer. It feels very much like the kind of experiment that Big Finish have tried with their audios (such as ‘Flip Flop’, ‘Ish’, ‘Creatures of Beauty’ and ‘The Natural History of Fear’.) Sometimes those experiments succeed and sometimes they fail.

Here the concept is both its best and worst point.

The best part is that it gives the viewers the perspective of those involved, as we see everything from their eyes. The technique should be familiar to any view of ‘Peep Show’ and gives the episode a more realistic and tense feel.

When used well it captured the chaotic feel of events unfolding in real-time by viewers missing certain events because no one was looking the right direction (such as Clara being pulled into a sleep pod) or important things not being framed in the centre of the screen as normal (such as the holographic introduction to the sleep pods).

With strange noises and horrible monsters creeping around there is more tension because the viewer doesn’t know where the threat is going to come from as they are limited to the POV of the characters.

The format is vital to the story itself. The fact that there is a live stream of what everyone is seeing despite not wearing cameras (although they do have cameras on their guns) is a major plot point. A vigilant viewer might spot this, especially as we begin to see things from Clara’s perspective after she has been in the sleep pod.

The static and distortion also plays an important part in the twist ending. It is revealed that this was a means of infection and so we too will now be devoured by the sand men.

This is a clever way to draw the viewer into the narrative and hiding something in plain sight, reminiscent of the Star Trek Voyager episode ‘Ex Post Facto’ which also hid important information in the perspective of a character.

The intercutting does lead to some nice foreshadowing when we cut to security footage of a sleep pod being transported to a shuttle while the main characters are unaware of the impeding danger.

The problem is the linking material provided by Gagan Rassmussen, played by Mark Gatiss’ ‘League of Gentlemen’ colleague Reece Shearsmith. Rassmussen has apparently assembled the footage to explain what happened and will occasionally deliver exposition or narrate the action.

Unfortunately this ruins the pacing of the story, just as the court room scenes in ‘Trial of a Time Lord’ did. They also add little more than what the characters learn themselves so feel largely unnecessarily.

There are only a few moments were they pay off (other than the ending) such as when we witness Rassmussen apparently being killed by the sand men only to continue his linking narration pointing out that he obviously isn’t dead.

The ‘in the moment’ style of most of the narrative of story also prevents most of the characters from having much development and Rassmussen’s profiles are not much of a replacement for actual depth.

Deep-Ando, played by Paul Courtenay Hyu, is labelled as the team joker and is just as annoying as that sounds. The first to die he does get a nice scene in which his escape from the monsters is barred by a computerised door that has been programmed by the previous crew to only open up to those who sing ‘Mr. Sandman’ as a drunken joke.

Chopra, played by Neet Mohan, is the cynic whose refusal to use the sleep pods has spared him from infection. This does have the consequence of making him abrasive, especially in his interactions with the love sick genetic grunt 474, played by Bethany Black.

The grunt is a wasted opportunity and seems to be a homage to the genetically engineered life form Dagwood in ‘Seaquest DSV’ who shared similar facial tattoos and limited intelligence.

The ethics of her creation is briefly condemned by both the Doctor and Clara but we never get a sense of what makes 474 different. Her self-sacrifice is touching but dampened by the fact it largely happens off screen.

The leader of the rescue team is Nagata, played by Elaine Tan, is largely defined by being Geordie and ending virtually every sentence by saying ‘pet’.

Reece Shearsmith works best when he has someone to play off and Rassmussen is just the sort of snivelling character he plays well. You get a nice sense of his desperation and madness as he reveals how the sand men have influenced him.

When alone, during the linking material, his delivery is a little flat. This is no doubt to hide the characters true motivations but those scene only really shine in the final reveal, as his body disintegrates.

The central monsters, the sand men, followed Moffat’s template of creating horror and fear from aspects of our everyday lives. By the end the viewer has reason to fear the sleep dust in their eye and dread its irritation.

The shambling, gapping mouth design of the monsters are nicely done, augmented by some CGI effects when they disintegrate. They might have benefited from having more onscreen at anyone time but the reveal of Rassmussen’s true nature is a good climax to their appearances.

The plot is clever, revealing that parts were staged and edited together to keep people watching, but maybe a bit too clever. I’ve seen more than a few commentators state that they thought the whole episode was fabricated.

There is also more that could be done with the found footage format such as editing out certain footage or twisting other sections to change the context. It feels like a strong concept that could have been developed further.

It is a bold decision to allow the villains to win here. The Doctor and the others escape in the TARDIS, unaware of the actual plot (although the Doctor does think things don’t make sense).

Gatiss has indicated that he might write a sequel to this episode but as it stands the sand man infection will spread to Titan. A dark outcome for Doctor Who.

My personal feeling is that the positives outweigh the negatives. I appreciated the presentation and the set design of the base and the associated world building created an interesting setting that was reminiscent of the ‘Alien’ films (particularly the computer game ‘Alien: Isolation’).

Posted in 12th Doctor, First Thoughts, Sleep No More | Leave a comment

“I’m too much for you, outlaw! The first of a new breed. Half man, half engine.”

robotWith a little tinkering it is possible to turn ‘Robot of Sherwood’ into a new adventure involving the Cybermen. A great advantage is that the story already includes robots from space and the Sheriff reveals at the end of the story that he is a cyborg.

A spaceship crashing during an historical period is the only essential element, allowing  you to adjust the location and time period. The televised story does make a good case for placing robots in a medieval period, where they can pass as armoured knights.

The Cybermen could be native to the time period. In this case they could be scouts preparing the planet in advance of Mondas. They could be the earlier models, more capable of interacting with others and not so driven to convert everyone (just those who it is logical to do so).

They could also have time travelled, either deliberately or accidentally (after all they did crash). This allows you to have more advanced models of Cybermen. This would also allow them to have databanks full of data about the future of Earth.

A big difference is that the robots main goal in this story is to repair their ship so that they can continue to head towards the Promised Land. Cybermen typically attempt to convert others but it could be that the Cybermen realise that Earth isn’t sufficiently advanced to suit their needs. In this case they could be trying to keep a low profile until they can leave.

If they needed to expand their numbers or replace lost soldiers they could convert guards loyal to the ruler they’ve allied with or convert captured villagers. These new recruits could stand out from the other Cybermen, as they have been gathered from poor stock and made with primitive tools.

There is a plot point about the robots gathering gold. In the original story this gold is used to repair the ship. Given their vulnerability to the metal the Cybermen could be collecting it to prevent it being used against them.

This could lead to a scene in which the Doctor (or your PCs) are placed amongst the other prisoners, surrounded by gold. The heroes can then show the peasants how to use the gold as weapons to fight for their freedom.

Gold arrows might therefore be a powerful weapon against the Cybermen. If you want to heighten their vulnerability the PCs could use gold swords to cut down their enemies. Greedy NPCs might not want the PCs to use the treasure in this way.

For much of the story it is the Sheriff that is the main villain. Keeping the Cybermen in the shadows (or disguised as the minions of the villain) can surprise the PCs. Their strategy will be to deal with the villain so when they learn his true nature and what they are really up against can require them to quickly come up with a new plan.

The Cybermen could find partly converting a local NPC a good tactic. It gives them an agent who can interact with the locals (and in some cases command them) while both giving them control over their agent and providing them with protection to carry out their plan.

PCs can find themselves challenged by a villain who is oddly powerful or resilient. It isn’t until they do serious damage to the villain that they’ll find out the source of their abilities. Even then they might not immediately identify the villains benefactors as being the Cybermen.

With their new cybernetic powers a villain might decide to turn on the Cybermen. It is likely that they’d foresee this betrayal (since they are such masters of it) and install failsafes that turn their agent into a puppet.

PCs could attempt to ally with the villain, convincing him that he can’t trust the Cybermen and that he will never truly be free while they still control him. If the villain does change sides would the PCs let him keep his cybernetics after the Cybermen are defeated?

The Sheriff’s declaration could provide a new origin for the Cybermen. He really could be a new breed of half man, half machine. In this case you can keep the original story but in this version the Sheriff survives his bath in gold.

Once free he is able to withdrawal and recover. He is shown to have some technical skills (his use of the computer display on his table) and so might know enough to be able to duplicate the technology and convert others.

He might encounter some of the droids from ‘Deep Breath’ and salvage their technology for this purpose. All he has to do is reverse engineer their harvesting of organic components.

This would create a new breed of Earth based Cybermen. They even have a reason to have a vulnerability to gold (imprinted trauma left over from their creators near-death experience).

You could also alter the origin of the Cybermen. Previously it has been indicated that it was the harsh condition caused by their planet leaving the solar system that drove them to begin the cybernetic conversion but what if the idea itself was provided by similar robots?

The mysterious robots could seed the idea of cybernetic conversion throughout space. This might be to ensure that organic and inorganic species eventually merge, thus preventing a future conflict.

Posted in 12th Doctor, Robot of Sherwood | Leave a comment

“Well, here’s the unforeseeable. I forgive you after all you’ve done. I forgive you.”

THE ZYGON INVERSION (By Peter Harness and Steven Moffat)The Zygon Inversion’, written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat, picks up the action from last week. After a narrow escape the Doctor and Osgood are powerless to stop the radicalised zygons from taking over London. Clara is still trapped but finds her mental link with Bonnie goes two ways. Can she stop them from obtaining the mysterious Osgood box?

This is a great conclusion to this two part tale, with Peter Capaldi putting in a show stopping performance that is sure to define his portrayal of the 12th Doctor. In comparison to the globe trotting of ‘The Zygon Invasion’ this is much more insular and intense, with a length key scene taking place in a single room.

This is an epic UNIT story for the modern age.

Spoilers From Here On Out!

Picking up the action from last week we see that Clara is experiencing a dream space of her flat while in the zygon pod. This is a nicely nightmarish scenario with the wrongness of her environment being revealed by inverted letters and simplistic props that reveal the facade of her windowless rooms. The scene was reminiscent of ‘Last Christmas’ and almost expected that all of the season so far to be the work of the head crabs.

Through her telepathic link with Bonnie Clara is able to make the Zygon miss, her hand trembling as she nudges her aim. This proves to be just long enough for the Doctor and Osgood to parachute to safety before the next shot destroys the plane (the death of the pilots and other support staff are quickly glossed over.)

The interplay between Clara and Bonnie is well done and it is a credit to Jenna Coleman that they feel like two distinct characters. Watching Bonnie cruelly enact her plan to unmask the peaceful Zygons is chilling. The scene of one of her victims exposed and forced to hide changes the Zygon from a monster into a pathetic victim.

Having landed on a beach the Doctor and Osgood make a very good pair as they work out what to do. Being a Doctor fan girl Osgood can challenge him on some of his behaviour and actually ends up being a few steps ahead of the Time Lord in working out that Clara is still alive. By emulating the Doctor she almost becomes him in a few scenes (another good argument for a female Doctor).

In one of the most obvious twists it is revealed that Kate Stewart was able to despatch her Zygon attacker and has only been pretending to be one of the aliens. Jemma Redgrave does well in these scenes and it is rousing when we have the flashback to reveal she used five rounds rapid to kill the Zygon in a nice homage to the Brigadier.

Everything in this episode, and indeed the whole story, culminates in a stand off between Kate Stewart and Bonnie the Zygon. Their fingers hover over buttons that have a 50% chance of wiping out their enemies or destroying themselves. Between them the Doctor tries to persuade them to turn away from the path of war and choose forgiveness.

Whatever other flaws ‘The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion’ might have they pale into insignificance compared to the magnificence of this scene. This is everything Doctor Who stands for. The Doctor is the voice of reason trying his best to let people make the right choice.

This can be seen as another attempt at the moral dilemma in ‘Kill The Moon’. There the Doctor placed an important decision in others hands but he was more passive, leaving before the decision was made, and the parties involved didn’t have the necessary information.

Here the Doctor is actively involved and Capaldi’s performance is mesmerising. His flippancy is used to good effect, taking on the persona of a game show host, provoking Kate into realising that this isn’t a game. The Doctor refuses to take responsibility for events with a shrug of his shoulders and compares Bonnie to a petulant child throwing a tantrum because of the injustices of life.

The scene is a little long but necessary to show the back and forth between those involved and maintain the tension as the Doctor argues his way through Armageddon. Jenna Coleman is also particularly good here, as Bonnie, so convinced of the righteousness of her actions unwavering in her defiance.

The turning point is when the Doctor reveals the horror and guilt he experienced during the Time War. It is this that motivates him to prevent others from going through the same thing. This is enough fro Kate Stewart to step away from destruction. Seeing her opposition withdraw Bonnie perhaps is given a glimpse of mercy in her enemy and realises that the box which she killed so many for is empty. There are no easy solutions to her problems and so surrenders.

The reason this works so well is that not only does it give us a great insight into the Doctor, not only does it perfectly echo ‘Day of the Doctor’ where the War Doctor faced a similarly impossible decision but for once forgiveness and hope overcomes the fixation on cruelty and vengeance.

The story concludes with the Zygons living in peace with humanity and Bonnie adopting the persona of Osgood so there are two once again to maintain the peace(even if their race is still a matter of debate). In another tease Osgood turns down the invitation to travel with the Doctor. I hope that she changes her mind in the future as Ingrid Oliver has been a delight.

We end with a sense of foreboding, informed by our real world knowledge that Jenna Coleman is leaving, with Clara bring up that the Doctor must of thought she was dead. He says it was the longest month of his life when in reality it was only 5 minutes. It indicates that should she die her loss will be keenly felt by the Time Lord but as he stated earlier, once Clara gets in your head it is hard to get rid of her.

After last years ‘Kill the Moon’ I never wanted Peter Harness to write for Who again. This two part story shows why you should give people a second chance, in more ways than one. Regardless of how much input co-writer Steven Moffat had this two parter is sure to be a highlight of this season and maybe the whole series.

On the strength of this story I’ve order the Big Finish ‘UNIT: Extinction’ and eagerly look forward to hearing the further adventures of Kate Stewart and Osgood.

Posted in 12th Doctor, First Thoughts, Zygon Inversion | Leave a comment

“I think he’s probably her uncle, but I may have made that up to pass the time while they were talking.”

uncleThere are plenty of minor details mentioned but not explored in ‘Into The Dalek’ that could provide the seed of an adventure.


We are told that the Dalek is found floating in space. We know that part of its change of alliance is due to a radiation leak from its power supply but not how this damage was done.

It could be that the rebels destroyed a Dalek ship and that Rusty was found amongst the wreckage. However the impression given is that the rebels are in no position to defeat a Dalek ship.

It might be that the other Daleks realised that something was wrong with Rusty and ejected him. If this is the case why didn’t they destroy him or take him to the asylum (if it exists in this time period).

Might something else happen to destroy the Dalek’s ship? This is never introduced within the episode, leaving room for your to provide the rest of the details. Is a third party hunting the Daleks and is this good or bad news for the humans?


At the conclusion of the story Rusty remains with the rebels, as he has unfinished work. Clearly he’d continue slaughtering Daleks where ever he found them. Yet his mission is not an easy one.

As evidenced by his own attack a Dalek is no less vulnerable to their weapons. He is just a likely to be killed as the other soldiers, meaning that he might only make a small difference on the battlefield.

The rebels might find him more useful for the information he could give them. He’d have data on their technology, plans and locations of ships and planets they control. Would Rusty be content to give up this knowledge or would he only be interested in fighting?

Now the rebels know about the cortex vault they might decide that simply accessing his memory banks would be more efficient and that they don’t need to keep him alive. Having a Dalek amongst them might actually be bad for morale.

Would Rusty’s sense of good and evil develop over time? Could he begin to imagine a life without killing? What if he were to change sides once again? What if this has all been a ruse to get Rusty close to the heads of command?


The Doctor correctly identifies the Aristotle as a hospital ship. Morgan explains that there is no need for a hospital in a war where the Daleks don’t leave wounded and the rebels don’t take prisoners but what of its past?

The adventures of a hospital ship can also be exciting. ‘The Invisible Enemy’ is a good example a medical centred adventure. The Aristotle can be sent to colonies, alien worlds and space stations to deal with a variety of situations with the PCs arriving coincidentally at the same time.

It can be recognisable name and you have the freedom to detailing the previous crew. You can develop their history, exploring what happened to them leading up to the conflict with the Daleks.

We don’t know if the rebels were on the Aristotle when they discovered Rusty. It would seem too coincidental that they just happen to be on a vessel with the medical equipment required to shrink someone to allow repairs to take place.

In all likelihood the rebels transferred Rusty to the Aristotle after they found him. It might be that the ship was already in their possession but there could be an adventure based around obtaining the vessel. It could have been abandoned, drifting in space, or it could be in Dalek controlled space, meaning it would have to be stolen.

What becomes of the Aristotle after this story? Will it eventually be destroyed or does it survive to see the freedom of humanity. Might it once again return to its original function? PCs could encounter it as the universe recovers from the Dalek occupation.


The rebels are part of the combined galactic resistance. This could suggest that there were individual resistance to the Daleks but they have now organised themselves to be part of a combined effort.

PCs could be vital to making sure that this happens. They could oversee the meeting of a variety of rebel forces even as the Daleks attempt to hunt them down. Are all the rebellions human or are there other races?

Adventures could explore how the Resistance is organised and follow their efforts. Do they have bases? Have they managed to free any worlds? What steps will they take to destroy the Daleks?


Journey requests to travel with the Doctor but is rejected. What happens to her then? Her farewell kiss to her uncle will be difficult to explain away, although she might convince him that she wasn’t going to run away.

Would her fellow soldiers trust her knowing that she was willing to escape into history rather than secure their future? Any way you look at it her request to leave was an attempt at desertion.

From this point forward Journey Blue would think of the Doctor’s refusal to take her with him whenever she was in danger. Would that make her bitter (possibly making them enemies should he reappear) or would she be inspired by his actions?


When the Doctor is reunited with Clara she explains that it has been three weeks since he left her in Glasgow. If he took her back close to when she left with the 11th Doctor in ‘Time Of The Doctor’ it would be around Christmas time.

Considering what she was wearing it isn’t likely she had any money with her. This raises the question of how did she get back to London. Did she manage to contact her family and get them to collect her or send her money? If she didn’t want to get them involved (and answer awkward questions about where she went)  did she find some other way to make money to purchase a train or plane ticket? Did she take a gamble and hitchhike?

This could be a minor incident to base an adventure around but could highlight how even the mundane problems can be challenging. You can spice it up by having Clara get involved in an alien invasion or other type of weirdness on her way back.

Another Time Lord and his companions (your PCs) might happen by and give Clara a lift. Depending on the Time Lords piloting skills this might take some time. A future incarnation of the Doctor could also stop by to make amends for his 12th incarnations actions.

Posted in 12th Doctor, Into The Dalek | Leave a comment

“Any race is capable of the best and the worst. Every race is peaceful and warlike. Good and Evil. My race is no exception. And neither is mine.”

zygonpromoThe Zygon Invasion’, written by Peter Harness, reveals that the peace accord between humanity and the Zygons is breaking down. A radicalised Zygon group are on the offensive, killing humans and Zygons alike for being traitors. With Clara and the Doctor separately helping UNIT around the world the key appears to be Osgood but is she human or alien?

This is a dark, and potentially controversial, story emulating both contemporary thrillers and harking back to the UNIT era. The allegory of radicalisation is blatant and may make some uncomfortable but at its core it is a scary, unsettling tale.

Spoilers From Here On In!

This episode begins with a recap, showing the unusual situation that was left at the end of ‘Day of The Doctor’,with humans and Zygons hashing out a peace treaty while not knowing who is who. I speculated on the consequences of this agreement here so it was interesting that it explored on screen.

Osgood (both of them) return in a recorded message, explaining that as part of the agreement 20 million Zygons were allowed to adopt human guises and despatched around the world. The tenuous peace depends on a ceasefire. Should either side break it or should one of the Osgoods die (as one did in ‘Death In Heaven’) it would lead to a nightmare scenario.

Of course that is exactly what happens, bringing the Doctor back to the 21st century and working with UNIT. Some of the new breed of Zygons are unhappy with being forced to surrender their true identity, attempting to radicalise their brethren and filming the executing of the leaders they believed have betrayed their race.

The parallels with ISIS are unmistakable and this will be the biggest stumbling block for many. Zygons are immigrants, living amongst us but with the potential to turn on us at any moment and strike where we are most vulnerable. Applying these fears of the ‘other’ to the real world has uncomfortable connotations.

Yet, for me, this turns out to be the episodes greatest strength. In lesser hands this could have been a simplistic tale with an ugly message yet great pains are taken to ensure that we never forget that it is not just a case of us versus them.

This is helped by maintaining a serious tone throughout. This is a great relief given the romps of the previous two episodes. For example it would have been very easy to reveal that the Doctor was in fact speaking to two ordinary little girls in the opening, rather than Zygon leaders, but that would have made him appear silly (although the Doctor harassing children on a playground raises its own issues). The absurdity of situation gives way to the fact that not only is he correct about their identities they are soon murdered on film (after being forced to ‘normalise’ into their true forms).

We find out through the playground meeting that the situation is being exacerbated by the Zygon leaders refusal to work with UNIT, believing that as the radicals are their children it is within their jurisdiction to deal with, not the humans. It is reminder that not all Zygons are bad but without trust and co-operation the peace won’t last.

Without the support of the Zygons UNIT are put in an untenable situation but they struggle on. Compared to previous appearances they are presented as a much more competent organisation, although one that is struggling for manpower (largely drawing upon the armed forces).

Jemma Redgrave returns as Kate Stewart and provides to be a strong leader (although as she is only the Head of Scientific Research we should really see the actual commander of UNIT). Assisted by Jac, played by Jaye Griffiths, and with Colonel Walsh, played by the ever dependable Rebecca Front, monitoring a hive of Zygon activity in Turmezistan this has a very strong female cast and presence.

Having missed the Doctor’s phone messages Clara discovers how the situation is affecting ordinary people in London when a boy in her apartment block is seemingly abducted by his own parents. While deeply unsettling there is a misstep here by casting the family as Asian, virtually making the subtext text.

By the time Clara is brought into the main action the Doctor decides to take advantage of being President of the World to fly to Turmezistan, Kate Stewart will go investigate the apparent flashpoint for the crisis in New Mexico in the unlikely sounding town of Truth or Consequences and Clara will work with Jac to protect the UK.

This gives the whole episode more of a feel that this is a global crisis. Events come thick and fast, at times becoming quite chaotic. Here this spiralling out control makes it feel like a true crisis rather than a story just hitting its beats. Separating the characters also removes their usual support structure putting them in the thick of danger.

In Turmezistan the Doctor works alongside Walsh. Their relationship has strong links back to the one he had with the Brigadier. Walsh is pragmatic, willing to bomb the town with drones despite the Doctor’s protests that he wants to save Osgood. Luckily for the Time Lord the drone operator is unable to follow orders when the Zygon’s impersonate her husband and son.

This psychological warfare continues when a squad of UNIT soldiers is ordered to fire upon the Zygon’s who emerge from a church wearing the forms of their friends and loved ones. While it does show the UNIT soldiers are bit dense to fall for the ploy I think it is conveyed well.

The soldiers initially resist and it is only overtime that they are swayed by the pleas of impersonators. The fake mother, played by Karen Mann, does a good job introducing that worm of doubt from pleading with her ‘son’ not to kill her because she can’t remember the name of his teddy bear to forgiving him for his actions, I could understand why the soldiers couldn’t bring themselves to pull their gun triggers (although going into the church to their doom was a bit much). One can imagine dark twist where the soldiers gunned down the imposters only to find out they really were the originals. This would surely be too horrible but would have taken the story down an even darker path.

This does provide the distraction the Doctor needs to rescue Osgood and it is a delight to see Ingrid Oliver back in the role. Her introduction was a highlight of ‘Day of the Doctor’ and it was devastating to see Missy kill her in ‘Death In Heaven’. As many suspected the Zygon double was the escape clause for her character but cleverly it is left uncertain whether she is the original or the copy (and indeed is a major plot point)

In New Mexico Kate finds the town abandoned apart from a lone police woman, where she discovers that someone glimpsed the true form of the immigrants and turned on them. So events were put in motion by the fear of humans. By the end of the episode the police women reveals she was a Zygon, waiting just long enough to establish Kate was on her own.

Back in the UK Clara’s investigation with Jac into her neighbours strange behaviour reveals an underground complex beneath London, accessed by multiple elevators. Just as UNIT are preparing to wipe out the incubation pods they find there Clara is revealed to be a Zygon herself (and has been since she entered her neighbours apartment earlier) and that this is an ambush. It is a shame here that the heavily armed soldiers are wiped out without one shot being fired in self defence.

As the Doctor returns to a country which has already been overtaken by an invasion we are left with the cliffhanger of the Clara Zygon (going by the name Bonnie) apparently blowing his plane up with a missile. A ruthlessly basic but realistic means of getting rid of the Doctor. We can only hope that the Doctor has some means to escape (maybe the TARDIS is onboard).

This left us with numerous characters in peril, their fates uncertain. The only hint at how this might be resolved is the mysterious ‘Osgood Box’, mentioned in the earlier recorded message as a safeguard left by the Doctor. Apparently if we’ve been paying attention we’ll understand why.

So yes, this is a story in which humans are punished for allow outsiders to live amongst them and where compassion leads to death. It isn’t difficult to see why some are calling this a troubling and potentially troubling story. I think the real question then is the intent or message of the story.

Osgood is the key to this. In her great scene with the Doctor on the plane she refuses to reveal her true nature. Even with the death of her ‘sister’ she still considers herself both Zygon and human. Coupled with the discussion at the start of the episode about how both races can be good and evil I think it is clear the message we are supposed to get from the story.

This is not a story where things are black and white, where one side is obviously wrong and the other obviously right. The problems all arise from people thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Only Osgood is shown to be right because she thinks of everyone as just people.

Indeed this was how the Doctor(s) created peace in the first place. Both sides were placed in the situation where they couldn’t just think about what was best for them but for everyone (because they didn’t know what side they’d end up on once their memories returned). For peace to be maintained both races had to maintain this point of view.

This might have been clearer if we’d seen more ‘good’ Zygons. The majority of those we do see are those belonging to the radical faction. Yet we learn enough about their ideology to understand, if not sympathise. For these young Zygons, not involved in the peace treaty, it is easy to see how they can feel that they’ve been robbed of their racial identity and sold out by their elders.

I really don’t know how this might be resolved and what the final message might be. I would like the human/Zygon alliance to remain as the status quo as I think it makes the setting more interesting. One solution might be for the Zygons to come out to the public which would be another major shift.

Peter Capaldi was much better served by this episode than the previous two stories. We see the harder edge of his Doctor (grudgingly agreeing to let the town be bombed as long as some Zygons survived to be questioned) while allowing some glimpses of whimsy (calling himself Doctor Disco and playing the guitar) or letting him enjoy being President of Earth.

Jenna Coleman was given the opportunity to play the double role of both Clara and the Zygon Bonnie (who was pretending to be Clara for the majority of the tale). This gives her scenes a fun little fission, especially in retrospect. I liked little details such as Clara memorising trivial pursuit questions so she could win and how she cut a sinister figure at the end with her motorbike and rocket launcher.

It is no secret that I hated Peter Harness’ ‘Kill the Moon’ last year (mainly because he didn’t seem to understand what an egg was) but this was a revelation. Putting aside the controversial subject matter this was a tense modern thriller using a classic monster to great effect and sprinkling in some nice call backs (such as suggesting Harry Sullivan developed a biological weapon to fight the Zygons).

If there was ever an argument for a UNIT television series this is it.

Posted in 12th Doctor, First Thoughts, Zygon Invasion | Leave a comment

“Underneath it all, I think you’re kind and you’re definitely brave. I just wish you hadn’t been a soldier.”

journeyblueNot everyone who wants to travel with the Doctor gets that chance. Such is the fate of Journey Blue, who is turned down by the Doctor at the end of ‘Into the Dalek’. The reason he gives is that she is a soldier but what does this mean?

It could be that he disapproves of the profession. Certainly he has opposed military action, even while working with UNIT. Yet as late as his 11th incarnation the Doctor considered the Brigadier a dear friend.

Journey Blue also didn’t choose to be a soldier. She is a rebel, suggesting that she lived in a Dalek controlled sector and was fighting for the freedom of her race. It was either that or live in subjection. It would be cruel (even for the 12th Doctor) to discriminate against her on that basis.

Rather it might be that the Doctor is often deeply affected by his companions. Frequently they are the ones who motivate him or give him direction. In recent years both Amy and Clara have been vital to allow the Doctor to see what he missed.

His rejection of Journey Blue could be because of the point of view she’d bring. Her militaristic state of mind might only see violent solutions to the problems that they face. Combat could be the only way of life she knew and that would affect how the Doctor dealt with challenges.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Doctor already has trouble finding peaceful solutions now. He has lived through so much war and death that the first solution that occurs to him are already those that involve death.

The 12th Doctor knew that he’d need someone with a different point of view. Someone who could argue with him. Someone who wasn’t afraid to defy him in order to force him to reconsider. Which brings us to the other issue with a soldier. Journey Blue could be so used to following orders that she’d do whatever the Doctor wanted without question.

This is not always a good thing. The Doctor can be pragmatic without considering the impact on others. In social situations he can be rude and in other situations he can be ruthless. His companions need to be able to point out when he has crossed a line.

The Doctor might also have promised himself that he wouldn’t take a soldier as companion. We know from ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ that he has many rules to keep himself in check. Having a soldier with him could be too much of a temptation.

In ‘Journey’s End’ Davros taunted the Doctor, pointing out how he’d turned his companions into soldiers to fight for him. Although this deeply affected him it was behaviour he continued, assembling warriors to fight alongside him in ‘A Good Man Goes To War’.

If he had one soldier as a companion how long before others joined her? How long until the Doctor carried his own army within the TARDIS? It would be a path he’d have trouble turning from.

Into The Dalek’ repeatedly explored the notion of self-sacrifice, with others dying for the Doctor. If Journey Blue joined him he would know that she’d be willing to sacrifice herself if he convinced her that it was necessary. His rejection could be based on his unwillingness to have that on his conscience.

In ‘The God Complex’ the Doctor talks about how he knows he is being irresponsible taking people with him. That he knows that it could end in their deaths and really his offer to travel with him is no choice at all.

Fate often plays a part in who he chooses to travel with. They either push themselves on him (Ian, Barbara, Ben, Polly, Leela, etc) or be stranded or lost and need his help (Vicki, Steve Taylor, Nyssa, Ace, etc). Sometimes taking a companion would be part of solving a larger puzzle (for example Amy and Clara).

In those occasions the Doctor could ease his conscience. Either he had no choice or the choice was left to the companion. It is quite different if someone asks him if they can join him. If he says yes and they die then their deaths are directly tied to his decision. This might be the same reason that the 4th Doctor refuses Leela’s request to travel with him. Asking to join him will almost always lead to rejection.

There could also be the impact on history should the companion join them. We can assume that Clara will have little impact on the grand scale of things. In a relatively stable period of history her influence is restricted to the students at Coal Hill school.

A soldier is a different matter. The loss of Journey Blue could mean that she doesn’t help the rebels secure vital victories against the Daleks. Without her presence they could be wiped out and humans might forever be the slaves of the Daleks. The 12th Doctor’s comments could be mean that because she is a soldier she is too valuable to take with him.

At this point in the 12th Doctor’s life he appears to enjoy having time to his self. In both ‘Deep Breath’ and ‘Into The Dalek’ the Doctor leaves Clara for a long time while ‘distracted’. Having a companion with him full time might prevent this.

These points can be useful in determining how PCs can join Time Lords (especially the Doctor). If they are soldier how can they overcome objections to secure their place as part of the TARDIS crew?

You can also explore scenarios in which Journey Blue does join the Doctor. She has a tragic background (with the loss of at least her brother), useful skills and lots of potential. Throughout ‘Into The Dalek’ she is learning from experience and Clara what it is like to work alongside the Doctor. She is certainly prepared for the role.

Would things have turned out as badly as the Doctor thought? How might she change and develop through their adventures together? If she travels with the Doctor full time would he forget about Clara? Would Clara be okay with this or get jealous? What if the Doctor turned up alone for their next adventure and refused to explain what had happened to the missing Journey Blue?

Posted in 12th Doctor, Into The Dalek | Leave a comment