Thursday, 31 August 2017

CLASSIC DOCTOR'S, NEW MONSTERS VOLUME 2

There are those who see Doctor Who as two distinct entities with only a shared title in common – Classic Who & Nu Who and never the twain shall meet. There are others (myself included) who see Doctor Who as one long evolving TV show (albeit with a gap of 16 years in which it evolved into a range of Books and audios) and see only Doctor Who so to me “Classic Doctors – New Monsters” is a no brainer – use the best monsters from most 2005 era with Doctor’s from the so called “classic” era, its not as if it has not been done in the TV series, remember all those monster comebacks in the 1980’s – Omega, Silurians, Sea Devils, Sontarans all reintroduced for the glitzy 80’s Who produced by JNT, and then there is last years rather successful “Classic Doctors – New Monsters Volume 1” (review HERE) in which Doctors 5,6,7 and 8 squared off against Weeping Angels, Judoon, Sycorax and “Nu Who” Sontarans – a second set was merely a formality and this set is on the surface more of the same, but it also ties together the “Classic” and “Nu” eras through the first and last stories which feature The Fourth Doctor, the Eighth Doctor and a common thread in the Vashta Nerada (last seen, or more precisely NOT seen in 2008’s Library two parter). Anyhow, without further procrastination, lets take a look at the stories:

Night of the Vashta Nerada by John Dorney
When writing Tom Baker as the Doctor the default position seems to be to write the boggle eyed loon version from season 17, it is very rare that we get the morose, introverted Hinchcliffe era Tom, but that is precisely what we get here, and this version of Number 4 really suits the proceedings as they are rather grim.
The action takes place on the planet of Funworld, a planet sized theme park where the entire population has disappeared, owner Georgia Donnelly (Lorelei King) has hired Amanda Steele (Pam Ferris) and her team to find out what exactly has happened – add The Doctor to the mix and a very claustrophobic atmosphere and to that add the Vast Nerada and you have a tense base under siege story in which not everyone will be saved.
Now the Vashta Nerada the pirañas of the air are the weak link here – they are by their very nature a predictable monster with not a lot of scope for development – they exist to eat and pick people off one by one by attaching to their shadows and that is about it – but as catalysts for the action they are as good as any monster spurring the protagonists with a sense of urgency. Tom does moral outrage in this one very well, he is almost cold and dispassionate and very alien for want of a better word and really sells the drama. The story can be a little predictable but the sense of danger is electric throughout.

Empire of the Racnoss by Scott Handcock
The Fifth Doctor was always the most “human” of all the Doctors – and this story reinforces his compassion and vulnerability as he struggles to do the right thing against overwhelming odds in a situation where there is no good outcome for anyone.
This story sees the reintroduction of The Racnoss last seen in the 2006 Christmas Special “The Runaway Bride” and here Doctor five is dragged into the middle of a war that they are having against The Timelords – and there is also the matter of a marital dispute between The Empress (Adjoa Andoh) and Emperor (Nigel Planer) of the Racnoss and the fall out of a bitter custody battle for their brood. This is an intense story, and very fast paced and at the heart lies an insoluble moral dilemma.

The Carrionite Curse by Simon Guerrier
And then there is The Carrionite Curse – possibly THE best Sixth Doctor story in any format. Old SIxie was made to face off against these pseudo -Witches, he is the most verbose of all the Doctors and their use of words as building blocks of power is perfect for Colin’s fruity delivery of all sorts of overly complex and plainly simplistic dialogue. But its not just a story of clever wordplay – Simon Guerrier gets to the heart of who exactly Old Sixie is, a man terrified of becoming the Valeyard, a man scared of the price of his own failure hiding behind the facade of a braggart and a clown. There are so many good things about this story from the pre-credits, to Old Sixie’s moral outrage at Witch Trials in the 1980’s, to the mentions of one George Litefoot (hankies at the ready all) to his friendship with fellow outcast Goth Student Katy Bell (Maya Sondhi) who in her black velvet mourning suit is a counterpoint to Old Sixie’s coat of many colours. Its no small claim that this is the best of all Sixth Doctor stories, but in my mind this story is worth of that accolade. An out and out classic.

Day of the Vashta Nerada by Matt Fitton
And so we come almost up to date as Doctor Number Eight (Paul McGann) enters the Time War and joins up with Cardinal Ollistra (Jaqueline Pearce) of Doom Coalition and War Doctor fame to prevent an outbreak of Vashta Nerada on an experimental station. But these are no ordinary Vashta Nerada – these are genetically modified weaponised Vashta Nerada and are being purchased by Ollistra as weapons in the Time War. You can pretty much guess that all does not end well. Taking its cue from modern day Who and Big Finish’s take on Gallifrey this is a high octane action movie of an audio where at stake is the fate of Gallifrey and the direction of the Time War – this episode serves almost as a pilot for the forthcoming Time War series and finishes on a mission statement for Who the Doctor is tinged with sadness as to who he will become.
Four different stories with different emphasis with the jewel being The Carrionite Curse which is relatively small scale compared to the others but no less impactful for it – these stories really showcase what sort of person each Doctor really is and how they are, though all very different the same person with the same moral core. An era spanning 9/10.