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Under The Lake

under lake

I’ve not exactly been on the Toby Whithouse hype-train. He seems to get a lot of support as a possible show runner out there, and whilst I know he can do great things (Being Human), his Who work has rarely fully grabbed me. He’s not written ‘bad’ episodes, but also, out of the four he penned prior to ‘Under The Lake’, only one, ‘God Complex’, got me all ‘ooh!’ with little reservation. I mean, OF COURSE I loved all the Sarah Jane stuff in ‘School Reunion’, but outside of that, the episode didn’t do a whole lot.

So how did I take to this, the fifth episode by Whithouse? I really rather enjoyed it. I don’t think it topples (so far) ‘God Complex’, but it certainly did more for me than his other stories. And who knows? This is only half a story, perhaps when I’ve seen it all it will clamber up to top spot…

Part one is basically a classic Who base-under-siege set-up, and was much sparser than the opening two episodes. To sell spooky, you need that atmosphere, those drawn out moments. You need to have the space to build atmosphere, and this episode pared things down to give that necessary atmosphere room to build.

At the moment, having only seen the thing once, I do feel a little outside of the party. I’ve read and listened to lots of raves for this episode, and although I enjoyed it, I felt this was a solid 7/10 sort of an episode. It wasn’t distinctive enough to really step up any further. I mean, after you watched the last couple of episodes, there were so many moments, scenes, lines and ideas that you could gabble about after; with this episode, there was much less.

Now again, the need to build that spooky atmosphere meant you couldn’t throw too much at us, but it does mean that what you do give us has to be distinctive and strong. A lot of this felt like a retread of the familiar. Done very, very well, mind you, but adding little new or surprising to the mix.

By the looks of things, part two may well take the story into that more distinctive area I think it needs to pull the story up a few notches.

My slight reservations about this episode aside, there’s no doubt season nine has gotten off to a great start, probably the most enjoyable opening trio of episodes to a Moffat season since 5. This was another very solid, enjoyable, if not quite top-tier episode. Let’s hope the finale of this story finishes hard and brings that extra, distinctive flavour to make this one something special. If nothing else, this episode made me super-intrigued to see where things go next.


Clara’s cards teaching the Doc how to speak to normal people. FUNNY. And did you spot the poignant nod to a certain Sarah Jane Smith…?

A genuinely creepy feel at times. I do love a bit of creepy in Who.

Loved the big close-ups on eyes as the alien words were reflected across. Also, great idea that the only people the ghosts could kill were those that had looked upon the words.

The ghosts whispering words you couldn’t hear: really cool, creepy stuff.

The ‘ghosts’ looked awesome. And a great use of CGI. Not building creatures from scratch, but accentuating a real person. Ghost Doctor under the water was a particularly effective moment.

Capaldi is again just so natural in the role. No moment feels false or forced. His giddiness upon deciding the ghosts are, actually, ghosts is wonderful.

The Sonic Sunglasses are back! And useful.

Great to have a deaf character, and for her to be important and in charge. And also for the show not to make a big deal out of it.

Who is in the suspended animation pod? Must be the Doctor, right..? Schrödinger’s Doctor.

Nice to see the Doctor was back to being a little bit brusk with normal people once surrounded by them again. I had slightly worried that we’d lose too much of that spikey twelfth Doctor, good to see that spike and awkwardness is still present.

One fresh feeling element was the Doctor’s decision at the end to go back in time to see how this all started. And so we will get a part 2 set mostly before part 1. That’s a really interesting and new feeling way to approach a two parter and I’m all for it.

Not Penny’s boat.

Pritchard’s death was very effective. Trapped in the airlock, water rushing in, and then we cut to a different room and he slowly turns around, a ghost. Brrr…!


Some of the wider casts performances were a little… sub par..? Several lines just not sold at all. Dropped from mouths to flap around listlessly on the ground like dying fish.

Another Doctor fangirl? Really? Don’t we already have Osgood? (Who, in fact, returns in a few episodes!) This felt a little much. How much better, in the context of a spooky story, if her knowledge of who he is doesn’t lead to big grins and fanish bleatings, and instead to yet a further realisation of how much trouble they’re in? If you know of the Doctor, then you know he helps, and is brilliant, but you also know that lots of death is a-coming.

When you have this ace plan and the ghosts are chasing your crew, maybe pay attention and close those doors a little bit quicker? A little hustle, people! In fact this whole trap should’ve been much more frantic and scary than it was. Instead, it was rather laboured and flat.

‘I want to kiss it to death..!’ Brilliant line in the trailer, kinda stood out as a bit weird and ‘huh?’ in the actual episode.

The answer to what they were whispering seemed a bit of a …. stretch?


So that’s a quarter of season nine whizzed by, then. I know! And it’s been a strong opening, for sure. Can the rest of the season carry on this run of form?


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Last Christmas


YES MOFFAT, go on my son.

Not only was this one of the finest Crimbo specials, but it was also one of the best Capaldi episodes so far. I’d go as far as to say it enters the pantheon of Moffat classics. YAS. It can now make friends with ‘Listen’, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, ‘Blink’ and all the others. Bessie mates.

This wasn’t just a stand alone special, it was really the topper for all of season 8, a culmination of the character journeys we’ve been taken on this year. It was the Doctor and Clara dealing with the lies they told and where it left them, with Clara accepting what has happened and moving on, the Doctor mellowing to show more human emotion and even unbridled joy. Oh, I’m sure he’s still going to be rude and acerbic, but it’s clear this version of the Doctor has also turned a corner.

So yeah, by gum that was a lovely special, now let’s take a quick gallop through some of the highs and lows:


Okay, I’ll admit it, when Santa turned up at the end of season 8, I CLENCHED. Well consider me now to be as loose as a goose. Nick Frost was brilliant in the part, his offhand matter-of-factness was perfect. And the explanation behind Santa worked wonderfully and helped elevate the episode further.

Shona dancing to Slade through the scary-ass room full of monsters. What an awesome, funny, spooky scene.

IN FACT: Shona. Just Shona. What a brilliant creation, wonderfully played. I can’t have been alone in thinking we had a new companion on our hands, she seemed perfect for it. Add the fact she referred to the Doc as a ‘Magician’, and we know the next ep is called ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, and her almost desperate desire to keep in contact, it seemed we were being presented with the latest friend for the Doctor, but… she’s not there at the end. The Doctor and Clara will return. Shona is left alone in her disappointing looking life. THIS WILL NOT STAND! Surely we will be dropping in on Shona again? I DEMAND IT! PLEASE ME AND ME ALONE, BBC!!!!!

This was, at times, pretty scary stuff. The face-hugger things were creepy as all hell, the aforementioned dance through the infirmary, being pulled through a TV screen, Clara under the bench trying to do maths in her head to distract herself; this was creepy stuff for a family show! And yay to that, cuz I like my Who a bit scary, ta.

Dream Crabs. Moffat did it again. Another brilliant monster creation. Surely they’ll turn up in another episode as a sudden unexpected twist in the tail? Think of the nightmare worlds we could visit.

Troughton’s son appeared! And yes, how nice that the slimy creep was roundly mocked, then bumped off. Sexist swine!

The monsters fooled me. All this speculation that Clara would be leaving, I totally bought it when the Doctor pulled the Dream Crab (what an ace monster name) off her fizzog and she was old; that this was it. What a sad/lovely ending. BUT THEN NO! Santa is back, the Doc is still in a dream, Clara is young and raring to leap aboard for adventure again. Past angst and uncertainties between the two are now resolved and they race gleefully towards wonder and danger.  Now some sorry souls will have been choking on their sprouts at this point, cuz weird as it might seem, lots hate Clara. They decry season 8 as being ‘Clara Who’. I know, total dumb-dumbs. Personally, I think 12 and Clara have shown themselves to be one of the finest Doctor-Companion pairings in the shows long history, and if we’re getting the chance to see more of that, then yay, and woo-hoo, and all that sort of jazz. (Aw, but Shona… Yeah, she would’ve been ace) (bah)

The sort-of return of Danny Pink. His last scene, telling Clara to feel the sadness of his loss for only five minutes a day, and to live life to the full for the rest of the time, was proper lovely stuff. But Moffat can’t write real emotion! Yeah, clear off, that complaint got old (and just plain wrong) a loooooooong time ago.

The Doctor taking control of the sleigh. JOYFUL.

‘I feed them magic carrots’.

The chalk boards, wiping away words to reveal others.

There’s just so much good, I could blather on for ages.


This is tricky… I’m not saying it was perfect, but I’m having difficulty really picking out stuff that annoyed.

OKAY! Shona not joining up at the end. WANT SHONA, WAAA….!

I worked out early on who the patients would be, but is that a bad thing..? Nah.

I guess it was a bit heavy on the Doctor explaining stuff in big chunks..?

Errr….. nope. That’s it. I got nothing.

Final Thoughts:

A brilliant way to finish off a fine year for Doctor Who. To compliment one of the strongest seasons we’ve had, we get one of the strongest Christmas specials. How very fitting. I can’t wait to see what Moff has up his sleeve for next season (And if Shona is up there, I’ll be a happy chappy). Now hurry up season 9, I’m waiting..!

Rating: 9/10

The Doctor and Clara will return in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’


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Interview: George Mann


George Mann is a writer who has penned Doctor Who novels, audio adventures, and short stories. His latest Who novel, ‘Engines of War’, is especially noteworthy as it focuses on the War Doctor. I drop-kicked a pile of sexy questions his way. Please read both the questions AND the answers, otherwise this has all been a real waste of time. Thanks. Thank you. Here’s George Mann. Answering questions about Doctor Who. Right here:

When did Doctor Who first stumble groaning out of the dark and sink its remaining broken, rotten teeth into your tender neck meat?

As it was for many of us, Doctor Who was a huge part of my childhood. I remember watching Peter Davison at an early age, and pretty much being hooked from that point onward. I started reading Target novels, borrowed from the library. I collected VHS tapes. I avidly watched reruns of Tom a Baker stories on UK Gold at the weekend, when I was supposed to be doing other things. It’s been a part if my psyche ever since.

DavisonDoctor Who fans hate a lot of things with a fiery passion about the show they love; what’s a generally derided element (story, Doctor, monster, outfit, WHATEVS) that you actually think is ace, skill and super nifty?

Oh, there’s very little about the show that I don’t take some enjoyment out of, so most of the things others deride I still find some value in! I know we look back now and laugh at the wobbly sets and bubble wrap monsters, but there’s something special about all of that, I think, that speaks to the imagination, that allows you to fill in the gaps.

If I had to pick one thing it would probably be Sam Jones from the novels. She seems to be universally derided, but I like her! That’s why I dropped that little reference to her in Engines of War.

It’s not all about the TV episodes, what’s your favourite bit of non-television Who ‘stuff’?

I think it would have to be the novels. I’ve by no means had a comprehensive schooling, but I am a completist and I’ve pretty much collected them all now. I’m working my way through the Eighth Doctor stories at the moment, and enjoying them immensely.

The_War_Doctor_Your latest Who novel, ‘Engines of War’ is a War Doctor story; now there’s not a whole lot of War Doctor stuff out there, was it difficult for you to find his voice or was what we saw in ‘The Day of The Doctor’ more than enough for you?

It was harder than capturing Matt’s voice and mannerisms in the Eleventh Doctor stories I’ve done, just by virtue of the amount of screen time each has had, and therefore the amount of material there is to observe and absorb. That said, Hurt gives such a strong performance that there are things to get your teeth into straight away as a writer.

The bigger challenge, really was working out his story arc. How does this Doctor end up in the place that he thinks genocide is the best and only solution?

Zygon_(Doctor_Who_monster)Is there anything from Classic Who that the modern series has yet to bring back that you’d like to see it tackle..?

I’m a big believer in looking forward, and enduringly we get lots of fresh new stuff, rather than constantly retreading old ground. That said, I’d love to see another story with the Fendahl. And give the Zygons a proper outing of their own, too! They deserve it!

You are set the task of turning a newb to the Who-side, which story are you gunna plop them in front of first??

The Talons of Weng Chiang. Or Rose.

Team Dalek, Team Cybermen, or Team Kandyman..?

If I had to choose, Team Dalek!

What are your favourite Who stories? (TV, Novel, Audio, whatever!)

The aforementioned Talons of Weng Chiang. Along with The Daemons, The Pyramids of Mars, The Seeds of Death, The Scarlet Empress, The Eye of the Tyger, Vampire Science, The Iron Legion, The Doctor’s Wife, The Chimes of Midnight… The list goes on!

Third DoctorYou’ve written for a few different Doctor’s now, is there one you’ve yet to tackle that you’d like to have a go at?

There are two that I’d LOVE to write for – the Eighth Doctor and the Third Doctor. Two of my favourite Doctors, and it feels somewhat incomplete that I haven’t written for them yet. Hopefully one day!

A missing story of your choice can be returned, but ONLY if you ditch one that we already have. SO, what do you want back, and what will you toss into a black hole in return? MAKE YOUR CHOICE:

I’d have Evil of the Daleks in exchange for Time Flight.

Which piece of Who that you’ve penned are you proudest of?

I think it has to be Engines of War, to be honest. Although I’m very fond of a Short Trip I wrote for Big Finish a few years ago, called ‘Rise and Fall’. The incomparable William Russell read it for audio, and it has to be one of my favourite things I’ve done.

Who’s your Doctor and companion? You can choose more than one, if you’re weak.

It’s probably cheating to say the War Doctor and Cinder, isn’t it? Otherwise, Third Doctor and Jo are always great.

doctor-who-engines-of-war-hq-300x465In ‘Engines of War’ you were able to create a companion for the War Doctor, Cinder; was your version of a companion already lurking in your brain meat, or was it more of a challenge?

She wasn’t fully formed, no. I think every Doctor needs a different companion at different points in their story, and with Cinder I tried to give the War Doctor the companion he needed at that particular juncture. She’s a reflection of him, in many ways, and a warning, too – she allows him to see how narrow his focus has become during the war, how far he’s drifted away from himself. It’s Cinder that makes him realise he’s the only one who can bring an end to it all.

Cinder was never a challenge, though. She just came to life when I needed her too. She was a joy to write for.

Do you have a favourite Who era, or do you love it all as though it was the very flesh that was given life from your sex junk?

It changes. Some days it’s the Third Doctor’s UNIT years. Other times it’s the Seventh Doctor, or the Hinchcliffe years, or the middle period RTD years with Donna. I guess that’s what’s fantastic and all-consuming about the show – it changes, just like the Doctor, and there are things to love in almost every permutation of it, depending on your mood.

hitchhikersAged about 11 I wrote an original (complete Marooned rip off) Red Dwarf story for English class, can you remember the first time you attempted to write a story for one of your favourite shows?

I wrote a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy story at around 12, I think. It’s probably that. I was always more interested in making up my own characters, to be honest, although they were always heavily influenced by what I’d read or watched. I don’t think I actually sat down and wrote a Doctor Who story until my first commission from Big Finish, although you can see the influence it’s had on my other work, particularly Newbury & Hobbes.

Let’s assume magic is real and not only can you now fly and turn some wine into even more wine, but you can pick any two Doctor’s, living or dead, to team up for a new episode; who’s it gonna’ be, hm?

I’d like to see the Twelfth and the Eighth appear in a story together. I’d be interested to see how they got along, with such different attitudes.


I’m currently hard at work on more adventures for Newbury & Hobbes, as well as revisiting my 1920s vigilante character, The Ghost, in revised editions of the first two books, along with two new ones. My latest novel, aside from Engines of War, is a Sherlock Holmes novel, ‘The Spirit Box’, set during 1915 in the midst of the Great War.



Doctor Who U.S.A.

GOOSEIn the fall of 1967, America (the U.S.A.)  made one of several failed attempts to create their own successful version of ‘Doctor Who’. Unlike the Paul McGann TV Movie, this attempt from the 60s never actually made it to air.

Actor William ‘Bill’ Shatner ‘Shat’ (probably best known for his work on ‘TekWar’) was, the producers claim, their first and only choice for the lead role. In actual fact, I understand they approached John Wayne first, who turned them down flat and chased the producers from his property wielding a large whip (a gift from Director John Ford). They kept this information from Shatner as they believed he would throw one of his legendary crying fits if he discovered the truth. Two years previously, Shatner had almost wept all the moisture from his body after a minor disagreement over a parking spot.

Above is rare publicity shot of Shatner in character. Just as Matt Smith had ‘Geronimo’, and Tennant ‘Allonsy’, Shatner’s Doctor also had a catchphrase: ‘Eat fist, Commie!’

TAXIAlthough faithful to it’s source material in many ways, there were potentially controversial deviations. Rather than the TARDIS appearing in its familiar Police Box shape for example, Shatner’s Doctor traveled in a yellow New York Taxi-Cab, as producers said it was ‘more relatable in Ohio’. Although the Taxi-Cab couldn’t travel through time, it was marginally bigger on the inside, especially the glove box, into which Shatner at one point in the pilot crawls inside of to hide from some passing aliens.

FLINTThe finished pilot was not looked upon favourably by the network, who decided to shelve the show, stating: ‘This is nothing like The Munsters!’ The pilot’s producers found this point difficult to argue with. In a last ditch attempt to change the networks mind, the producers re-tooled the pilot, teaming Shatner’s Doctor up with a sassy Go-Go dancer named ‘Go-Go’, and changing the title to ‘Doctor Who: Spy Mission America’ in hope of cashing in on some of the ‘In Like Flint’  Spy-mania; but even this failed to turn things around.

The finished pilot pretty much disappeared from view, becoming something a a myth among Who Nerds, many believing that any copies had long since been destroyed. I thought the same, until last week when I was contacted by a private collector of classic TV. I have yet to see the pilot itself, beyond a few pictures, but since forwarding my source in Hollywood several hundred pounds and my bank details, he has assured me that he is in the process of sending a copy to me by FEDEX. I look forward to sharing a new post with you in which I critique this lost treasure!


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Hide & Eat

Matt HappyAhh, a love story, I love a happy ending!






As soon as you go I’m going to eat Alec and Emma. Chew their faces down to the bone and poop them out into a ditch.





Emma HideWhat?





CrookedNothing. I said nothing.







Alec HideIt sounded like you said you were going to eat us as soon as the Doctor left..?





CrookedOkay, you two are just sounding sort of crazy. It’s a happy ending, I’m back with my lovely lady friend, all’s good. Chillax, already!






Doc Clara Hide leaveMarvellous! Lovely romantic twist ending, our work here is done, b-bye!

*They Exit, Front Door Shuts*



Alec Hide…So… do you think you and your lady will-





CrookedGet in my mouth.








Alec Emma scared*I’ve pooped my pants-!*