The Noughties: Doctor Who's Decade. Part One.



Some of the best Doctor Who adventures this decade have torched the usual format in an attempt to do something different, something other than the TARDIS materialises, the Doctor overthrows an oppressive regime/repels alien invasion/causes some history to happen, the TARDIS de-materialises. There have been musicals, reality tv parodies, stories set in single rooms, that happen backwards or repeat themselves or take place solely in the form of emails. Here are three of my favourites:

Blink

So why was Blink voted the second best story of all time by Doctor Who Magazine readers? It’s certainly as atypical as some of the other adventures on this list, in that the Doctor has precious little screen time and we don’t see the climax to his side of the story. You could point to Steven Moffat’s writing, the willingness to text the audience’s ability to comprehend the complex narrative pinioned around a pre-destination paradox and the poetry of the dialogue (“I have til the rain stops.”), the strength of characterisation particularly in Sally Sparrow who within her forty-five minutes is just as interesting and strong a figure as the Doctor or any of his companions. There are the performances, far more naturalistic than we’re used to in the revival with Carey Mulligan’s understated deadpan a refreshing change from the heightened emotions seen elsewhere. The imagination fuelling story happening on the fringes, of the Doctor and Martha trapped in the 60s recreating Star Trek’s City of the Edge of Forever. The subtle photography presenting an overcast and more scuzzy image of the Whoniverse than usual. If we're looking for indications of what new nu-Who under Moffat’s guiding hand will be like, let’s hope it will be like this.

The Earth Arc

Or what happened after the first time Gallifrey was destroyed. In similar circumstance to the revival, the Eighth Doctor of the novels is forced to destroy his home planet to save the universe from an intractable enemy. But rather than leave him with the guilt, his then companion, Compassion, a living TARDIS (with me so far?) exiles a now mysteriously amnesia-gripped Doctor to the late nineteenth century his only direction to meet a friend in a cafĂ© in 2001. The following six novels describe his journey through the twentieth century, focusing on his interactions with the world wars, the cold war and the space race as he attempted to reconstruct his identity and wondering what the enigmatic blue box, his only possession really is. Often very poignant, we watch as this figure so familiar yet so alien bluffs his way across the years instinctively knowing that he can’t be too special but desperate to help if the need arises. The best entry is Lance Parkin’s nostalgic 80s set Father Time, in which the Doctor gains a daughter and repels an alien invasion with a realistic interpretation of Thatcher’s Britain as a backdrop.

Unbound: Exile


Big Finish’s What If? series from 2003 threw up a peculiar group of scenarios in dramas of varying quality but for my money the most unusual and enjoyable is this adventure in which to hide himself from the timelords at the close of 60s adventure The War Games, he commits suicide and returns as a female in the form of Arabella Weir and takes a mundane life on Earth, supermarket worker by day, alcoholic by night. Written and directed by voice of the Daleks and later Big Finish exec Nick Briggs, it’s rather like Human Nature played for laughs, the incongruity of the timelord (or lady) preferring to get pissed than deal with the world’s ills. In other words, Bridget Jones hiding in the working classes. Not hugely popular at the time of release, in retrospect, it has the intelligence and humour of some of the best Radio Four drama. Features somebody called David Tennant in minor roles playing one of the Doctor’s timelord pursuers and a barman (he was formerly Weir's lodger and is godfather to one of her children).

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