Showing posts with label A to Z Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A to Z Challenge. Show all posts

Sunday, April 30, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Zygons (and Vogons!)

Doctor Who Z
Doctor Who has had many writers over the years who have contributed to the deep lore of the show. But some writers stand out and some creatures stand out. 

Today I want to wrap up my A to Z of Doctor Who with the best-known Z creature they have, the Zygons, and maybe their related species the Vogons.


The Zygons are great creatures. They first appeared in "Terror of the Zygons" where they were controlling the Loch Ness Monster. They are shapeshifters, but require special technology to achieve this, and look like they could be related to cephalopods.  This seems confirmed when we meet them again in "The Day of the Doctor."

I like that idea, to be honest. An octopus has natural camouflage abilities, it is likely that the Zygons did too, and then used their superior technology to take it to the next level.  They are the perfect doppelgängers in Doctor Who. 

Like the cryptids I mentioned yesterday, the Zygons kind find their way into myths and legends of the Earth by replacing doppelgängers or changelings (the faerie kind, not the Star Trek kind, though they work too).


Their planet was destroyed as collateral damage in the Time War, so they have taken to settle on Earth. At first they wanted to take it over, but soon realized trying to live in peace and hiding, is a better choice.

But what about their lesser-known cousins? The Vogons?


Now to be fair. Vogons are not really related to the Zygons, at least not in canon. They do share some similarities, though. But their biggest connection comes from the creator of the Vogons, Douglas Adams.

Vogon reading poetry

Douglas Adams has a deep connection to Doctor Who. He was a script editor during the Tom Baker years. He was good friends with Lalla Ward (Romana II) and Richard Dawkins. In fact, he introduced them to each other and they were married. He also wrote some Doctor Who episodes, namely "The Pirate Planet" and "Shada."

Adams' character of Professor Chronotis, aka Salyavin, is a renegade Time Lord (much like the Doctor) and appears in the serial "Shada." Shada is the Time Lord's prison planet where Salyavin was supposedly kept.  Professor Chronotis also appears in a not much-changed appearance in his own novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency."

This has lead some to conjecture that Adams' own "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is part of the Doctor Who universe.  It was at least what we all thought back in the 1980s while reading HHGttG and watching Doctor Who.  My first Doctor Who characters were versions of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and Zaphod Beeblebrox. All three of these characters also appear in the 8th Doctor's version of Shada as prisoners. Zaphod I get, but certainly not Arthur.

To make the connections deeper, the BBC TV series of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" aired in 1981. The show has a solid Doctor Who look and feel to it. I swear that they were the same sets half the time. Also Sandra Dickinson, who plays Earth scientist Trillian, was married to Peter Davidson the Fifth Doctor at the time. Their real-life daughter is Georgia Moffett, now Georgia Tennant, who is married to David Tenant, the Tenth Doctor, and Georgia played "Jenny," the Doctor's Daughter in "The Doctor's Daughter."  Confused? Yeah not surprised.

These connections were finally canonized by the Tenth Doctor in "The Christmas Invasion" when walking around in a robe and his "jim-jams" (pajamas), he remarks that he looks "very Arthur Dent. Now there was a nice man."  The novelization of The Christmas Invasion also makes more mentions of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and the Vogons.

So back in the 1980s we just assumed that Zygons and Vogons had to be related and used them as such in the FASA Doctor Who RPG. 

While the Zygons are deadly, I doubt they have anything near as awful as Vogon Poetry

This has been an absolute blast to do. And today's post is a good segway into next month's Sci-Fi Month's topic of the Doctor Who RPGs.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

And that is another April A to Z in books.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Yeti (and other Cryptids)

Doctor Who Yeti
The Doctor has battled all sorts of monsters over the years. But some of those monsters (ok, more than some) have had their genesis in the myths and legends of Earth. I already talked about Vampires, but today let's look at a few cryptids, starting with our featured creature, the Yeti.

The Yeti

The Yeti first appeared in the Second Doctor serial, "The Abominable Snowmen" (1967). At first, we are led to think these are actual yeti, but they are, in reality, robots controlled by The Great Intelligence, a disembodied entity trying to take over the Earth, but it needs a physical body first.  The Yetis and the Great Intelligence appear again in 1968's "The Web of Fear." 

This reminds of the various "Bigfoot" episodes of The Six-Million Dollar Man. Here Bigfoot was revealed to be a robot sent by aliens. 

Interestingly enough, when we meet the Great Intelligence again in the new series, it is in an episode called "The Snowmen." This time the GI is using animated snowmen (as in made of snow) to do the same thing. 

Patrick Troughton (the Second doctor) often said he would have liked to come back to Doctor Who and just play a monster like the Yeti. No one would know it was him under all that costume.


Reptoids and reptilian humanoids are an old favorite among cryptid hunters and UFOlogists. I even featured them twice in last years A to Z of Conspiracy Theories under C Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis and E Extraterrestrials on Earth.  The Silurians and the Sea Devils fit these ideas perfectly. They are reptilians, and they come not from outer space but from the inner Earth.  The Draconians fit the notion of reptile-like humanoids from space.

Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness monster might be one of the most famous cryptids ever, and good old Nessie appears in Doctor Who's Season 13 opener "Terror of the Zygons" as well.  In this case, as a creature controlled by the Zygons (more on them tomorrow). The Zygons are using Nessie (in reality a creature from the Zygon homeworld called a "Skarasen") to destroy oil rigs that are digging into their underwater base.


Other cryptids like the Chupacabra and the Australian Yowie has appeared in prose and audio dramas of the Doctor not televises.

Like the creatures mentioned above and the Vampires there is a lot of cryptids in the world now that could be made to fit Doctor Who. Creatures from the past, future or other dimensions or planets are all great choices.

I might have to try my hand at stating a few up for the various Doctor Who RPGs.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Friday, April 28, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Xoanon

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Xoanon
Doctor Who: You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit the views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.

- The Fourth Doctor, The Face of Evil

Ok. The quote is connected to today's topic, but only tangentially. It comes from the same episode, and it is just a great quote. 

If there is one thing you can pretty much guarantee in Sci-Fi, and Doctor Who is no exception, if there is a brilliant artificially intelligent computer then at some point it is going to go mad.

Such is the case with the supercomputer Xoanon from the Mordee expedition. We meet this computer centuries later when the expedition had failed and the Survey Team and Technicians are separated and evolved into different groups of primitive humans, the Sevateem and the Tesh, who both worship the god Xoanon.  The trouble for the Fourth Doctor, the computer is mad and has part of the Doctor's own personality stuck inside it. So it's "Face of Evil" is that of the Fourth Doctor.

I rather enjoyed the whole idea of the insane computer. It is something that Doctor Who would come back to a few more times.

In "The Armageddon Factor," the sixth part of the Key to Time series, the computer Mentalis on the planet Zeos (not sure if the computer company was named after it) was at war with the planet Atrios. The computer is running everything and even takes over K-9.

We get another one in the semi-lost story of "Shada" on Skagra's (our bad guy) spaceship, but it is reprogrammed in end by the Doctor (you think he would have learned by now).

Our next encounter with a crazy computer comes much later on in the time of the 10th Doctor.

We meet up with the Doctor and River Song on The Library where everyone has gone missing. Here we encounter the computer CAL who just keeps repeating the same message over and over.  In this case we learn the computer CAL is actually "Charlotte Abigail Lux" and she is not a computer per se but the consciousness of a girl who died early. Her father created the library so she had every book in the universe to enjoy. She downloaded all the minds of the people in the Library to "save" them (as a computer would) and it was driving her crazy.

The Doctor (ok, really River) fixed her and the Doctor uploaded River to Library computer to watch over her.

There are some others of course. These stories were popular in the 70s when computers started becoming a thing. Now if we want to scare viewers it is less about computers and more about out of control AI.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who War (The Time War and the War Doctor)

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who War (The Time War and the War Doctor)
DORIUM: The asteroid, where you've made your base. Do you know why they call it Demon's Run?
MANTON: How do you know the location of our base?
DORIUM: You're with the Headless Monks. They're old customers of mine.
KOVARIAN: It's just some old saying.
DORIUM: A very old saying. The oldest. Demons run when a good man goes to war.

- Doctor Who, "A Good Man Goes to War"

Today's quote does not come from the episodes I am covering, but it sums them up very well.

When the new series of Doctor Who was released in 2005 Russel T. Davis was very smart on how much detail to give the viewers. Just enough to get the old fans like me hooked and not too much to scare off the new fans (like my wife).

Over the course of many episodes, we learned something very, very terrible. First, the Doctor was the last of the Time Lords. Then later, it was because Gallifrey had been destroyed. Then later because it had been destroyed in the Last Great Time War between Gallifrey and the Daleks.

Over the years, more details emerged. The Time War was so great that there was collateral damage across all of Time and Space. The Daleks and the Time Lords had destroyed much of the universe. Even to the point that regular humans like Cass (Night of the Doctor) knew of Time Lords and their science. 

At one point, the Doctor, tired of running, tired of death, regenerated into something new. The War Doctor, played by veteran actor John Hurt. This time Lord, no longer the Doctor, was a warrior.

The War Doctor with The Moment

"No more."

- The War Doctor

The War Doctor steals a weapon so terrible even the Time Lords won't use it. Known as "The Moment," it will destroy all of Gallifrey and take all the Dalek with it.

This is all detailed in the 50th Anniversary story, "The Day of the Doctor."

After "The Day of the Doctor" aired, I realized that the "New Who" doctors fell into the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief.

  • The Eight Doctor - Denial. He avoids the war he knows he caused and tries to help where he can.
  • The War Doctor - Anger. He turns to fight against the War. Not against the Daleks or even the Time Lords, but the War itself.
  • The Ninth Doctor - Bargaining. He runs. He runs as far away as possible and hopes to make something good.
  • The Tenth Doctor - Depression. I mean, look how he acts. The silly façade is only that. Underneath, he was weighted down with guilt.
  • The Eleventh Doctor - Acceptance. He knows he can't change his past, no matter what.  Or can he?

The Time War was something hinted at in the Doctor Who novels. No surprise, really, since some of the novel and short story writers would later come on to the show, most notably Steven Moffat.

It could be one of the more exciting pieces of Doctor Who lore created for the show. 

House: Fear me! I've killed hundreds of Time Lords!
The Doctor: Fear me. I've killed all of them.

The Doctor, "The Doctor's Wife"

Rewatching old episodes, especially the old Dalek ones, you get the notion that the Daleks have been ramping up their ability to fight, particularly the Time Lords. I mean, from their point of view, the Doctor has been the center of all their most significant defeats. He was there when they were created and slowed down their progress. He was there when they finally broke out of their destroyed cities on Skaro. He was there to defeat them in their attempts to revive themselves or even against their ancient enemies the Movellans. Even the Time Lord's "weapon" (really a scientific device to harness the power of a star), The Hand of Omega, was used to destroy their homeworld of Skaro.

The Doctor may have wanted to avoid this war, but he picked this fight.

DOCTOR: Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other and that's it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear, in peace, and never even know the word Dalek.
SARAH: Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn't hesitate.
DOCTOR: But I kill, wipe out a whole intelligent lifeform, then I become like them. I'd be no better than the Daleks.

The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane, "Genesis of the Daleks"

The Time War, and thus the War Doctor, were always going to happen.

The idea was so pervasive that even the novels and the audio productions did their own versions before we saw details of it on TV. The two most powerful groups in the Universe were going to butt heads sooner or later.

As I mentioned before, in the language of the Gamma Forests, the word "Doctor" translates into "Great Warrior."  Another tidbit from "A Good Man Goes to War."

In the time of the 12th Doctor's regeneration, we see what being "The Doctor of War" means, in a way only Capaldi's Doctor could. "Try to be nice, but always be kind."  Which, in a way, influences how his 1st incarnation sees things right before his regeneration into the 2nd Doctor.

The Time War was great, but I hope it holds true to it's name as "The Last Great Time War."

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Vampires

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Vampires
The Doctor: Do you know, it just occurs to me there are vampire legends on almost every inhabited planet.
Romana: Really?
The Doctor: Yes.

- The Fourth Doctor and Romana II, "State of Decay"

Honestly, it would not be an April A to Z V-Day if I didn't do Vampires, and Doctor Who is no different. You might think a sci-fi family show would not have much to do with Vampires, but it does, and they are part of the show's history.

State of Decay

The first use of vampires was the later Tom Baker story from the Fourth Doctor era, "State of Decay." The Doctor and Romana had fallen into a CVE, or a hole in the universe into another universe (E-Space). 

Here we get the background on vampires in the Doctor Who universe. Long ago in even the ancient times of Gallifrey the Time Lords, led by Rassilon, fought the great Vampires. These creatures were huge (maybe related to the Dæmons as some of the books say) and they "swarmed" across the cosmos draining entire worlds. Rassilon invented the "bow ships" to impale them on a massive spike of steel, the only way to truly kill them. The time Lord destroyed them all except for their leader, the Great Vampire. The Doctor, Romana, and Adric find them in E-Space. Here three human explorers from Earth got trapped in E-Space and began to feed the Great Vampire. It has taken thousands of years to restore him, but the Doctor manages to destroy him once and for all.

One of the vampire humans in this story, Camilla, was obviously named after Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla." Likewise, Camilla shows more than a casual interest in Romana II.

There is an implication here that Time Lords and Vampires share a long history, maybe even before their war.  The various novels in the "New Adventures" series expanded on this.  

Doctor Who Vampire books

I watched "State of Decay" for my October Horror Movie Marathon a while back. I don't have the DVD, but as part of the Tom Baker Season 18 Blu-Ray.

The whole episode was a huge homage to Hammer Horror, much like The Brain of Morbius was.

The Curse of Fenric

This story from the 7th Doctor era is also a favorite of mine. In the far future when the Earth is a toxic dump, it is the home of the Haemovores or mutated humans that needed the blood of others to survive. They could pass on their mutation to others, turning them into vampire-like creatures. They were not undead, like the human-turned-vampires of the Great Vampires, but shared many of the same features.  They were, for example, very suspectable to psychic attacks and a strong-willed human, even ones with no psychic ability, could keep them at bay.

I am uncertain if these creatures are related to the Great Vampires or not; it seems that they are not.

Smith and Jones

The first episode of David Tennant's 2nd season as the Doctor introduces us to Martha Jones and a Plasmavore, a type of vampire-like alien that feeds on blood. This creature is another variation on the vampire theme but has no relationship (as far as I know) to the Great Vampires or even the Haemovores.  Though they do seem more closely related to the Haemovores in their need for the salt content in their victims' blood.

Vampires of Venice

A run with the 11th Doctor exposes Amy and Rory to the Saturnyn, another type of vampire (sexy fish vampires, according to the Doctor). They could live off of the water content in people's blood. They could make humans into their own species by replacing all their blood. 

Fish Vampires

The Saturnyn lost their homeworld due to the cracks in the Universe (caused by the Doctor's exploding TARDIS in the future) and "the Silence" a major plot point for this season.

We will likely see more vampires in the future, hopefully going back to the original Great Vampires. 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images (expect for personal ones) are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who U.N.I.T.

Doctor Who U.N.I.T.
While not a companion in the strictest sense, a group of people have played a similar role for the Doctor, and that is the fine men and women of U.N.I.T.

U.N.I.T., originally the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, is a military organization controlled by the UN. We see U.N.I.T. officers in Britain, America, Germany, and China. 

The task of U.N.I.T. is to protect the Earth from alien threats. Though the history of U.N.I.T. is murky (different on-screen explanations), one thing is for certain U.N.I.T. owes a lot to the Doctor.

We (and the Doctor) spend the most time with the U.N.I.T. HQ in England, first under the command of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, played by the amazing Nicholas Courtney. The Brig was the perfect foil to the 3rd Doctor's shenanigans. But you knew there was always respect between the two, and even a fondness as seen in the actions of the 5th, 7th, 11th, and 12th Doctors. In fact every Doctor from the 2nd Doctor on (with the exceptions of the 6th Doctor and the 8th Doctor of course) has a U.N.I.T. story. Even the 1st Doctor, played by David Bradley in this one, has an encounter with Army officer "Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart" the Brigadier's Grandfather. Though agewise it is more likely it should have been his father. 

The Brig and U.N.I.T. have been so important to the history of Doctor Who that in the modern era when have Kate Stewart, the Brig's daughter and current leader/scientific advisor to U.N.I.T. and played by Jemma Redgrave. 

U.N.I.T. and the Doctor

I talked about U.N.I.T. a bit when I talked about Quatermass. They share quite a number of similarities. 

U.N.I.T. is also a great stand-in for the Doctor in various stories and Role-Playing Games

We had a Torchwood spin-off, I always thought a U.N.I.T. spinoff would be fun. There are U.N.I.T. novels, audio dramas, and supplements for the major Doctor Who RPGs. So one can get involved in the Doctor's universe and never even see the Doctor. He becomes, as Maj. Blake says in The Christmas Invasion, "the stuff of legends." 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Monday, April 24, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who TARDIS

"It's bigger on the inside than on the outside!" 

- Every companion when they first enter the TARDIS.

Nearly as ubiquitous as the Doctor themself and more so than say the Sonic Screwdriver is the Doctor's TARDIS.

The TARDIS, an acronym for Time And Relative Dimensions in Space, is the Doctor's time and space travel machine. It is powered by a captured black hole known as the Eye of Harmony.  It can (or at least is supposed too) blend in with any environment, and most famously it is bigger on the inside than on the outside.

The Doctor's TARDIS (and it is never "Tardis" or "tardis") is presently stuck in the shape of a late 1950s early 60s style Police Public Call Box. The mechanism that allows it to blend in, the Chameleon Circuit, was broken, so when he landed in 1963 it was stuck in that form can could not change to anything else. The Doctor tried to fix it on a couple of occasions, but it seems now (at least implied by Donna in her DoctorDonna incarnation) he just doesn't want to fix it. The Sixth Doctor tried to fix it ("Attack of the Cybermen") but it still ends up not working right. 

We learn from the 10th Doctor that a TARDIS was not really built but grown on Gallifrey. And there seems to be an organic structure to them as seen in "The Doctor's Wife" when his TARDIS' consciousness is given a voice. 

The Doctor's TARDIS is old. Typically referred to as a "Type 40" or even a "Mark 1" this TARDIS has been called a "museum piece" by River Song on one occasion. When we encounter "The Fugitive Doctor" (Jo Martin) for the first time, her TARDIS looks almost brand new. Leading more credence to the idea that her Doctor was removed from the Doctor's memories a very long time ago.

The TARDIS has the ability to rearrange its own internal environment as seen in more than a few episodes. The ability to add or remove rooms as needed. And even change the configuration of the control room, or as the newer Doctors have put it, "changing the desktop."  Something that usually prompts an older Doctor to comment, "Oh, you've redecorated. I don't like it."  In fact, it has become something of a running gag in Doctor Who.

As much as "The Enterprise" is a character in Star Trek, the TARDIS is even more so. It has a mind and will of it's own. And as the TARDIS herself (in the form of the wonderful Suranne Jones) says:

The Doctor: You didn't always take me where I wanted to go.
Idris/The TARDIS: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

Which is true. 

To summarize the TARDIS in a single blog post is folly. Sixty years of television has made for a lot to say. 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Day (and Night) of the Doctor

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Day (and Night) of the Doctor
Another Sunday special today. In 2013 we were hit with a bunch of Doctor Who special event episodes to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the show. At this point, Doctor Who had never been more popular, and in addition to a series of stories leading up to the 50th, the Anniversary episode itself was going to be shown in select theatres. 

It was all quite exciting.

The Anniversary episodes had always featured all the Doctors. But now we 50 years in. The first three Doctor Who actors had passed, Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor, was nearly 80 years old. Christopher Eccleston, the ninth Doctor, had already announced he was not coming back. Then we got hit with the big surprise!

The Name of the Doctor

This was the penultimate episode before the Anniversary. In this the Doctor is forced to go to his own grave in the future in the fields of Trenzalore. When a Time Lord dies the scars of all their travels in Time and Space are laid bare; there is no body. Here a former enemy (going back to the Second Doctor days) The Great Intelligence, has set a trap for the Doctor. The plan is to lure the Doctor into his own time stream and collapse it, removing the Doctor Who history.  

The Doctor is, however saved by Clara, who jumps into his time stream, where she interacts with all his past lives. Sometimes he remembers her most times he doesn't but it explains why she has popped up in his life in different times and places. He is further saved by what can only be described as a "time ghost" of River Song. 

In this episode we see all the Doctors (well as fleeting ghosts and flashbacks) but there is one here we do not recognize. Clara says she sees 11 faces, 11 Doctors, but not this one. The Doctor tells us that this ghost is him, but not "The Doctor!"

Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor

And then we had to wait six months!

Night of the Doctor

Our next adventure with the Doctor is almost as exciting. Ok, It actually., and you can watch the whole episode online.

"I'm the Doctor. But probably not the one you expected."

- The Eighth Doctor, Night of the Doctor

Paul McGann is back as the Eighth Doctor! And so are the Sisterhood of Karn and Clare Higgins (well-known to many Hellraiser fans). This also gives the Eighth Doctor his proper regeneration scene, and he regenerates into a young John Hurt who is called "The War Doctor" now.  

The Day of the Doctor

This movie-sized event brings back the 11th Doctor and Clara, the 10th Doctor and we see what the deal is with the War Doctor. I will be going into much greater detail on him and the Time War on "W" day.

The Day of the Doctor

We also get "Rose Tyler" back, or more to the point, "The Bad Wolf." So even Billie Piper was on board. The War Doctor is about to use The Moment to destroy all of Gallifrey and the Daleks, but he is shown his personal future with the 10th and 11th Doctors. He is sent back to Time War to commit the act that "Silences the Universe" (and turns him into the dark legend that the People of the Gamma Forests know as "The Great Warrior" which in their language is "Doctor".)

This time (or originally as the case maybe) the 10th and 11th Doctors meet him there (something they are not supposed to be to do) and all three decide to do it together.  Until 11 has an idea.

Using the stasis cubes used to create "Time Lord Art" (a moment in time frozen forever) they are going to freeze the whole planet and remove it from time and let the Daleks kill each other in the cross fire.

What happens is one of the best Anniversary moments ever.

I mean, wow! Not just all 12 Doctors, but even Nine (from a previous episode like the others) AND a sneak peek at the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi who had only recently been announced.

We even get something special in the very end. The Doctors are all headed back to their own time streams while the Eleventh Doctor is still looking at the painting of "Gallifrey Falls" that gave him the idea when a familiar, very familiar, voice is heard.  Tom Baker walks in as "The Curator" but leaves you doubt of Who he really is.

This sets things up rather nicely for the 60th Anniversary coming up. How?

Well here is the last episode we got. Jodie Whitaker's 13th Doctor regenerates into...well let's just say "an old favorite."

Now we have to wait six months. Again!

I am not sure how the 60th Anniversary will be able to top the 50th, but right now it is off to an interesting start.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who River Song

River Song
The Doctor: Oh, you're not, are you? Tell me you're not archaeologists.
Professor River Song: Got a problem with archaeologists?
The Doctor: I'm a time traveler. I point and laugh at archaeologists.
Professor River Song: [offering handshake]  Ah. Professor River Song, archaeologist. 

The Doctor and River, Silence in the Library

There can be endless debates on who was the best companion. Rose vs. Clara, Sarah Jane vs. Leela, Mel vs. Ace. Just kidding, no one liked Mel (poor Bonnie Langford!).  But there can be no doubt the companion who had the biggest impact on the Doctor and his stories was "the child of his best friends" and his wife, Professor River Song. Played by the AMAZING Alex Kingston.

We are introduced to River in the episodes she dies, Silence in the Library/Forrest of the Dead. She meets the 10th Doctor, and she seems to know him well, but they are also "squabbling like an old married couple." And then River does something. Something no other companion has ever done before or since.

She tells the Doctor his name. Not "The Doctor," his real name, the one he tells no one.

I mean, how is that for an entrance?  

We do go on to see River more and more, but her history and the Doctor's ar all messed up. They keep meeting out of order. So they keep diaries to figure out where they both are at any given time. 

River was the brainchild of writer, then showrunner (during the 11th and 12th Doctors) Steven Moffat. He based her somewhat on the book "The Time Traveler's Wife," which he would later adapt as a series on HBO.

THAT in an of itself would have made River very interesting. But it was her next big reveal that stunned everyone.  

In the episode "A Good Man Goes to War," the Doctor and Rory assemble an army to take back Rory's wife, Amy, and their baby daughter, Melody.  The Doctor calls in all his favors, and everyone shows up, except for River Song. When she finally does she tells the Doctor there was nothing she could do to stop it. Why?

She would have been erasing her own timestream is why. Because River Song is Melody Pond.

NO ONE saw that one coming. 

The Doctor and River had all their adventures, just not always in the same order (we still don't know much about Jim the Fish) but one day was going to be the last day the Doctor saw River and he tried to avoid it as much as he could.

To quote River herself,

“When you run with the Doctor, it feels like it'll never end. But however hard you try you can't run forever. Everybody knows that everybody dies and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever for one moment, accepts it. Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair, and the Doctor comes to call... everybody lives.”

I could spend the next few days talking about how awesome River Song is. While I do want her to come back I also accept that her story has been played out in full. We know she and the Doctor had a wonderful life and we all also knew there was no way the Doctor would have been able to stay with her forever. Their story is wonderful and sad in all the right places and that is good.

If anyone asks how do you kill off a beloved character and make it matter, I always point to River Song, the Doctor's Wife.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Friday, April 21, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Role-Playing Games

Doctor Who RPGs
You didn't think I would do this whole A to Z and not mention RPGs?

My exposure to Doctor Who was coterminous with my exposure to RPGs and Dungeons & Dragons in particular. When I would go to bookstores, my goal was always a new D&D book and a new Doctor Who novel.  So when in the mid-80s I discovered that FASA (a company I knew of from their Star TrekRPG) had also done a Doctor Who RPG. Well, I had to get it. 

Well. Actually, my brother got it first. But I spent a lot of time reading it. 

FASA Doctor Who

I enjoyed the Star Trek RPG (and still do), and this one was a new experience for me. I had tried to play Traveller back then (I finally got around to it) and played Star Frontiers, but this was Doctor Who. It was an officially licensed game, and I loved it. 

The FASA Doctor Who game took some liberties with the Doctor Who cannon. It had to. Even in the 1980s, Doctor Who was 20 years old and had stories all over the place. Some were contradictory to each other, and some others had taken place in "the future," which was now in the past. It was always entertaining to read about something that was supposedly going on then. Reading in 1985 about the Cyberman Invasion of 1986 in the past tense was fun. 

Over the years I have collected the entire FASA Who series. It hasn't been cheap but it has been fun.

FASA Doctor Who RPG

FASA Doctor Who RPG

Given the closeness of the rules to their own Star Trek RPG I am still half-tempted (ok, more than half) to run a Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover.  Tom Baker era Who with TOS era Trek. 

Time Lord

Time Lord was another Doctor Who RPG. This one was written by Ian Marsh and Peter Darvill-Evans and published in 1991 by Virgin Publishing. I knew of it, but never played it. I also never owned a copy.

Much like the original release of the Indiana Jones RPG there were no character creation rules, just pre-gens of the Doctor and various companions. 

The game was released in paperback book form. This was not a surprise since the publisher, Virgin, was a book publisher and not a game publisher. Virgin had made their mark in Doctor Who fandom with  Target books novelizations of the classic Doctor Who episodes and the "New Adventures" product line of new stories featuring the Seventh Doctor at first and then moving into the Eighth and other Doctors. 

In 1996 the entire game with some unpublished supplements was released online.

Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space

The latest version of the Doctor Who RPG comes to us from Cubicle 7. If you have been a long-time reader here you know my fondness and history with this game. It is now currently in its Second Edition.

Doctor Who RPG

Doctor Who RPG

It is a fantastic game and has provided me an endless amount of fun. There has been a printing featuring in turn the 10th, 11th, War, 12th and 13th Doctors. I don't have them all since they had minor changes between each one, though I did get them on PDF.

Additionally, I have all the guides for the various Doctors. 

Doctor Who RPG books

Honestly, I could spend forever talking about these games.

Since I typically dedicate May to Sci-Fi RPGs maybe I'll spend my May going through all of these.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Quatermass

The Tenth Doctor: You named a unit of measurement after yourself?
Malcom: Well, it didn't do Mr. Watt any harm. Furthermore, 100 Malcoms equal a Bernard.
The Tenth Doctor: Who's that, your dad?
Malcom: Don't be ridiculous, that's Quatermass.
The Tenth Doctor: Right. 

- The Planet of the Dead

Few things are as quintessentially British sci-fi as Doctor Who. Unless of course, you are talking about Quatermass.

First a bit of background.

Prof. Benard Quatermass is a brilliant scientist and part of the (fictional) British Experimental Rocket Group.  In his work he is constantly dealing with all sorts of alien threats.  Sound familiar?  The Quatermass stories have a solid sci-fi bend to them but are not afraid to do a little bit of horror, as in Quatermass and the Pit

The Doctor Who Connections

Lots really. I mentioned in my review of Quatermass and the Pit that finding an ancient skeleton older than humanity has been covered by Who in Image of the Fendahl and in horror by The Creeping Flesh. But that is just a story. The connections run deeper.

The whole Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor) was designed to have a solid Quatermass feel to it; brilliant scientist fighting off alien threats with the aid (to his annoyance) of the military and some secret organization. Are we talking about The British Rocket Group or U.N.I.T. here? 

In the 1988 series "Remembrance of the Daleks," which takes place in 1963,  military, scientific advisor Alison Williams remarks to her colleague Dr. Rachel Jensen, "I wish Bernard was here." Rachel replies, "British Rocket Group's got its own problems."  Even the episode "Hide" set in 1974 featured a very Quatermass-like character in the form of Professor Alec Palmer, who was supposed to be Benard Quatermass but they could not get the rights cleared.  

"The Planet of the Dead" has an energy reading in Benards which is 100 Malcoms. Named in honor of Quatermass.

In "The Christmas Invasion," David Tennant's first turn as the Doctor, a British Rocket Group logo can be seen in the command center of Guinevere 1. This one is especially interesting because of the very recent (2005) "The Quatermass Experiment," which featured David Tennant playing a Doctor. Not the Doctor, but he did get the roll in Doctor Who while working on this show. 

The Doctor?

In addition to David Tennant this show featured Mark Gatiss, a regular Doctor Who actor and writer. Gatiss also wrote a Doctor Who novel "Nightshade" about a serial that exists in the Doctor Who universe that is not quite Doctor Who and not quite Quatermass. 

Quatermass and the Doctor

Some fans have even suggested that the reason Ace calls her Doctor, "Professor" all the time is because of her familiarity with Quatermass. 

I'd love to see a full-on crossover with Doctor Who and Quatermass. Set it in the late 1950s or early 1960s. That would be a lot of fun.

If nothing else, then it would make for a good Doctor Who RPG adventure!

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who PBS (and Pluto)

"Support for this PBS station comes from Viewers like you."

- The Unofficial Start of Every Doctor Who episode in my youth.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man. Doctor Who fans today have it easy. We have DVDs, Blu-Rays, BBC America, BritBox, Pluto (more on that) and untold ways to watch our favorite episodes of Doctor Who.

In the 80s this was not the case. Back in the 1980s we had ONE choice to watch Doctor Who and that was our local PBS station. If your station didn't carry it, well you had to hope you had a friend who did have access and access to a VCR to record them. 

For me that was KETC PBS Channel 9 out of St. Louis, MO. 

I grew up on Channel 9. As a little kid I watched Sesame Street and the Electric Company. As I got older I watched Cosmos with Carl Sagan and 3-2-1 Contact.  I tried to watch Upstairs, Downstairs and Masterpiece Theater. I knew they were good, but I never caught them often enough to know what was going on. But I, Claudius, was amazing.  I was primed to accept that anything on this channel was quality.

KETC Channel 9 PBS

So when I was introduced to Doctor Who in the early 80s (1983) I was ready to accept it as the best thing ever on TV. It was A.) British and B.) on PBS. So of course it was great. Sadly it was not on till 10:30 pm on a Sunday night and I had school and a morning paper route to do on Monday morning. I got into a lot of trouble trying to watch it.

Doctor Who ad

Another issue for me? I only had an old Black & White TV, so my first experiences with Doctor (namely the Key to Time series) were all in Black & White!  I didn't get my first color TV until I, and this is no kidding, traded my 18 ft long Doctor Who scarf for one.

I think there is a sort of rite of passage with older Doctor Who fans. We all can readily identify which PBS stations we watched them on.  KETC always took the individual parts and showed them as one complete story.  Other stations showed 1 or 2 parts a night. This was the case for WTTW in Chicago. I did not get that station then, but now it is my local station.

The whole "Viewers Like you" thing hit me hard too. I felt like I was watching Doctor Who but not a real fan since I didn't help PBS out. So one year I finally asked my parents to send in support. I paid them back and got this sweet TARDIS key chain that I still have to this day.

TARDIS key chain

TARDIS key chain

Still pretty pleased to have that.

The TARDIS Data Core wiki has a great history on PBS and its association with Doctor Who.

Doctor Who on Pluto

Nowadays you can get Doctor Who nearly anywhere, but the closest experience to the old PBS stations is watching Doctor Who on PlutoTV.

Pluto TV
There are "Doctor Who" channels that play the Classic Doctor episodes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Doctor Who on Pluto

I have been catching them as I can and it has been fantastic.  If you are new Who fan it is worth checking out. Plus Pluto is 100% free! You can even watch it on any device.

Additionally, on Tubi, you can catch the old Doctor Who Dalek movies.

Something I never expected to happen back in the 1980s, sometime after 10:30 pm on a Sunday night when I was supposed to be asleep. 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Occult Themes

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who Occult Themes
The Doctor: This lot have still got one foot in the Dark Ages. If I tell them the truth they’ll panic and think it was witchcraft.
Martha: Okay, what was it then?
The Doctor: Witchcraft.

- The Doctor and Martha, The Shakespeare Code

Doctor Who is overtly a sci-fi series and a family show. So one would imagine that themes of the occult and horror would not pop up, but you would be wrong!

Doctor Who has a long-established tradition of "hiding behind the sofa" when the Daleks show up and with some of the scarier episodes.  While there are plenty of scary episodes and plenty more that met with the disapproval of Mary Whitehouse, I want to focus on ones that had occult overtones as befitting my typical interests around here.  I'll also look into that most quintessential of all British horror, Folk Horror.

The Dæmons

This one has the dæmons returning to Earth, but they are not diabolic, but rather a race of giants that have "sufficiently advanced science" that looks like magic. Though it does have the Master posing as a Satanic Priest and using rituals to summon the dæmon Azal.  There is even a white witch in this one.

The magic here is couched very much in the science of Doctor Who, it is just highly advanced.

This episode is very much a British Folk Horror tale. And there was that time where the 11th Doctor fought them off with the help of Buffy and her friends

The Dæmons

Image of the Fendahl

Talked about this one all the way back on "F" day.

The Stones of Blood

Here is another "Science disguised as Magic" the large standing stones are disguised blood drinking creatures and the alien of our tale is disguising herself as The Cailleach of Scottish and Irish myth. 

Of note: This episode gave me the idea for Gog and Magog.

The Awakening

Another British Folk Horror episode this deals with a demon-like creature and old pagan rites. In some ways it reminded me a lot of The Dæmons. So much so that I was disappointed it wasn't more closely tied to it. 

The Curse of Fenric

I'll go into this one in more detail later on, but there are some interesting occult associations here as well. 

The Unquiet Dead

Ghosts in Cardiff. Or really, the Gelth caught in a time rift. In Universe, this was the reason that Charles Dickens wrote about ghosts in A Christmas Carol. In the real world this gave us some background for the Torchwood series. 

The Impossible Planet / Satan Pit

Ah. Now this one was so good.  I might have to add this as my one "TV Episode" per year to my Horror movie marathon in October. This one is more straight up horror than occult, but the appearance of the "Devil" at the end sends this one into occult territory.

The Beast of this episode does bring to mind the Dæmons of the Pertwee era. They might even be related to this creature as their former ruler. Maybe it was them that chained him up in the Pit.

The Shakespeare Code

Ah. This is not the first Doctor Who episode to feature witches or witch-like creatures, but it is a fun one. This Tenth Doctor romp features a subtly bisexual Shakespeare ("Fifty-seven academics just punched the air,") and former HEX actress Christina Cole as Lilith. 

Again this episode implies that magic and "witchcraft" are just a different type of science. Maybe an older type.


Hide is a fantastic haunted house episode. Among other things, there is a monster, a psychic, a witch, and all sorts of strange goings on. Our psychic is played by the amazing Jessica Raine, who will have more involvement with Doctor Who and our monster...well it is a quintessential Doctor Who twist. The monster is just a poor alien trapped in time. The witch is a time traveler from the future trapped in every moment of time but stuck at this house. So in the words of The Doctor, "this isn't a ghost story, it's a love story."

The Witchfinders

Few things are as British occult as the witches of Pendle Hill. It is here in this episode the Doctor, now in the form of Jodie Whittaker, finds herself in the middle of. 

Again, no witches or demons here, just aliens. In fact the Doctor says "A brilliant man once said, 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'" One of Arthur C. Clarke's Three Laws

While the Doctor will deal with various occult themes, the explanation will always be some sort of advanced science. It is a conceit of the show's universe and one that works well enough for me. 

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.

Monday, April 17, 2023

#AtoZChallenge2023: Doctor Who New Who (and the Ninth Doctor)

The Doctor: I'm the Doctor, by the way, what's your name?
Rose Tyler  Rose.
The Doctor: Nice to meet you, Rose, - run for yer life!

- The Ninth Doctor, "Rose"

Doctor Who premiered in November 1963 and ran until 1989. There was a TV movie that, while fun, was not great and went no where. Sadly we Doctor Who fans settled in to just enjoying the new novels and the audio dramas. 

Then Russel T. Davis came on the scene and, in 2005 brought Doctor Who back!

At first, we did not know if this new series was a new series or tied to the original series. So many of us began to call this "New Who" or even "NuWho."

Not only did we get a wonderful series that had all the charm of the old series, but we would also learn that this Doctor was the Ninth Doctor and he was the only survivor of the Great Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks. 

The original series ran 26 years and had seven total Doctors. Eight if you count the movie. The new series has run for 14 seasons (though almost 18 years) and has had six doctors, or eight, or nine depending on how you count it. 

The new series of Doctor Who has done so much to bring in new fans to the show and make it a world-wide phenomena. While the Tenth and Fourteenth (both David Tennant) and the Eleventh (Matt Smith) did much to make the show popular we really have to thank Christopher Eccleston for bringing the character back to life.

Eccleston's Doctor was a Doctor consumed with guilt and sadness. He was fresh off the Time War (tune in for that on "W" day), and you feel that Rose was his first companion in a very, very long time.  This Doctor had seen everything he loved burn and to make it all worse, he knew he was the one that caused it all. This new reality; the Time War, Gallifrey destroyed, and the Doctor alone, made for a great way to bring in both new and old fans. It was, well to quote the Ninth Doctor, "Fantastic!"

This was the Doctor that got my wife and kids hooked on the show and made us a Who-loving family.

While Eccleston had his own reasons for leaving (and I won't debate his choice here) it did do one very, very perfect thing. It gave new viewers a complete Doctor Who experience in one whole season.  

His regeneration at the end of his first and only season gave the new fans something we old fans always had. That fear and anticipation about who this new doctor was going to be. 

My wife was SO upset with this. And as you can expect David Tennant's Tenth Doctor went on to become her favorite.

New Who has been fantastic to me as an old-school Doctor Who fan. 

If you want more details on the new series of Doctor Who, pop on over to fellow A to Z blogger, Elena Square Eyes, and see what she is doing. She is also doing the A to Z of Doctor Who but focusing on the newer stories.

A to Z of Doctor Who

All images are used with permission from the BBC and are copyrighted 2023 by the BBC.