Part 3: Darker Days

So we move into 2009. Having welcomed Lucie on board the TARDIS in series 1 (see here) and enjoyed having fun in series 2 (see here) we now move onto a more difficult third series which I have entitled Darker Days. For me this series is characterised by (in hindsight) a foreshadowing of the fact that one day Lucie would no longer be a companion. The series does have an arc though it is more a linking of the opener to the closing couplet.

We get the return of some less used foes, some humour here and there and the usual high voltage excitement along with great performances, production, casting and everything else. Tickets ready? All aboard!

The Story Arc

I have broken this down into the following stages:

  • Re-union
  • Re-launch
  • Adventure
  • The end?

Re-union

Orbis: for a story that starts with the Headhunter shooting Lucie in the heart and them then seeking the Doctor on the watery planet of Orbis where he has been stranded for 300 years (or even 600 somewhat randomly) there is still room for humour. Lucie is great, she is really excited to meet up with the Doctor having believed him dead; the Doctor has spent centuries dealing with local problems and has forgotten much of his past (including Lucie!). Via some jealousy from Lucie towards an intelligent jellyfish (a Keltan) and some amusing exchanges with the leader of the Molluscari (yes shell-fish!). The planet Orbis is under threat, climate change is triggered by the Stellar Manipulator which is on its way and sadly does indeed destroy the planet, leaving a disconsolate doctor and a confused Lucie eventually setting off for a new series of adventures

Re-launch

The idea of the re-launch of the Doctor and Lucie’s relationship carries into Hothouse which I felt was the weakest story of the series. Lucie starts off separated from the Doctor spying on the rock-star turned eco-warrior Alex Marlowe played without much conviction by Nigel Planer. The plot echoes Orbis closely (climate is falling apart) and revolves around infiltrating Eden Project like domesthat hold Krynoids (from the Fourth Doctor tale Seeds of Doom). Despite some good scenes with various humans as they mutate into plant monsters I found this fell flat for me. Maybe not different enough from Orbis and also the ‘relationship changed’ aspect seemed clumsy

The Beast of Orlok continued (slightly) the theme of getting used to each other again but this time in a decent tale of mistaken identity, echoes of Frankenstein, the Black Forest (including gateau!) and the usual good cast (Miriam Margolyes was wonderful). The actual twist I enjoyed and only sort of saw coming – the Frankenstein-esque set-up provided an enjoyable diversion. There were also shades of Gogol’s The Government Inspector which is one of my favourite plays

Adventure

We move into pure play adventure with epic space-battles and futuristic soldiers in Wirrn Dawn a great action story that has some very one-dimensional soldiers and a challenging story of compromise to achieve a greater end. Although I have little to say don’t get me wrong this is a wonderful well-told story and Lucie has lots to do stuck in a claustrophobia inducing crashed ship surrounded by Wirrn; I just think this is one to listen to rather than write about

Scapegoat: although as well written and produced as ever I struggle to enjoy this story of goat-like aliens (capricious?!) set in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Something about the Nazis works for the Doctor (I give you Colditz and the Klein Trilogy as evidence, but for me the dark theatre world of the Theatre des Baroque with its ritual killing and resurrection every show leaves me unsettled. This story also suggest obliquely that the Doctor has changed eight times since leaving Gallifrey

Finally we move to a piece of existential fun in The Cannibalists with Phil Jupitus a great Dickensian robots-in-space tale of deserted space cities, out of control robots and the implications of life and death for a machine life form. I chuckle even now at the binary poetry and this is another great tale from Jonathan Morris before we move to the ending

The end?

With Eight Truths and  World Wide Web we run straight into the arc that has been hiding away, that of the stellar manipulator now on its way to 2015 Earth! If this wasn’t enough (and being Doctor Who) the World Wide Web is none other than a plot by the spiders of Metebelis Three! This is all mixed up with a cult in which the Headhunter and Karen both appear (one for the last time). We also have Lucie being brainwashed into the cult and questioning all her time with the Doctor and (looking back) giving a big clue that she may soon be leaving the TARDIS!

Summary

I don’t want to convey the idea that ideas were running out for Lucie and the Doctor, but I do feel this is the weakest of the four series (someone has to be). Many great moments but a shaky start here and there but even so we are not prepared for the events of Death in Blackpool (see here).

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