Revisiting Doctor Who: Series 6 – Episodes 8-10

I think we need a recap following the tumultuous events of the mid-season finale, given how crazy it was. I’ve been over this several times with The Lad, trying to explain the convoluted plot developments. I think he gets it… sort of. He’s only six. He has a very vague notion of the birds and bees but still…

During the storming of Demon’s Run, we have learned that River Song is the daughter of Amy and Rory. Conceived during Amy and Rory’s wedding night on the TARDIS, the embryo’s genetic structure was altered by the mercurial energies of the Time Vortex, resulting in a mutant with some Time Lord-like powers. How the Silence – not a species after all, but a religious order – learned of the baby before it’s birth is unclear, but they did, and they developed a scheme to raise the child as a super-powered mutant assassin with one target – the Doctor. We don’t really know why they have it in for him, though there is a vague suggestion that his reputation had grown so fearsome that he was considered a threat. There is also the matter of the “Unanswered Question”, a semi-mystical clue to something in the Doctor’s future, something that the Silence believes must not be allowed to come to pass. Maybe we will discover more soon.

At some point in the recent past, the Silence abducted the newly-pregnant Amy to Demon’s Run, replacing her with a Flesh Ganger (which confused the TARDIS scanners – the Doctor suspected enough to visit a Ganger-equipped factory to study the characteristics of the Flesh and confirm his suspicions). The Silence conveys baby Melody to an orphanage in the US in the 1960’s where she is raised in seclusion and trained in the use of a spacesuit which has been developed for use in her mission. The Doctor, an adult River (who does not seem to recall these elements of her own childhood?), Amy, Rory and Canton disrupt the Silence’s scheme but do not destroy it – the child Melody escapes using her extraordinary strength and somehow ends up in New York. Sick or possibly injured, she discovers another Time Lord-like attribute and regenerates to save her own life. Into what form she incarnates, we do not yet see.

Meanwhile, having stormed Demons’ Run to rescue Amy and Melody, the Doctor is beaten once again, baby Melody having been stolen away. He embarks on a search for the baby throughout time and space – but not before learning that River Song is none other than a grown-up Melody Pond. We know Melody, or River, is safe, but we have seen a spacesuited figure execute the Doctor at Lake Silencio, Utah. We know River has been imprisoned in the far-future Stormcage facility for murdering an important figure – is it a spoiler to guess that River’s role in the Silence’s plot is not over, and that she will be forced to complete her mission and kill the Doctor no matter how desperately she tries to evade her destiny? For destiny it is – a fixed point in Time – and events are rushing headlong towards it.

Episode 8: Let’s Kill Hitler

In a direct sequel to the last episode, a bunch of questions – though by no means all of them – are about to be answered. Those who saw the online prequel will know the Doctor has been hunting for Melody for some time, and Amy has been periodically phoning the TARDIS for an update – which the Doctor, having been unsuccessful, is too squeamish to give her.

In modern-day Leadworth, Amy and Rory create a crop circle to gain the Doctor’s attention. He arrives in the TARDIS, but they are soon joined by Mels, Amy and Rory’s childhood friend. Mels was responsible for Amy and Rory’s relationship; Amy had subsequently named her daughter Melody after her. Mels also knows of Amy’s “raggedy Doctor” and seems almost obsessed with him, an obsession that may have contributed to the erratic, anti-social behaviour she has displayed while growing up. Apparently on the run from the police, Mels brandishes a gun and coerces them to escape in the TARDIS. Inside, she fires the gun, hitting the central console which floods the interior with poisonous fumes and sends it spinning out of control.

In 1938 Berlin, “Justice Vehicle 6018”, a Teselecta (a time-travelling, shapechanging, humanoid robot manned by a miniaturised human crew from the future), is seeking to deliver justice on war criminals. They do this by using the Teselecta’s weapons to torture the criminal, near the end of their timeline. Having taken on the appearance of a Wehrmacht officer to meet with Hitler, they are surprised when the TARDIS crashes into Hitler’s office. Hitler, already panicked, fires on the Teselecta, but a bullet ricochets and strikes Mels. To everyone’s shock, Mels begins to regenerate – into River Song.

So now all becomes clear, sort of. As a young girl alone in New York, Melody was intent on completing her mission, not avoiding it. After regenerating, she finds her way to England, hunting her own parents so she can put herself in position to eventually encounter – and kill – the Doctor. Living alongside her future parents, she not only ensures the events of her own birth by matchmaking, but also incidentally gives them the chance to “raise” her from childhood. Following her next regeneration, we see her in the familiar incarnation of “River Song” – a name she does not yet recognise. This is River at the beginning of her relationship with the Doctor, and we have already seen her at the end (series 4’s Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead). That alone infuses the episode’s ending with some poignancy.

All in all though, this episode is surprisingly light-hearted, rip-roaring fun. Alex Kingston is obviously having a ball as a girl who had previously incarnated as children or slightly-built young adults – her new buxom, mature incarnation combines with post-regeneration euphoria to make her act like Meg Ryan’s famous diner scene from When Harry Met Sally.

Continuity freak me, I did wonder what the relationship of the Teselecta crew is to the Time Agency, Captain Jack’s old mob. We know Moffat hasn’t decided to ignore their existence because it is from a Time Agent that Dorium Maldovar obtains the familiar Vortex Manipulator that he sells’ to River. Oh well, questions, questions…

Episode 9: Night Terrors

The Doctor decides to make a “house call” after his psychic paper receives a message from George, a frightened 8-year-old child, asking his help in getting rid of the monsters in his bedroom. With Amy and Rory, they arrive at a contemporary English council estate where all is not as it seems…

A stand-alone episode built on atmosphere, shadows and a fair bit of humour (all credit to Rory), a deeper plot summary is unnecessary. It is good, creepy fun, with a classic chase though the corridors of a deserted mansion as our protagonists try to escape the sinister “peg dolls”. Much like Series 2’s Fear Her, this Mark Gatiss-penned tale pays homage to Jerome Bixby’s classic short story “It’s A Good Life”, though far more successfully than that earlier, unimpressive episode (I said when reviewing it that it was a shame the inspiration of Bixby’s tale had been “taken”; I needn’t have worried – the Whoniverse’s Earth is choc-full of creepy alien children with reality-warping powers, it seems). A classic episode for 6-year old boys, as The Lad will testify.

Episode 10: The Girl Who Waited

The Doctor takes Rory and Amy to the planet Apalapucia, claiming it is a top holiday destination, but is unaware that the planet is suffering from a fatal plague, Chen7, that affects beings with two hearts and can kill them within a day. The native population has created “kindness centres”, where those infected by the plague are placed in one of several thousand accelerated time streams, allowing them to live out their lives whilst in communication with their loved ones through a large glass lens in the waiting room. On their arrival, Amy is separated from the Doctor and Rory, and becomes stuck in an accelerated time stream, but reuniting her with the others proves to be more difficult – and more harrowing – than any of them could have imagined.

This episode is one for grown-ups, being complicated by its use of time travel and paradoxes as integral plot elements and its general “talkiness”. However the real adult content is the emotional wallop the episode packs, as Rory is confronted by a bitter, angry 36-years older incarnation of Amy, a woman who passionately hates the Doctor for failing to save her nearly four decades earlier. Ironically it is her own survival instinct which had scuppered her rescue, as she had refused to aid the Doctor’s plan knowing it would rewrite time and wipe her from existence. Gillan’s performance as her embittered, emotionally-injured older self is superb, as is Darvill’s as Rory confronts the situation. Some critics have questioned how Amy could have built her own sonic screwdriver and reprogrammed the Two Streams Facility’s AI systems – well, obviously the TARDIS’ telepathic circuits somehow maintained their connection to her and piped the necessary knowledge into her subconscious! A telepathic circuit that had been boosted by the deeper connection forged between Amy and the TARDIS by meeting “in person” during The Doctor’s Wife. I mean honestly, use your imagination guys…

Most significantly, we see a darker, more ruthless side to the Doctor that we have not glimpsed of late, and Smith portrays this well. The only real confusion stems from the characters’ seemingly flawless adjustment to the permanent loss of their child Melody, a fact made clear in just the previous episode. But this is simply down to the original production schedule which had intended this episode to be broadcast prior the the mid-season finale.

The episode was nominated for the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), though it lost to Neil Gaiman’s episode “The Doctor’s Wife“. The Lad didn’t mind it  – rescued as it was by Amy’s samurai battles with the Hand-Bots.

Postscript: Earth-Born
 
The Girl Who Waited raised, for me, more factoids in support of my theory concerning the role of Humanity in Time Lord history. Consider the following:
  • We have a humanoid race, the Apalapucians, who appear indistinguishable from humans apart from the fact that they have two hearts, just like Time Lords.
  • From a comment made by the Two Streams Facility’s entertainment system referring to Disneyland, we can assume that Apalapucia is not only a planet distant in space, but it is also distant in time and is a civilisation of the far future which is in close contact with contemporary Human culture.
  • The Apalapucians have advanced temporal engineering technology, as evidenced by the Two Streams Facility itself.
  • There is a disease, Chen7, which is not only rapidly fatal to beings with binary cardiovascular systems, but which somehow prevents regenerations in Time Lords.
Here is my conclusion:
  • The Apalapucians are not just humanoid, they are Human. Whether through eons of divergent evolution, or by genetic engineering to adapt to some colony environment at some point in history (or simply to convey health and longevity benefits), this branch or subspecies of Humanity has a binary cardiovascular system.
  • This is not a civilisation that has grown remote and alien from the rest of Humanity – glimpses of them suggest they wear recognisable clothing and they are familiar with the wonderful world of Disney. They are part of a far-flung Human culture.
  • Whether they predate, are contemporary with or postdate the Time Agency, they certainly have advanced temporal-manipulation technology at their disposal.
  • Confronted by a plague which only infects two-hearted species , a group of Apalapucians fled not only through space, but through time, using the advanced technology at their disposal. What followed was the accident which sent them hurtling back to the Dark Times and to the uninhabited, distant plant of Gallifrey. The Apalapucians are the ancestors of Gallifreyans and Time Lords.
  • Chen7 itself is clearly an engineered bioweapon. Why would a disease affect only two-hearted species? How could a mere virus or bacteria interfere with the Time Lords’ powers of regeneration? Only the chemically-engineered, Judas Tree-derived poison used by River Song in her first attempt to assassinate the Doctor had that quality. It is a weapon developed by the Daleks (who have a history of plague warfare) for use in the Time War. Perhaps infecting Apalapucia was an attempt to destroy the Time Lords before they had even arisen – paradoxically it led to their birth.

So there we have it, more building blocks for my theory!

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About Mark Winter

Dark Fantasy novelist (INFERNAL PREY). Blogging on politics and current affairs (GibberLog), science and history (BlatherLog), sci-fi, fantasy & horror (WittlerLog), business, product development & start-ups (MutterLog). View all posts by Mark Winter

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