Ah, so getting to the point. What we have here is the first proper Eighth Doctor Series, a good fourteen stories long and in each and every way mirroring and sometimes even challenging the stuff we get to see in the TV Series. A good point to note would be that it features the Eighth Doctor(obviously), perhaps the only Doctor to have lived mostly outside of the TV Series, and if you haven't read the books or don't listen to Big Finish Audios then you probably don't even know what Paul McGann's Doctor is really like...just like me.
It's really unfortunate that we never got the much needed TV Series because after I had worked my way through the 1996 TV movie, I wished really hard that he wasn't canon. To me the Eighth Doctor appears to be the blandest of all the Doctors. He is often characterized as a forgetful romantic driven by sacrifice, love and a deep sense of loneliness and while that may be true; I've yet to see his character develop in a way such that it sets him apart from both his predecessors and his successors. To me he is more of an echo, of an idea long lost and all that remains are random notions selectively chosen from the Doctor's other faces, and that is exactly how I felt about the Doctor in EDA, which is not necessarily a bad thing but most definitely a sad one.
"Snow always brought silence. It even silenced the wind that carried it."
We start the series with a Christmas special which is both poignant and festive and serves its purpose to the tee. The plot is reminiscent of The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe and Eight himself seems wrapped up in the Eleventh Doctor's persona, which forces me to think whether Genie was inspired after watching the said Christmas Special. The lack of originality however is compensated by rich moments between Robin and Gabriel, the plot filled to brim with warmth, fun and sincerity. I love how this one harks back to the idea of Last Christmas and in Miracle on Oxford Street Genie gives us a refreshing and heart-warming introduction to the Eighth Doctor and Robin.
Very Moffat-ish, very soulful and beautifully worded but nothing new. Other than that I've got no complaints.
Rating - 8/10
"Yes, fun! I did a bit of advanced reading on temporal mechanics, wrote the first chapter of a novel and texted Harper Lee some book ideas."
Of all the places in the universe the Doctor had to take Robin to a museum. How Boring. No wait, it not just a museum, it's The Museum of Cerscillus who is according to the Doctor, and I quote, "The greatest time pioneer who ever lived". Needless to say that the setting had a lot of scope and there were a lot of radical ideas like the desire of immortality, of memory preservation, of identity but none of them took flight and the dish was snatched from us just after we had had the first bite. What it however did do was give us an insight into Eight's mind, of where he draws the line between good and bad.
As I've said before, there was a lot of potential. I would have preferred something akin to Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead, which was similarly set in The Library which is why I think this one felt like a part of a bigger story, one that sadly we didn't get. Still a lot of good ideas and a genuine attempt at something new.
Rating - 6.5/10
"Sir John Smith, I am arresting you on suspicion of treason."
It pains me to say it but this is my least favorite story of the lot. This one kept me hooked for a good 5 pages but that's when things began to go awry. It tried to thread an historical event into the story which is all good but in the end it all failed to make an impact and felt too rushed, occurring for the sake of observation rather than driven by any action. The story required a bit more dialogue, a bit more drive and bit more purpose. Bad things happen, sure, but the Doctor doesn't just sit and watch, he does something in response. This felt like a report rather than an adventure which is why both the Doctor and Robin feel like distant characters placed in the situation to act as our eyes and ears but the connection to the heart is amiss.
The concept was inspired but the execution was flawed.
Rating - 6/10
"They're temptation. The temptation to stop and give in. To surrender your soul for the sake of pain relief"
On the one hand we have Miracle on Oxford Street where the Doctor single handedly saves Robin and Christmas and on the other hand we have Peacepoint where he breaks her and destroys Jess. I absolutely adore this story because it accurately portrays the power of feelings in us humans, and how the same thing can be both a burden and a gift. Feeling can be used both as a gauge and as a fuel; particularly the feeling of loss is something all of us naturally tend to evade, mostly because whatever causes it leaves us hollow and incapable of feeling anything else, unless we find something to replace it.
In Peacepoint we have the Doctor and Robin travel with Jess (Robin's friend) into the Year 2100 only to find an old enemy with a sinister plan. The plot navigates through the themes of loss, happiness and friendship and conveys them brilliantly. The crux of the story and the resolution is strangely reminding of Dalek by Robert Shearman but has enough originality to stand on its own which is why this is my second favorite story of the lot.
Rating - 9/10
"The formula we used is unpredictable but points towards a hidden structure to the universe. There may be a greater life dictating everything; a designer. We must complete the experiment to unlock this life."
The mandatory two parter that every Series must have. Two parters can be great, given you have proper inspiration, genuine ideas and a need for the story to be a two parter. Sadly this one falls short in that last category. Dividing the story into two parts robs both stories of any drive or punch it might have had as a proper single story. On the whole we are left with certain key scenes unnecessarily padded to make the overall story hefty. The point being that you could gather the entire story by simply skimming through the pages without reading the whole thing provided you have a general idea where to look.
"I turned off the mass stabilizers, inflicting the real weight of the TARDIS on the pocket. That would be enough to fracture most planets, but this is their technology."
Nice Flatline reference... anyways Earthstop did an okay job of setting up the story but Sunset Forever failed to leave any sort of impression except for the bit where Robin gets an unexpected surprise. As for the introduction of Autumn Rivers, well let’s just say that I will get back to it later. The enemy/monsters while a novel idea were a bit vague in their motivation and the supporting characters uninteresting. After the brilliant Peacepoint, I was largely underwhelmed by this one.
Rating - 6.5/10
"Time travel isn't a cure, it's a distraction."
After Earthstop/Sunset Forever I was genuinely beginning to wonder where the Series would be going to next. Enter The Planet Makers. This one has a solid plot and features the return of Krynoids. Frankly I haven't got much to say or complain about this one because it follows basic monster-of-the-week storytelling, a glimpse of the new companion and bunch of other good supporting characters. I particularly liked the interaction between Andy and Russell. The only flaw that I can possibly think of is unoriginality. We've had a lot of mission/team based stories so this one packs nothing new.
A point to note would be that this story while seemingly depicted as a one-off has profound repercussions in the long term. This is hinted at by Autumn when she recalls her own prior experience with the Plant. How and Why? Well that's an entirely (well not entirely) different story all together. All in all, good stuff.
Rating - 7.5/10
"I've killed for less noble reasons than tonight, Doctor, and I can see in your eyes that you have too."
Haunting, eerie and ominous. This one is packed with some seriously dark and mature stuff. What's even more exciting is the fact that it's extremely well written, quite professional to be frank. I must commend the writer on his writing skills, very much to my taste, especially the intertwined philosophy. Oh yes I am a sucker for philosophy, because it provides an insight into the writer's mind and substantiates his reasoning. However, yes there is a however, the presentation cannot hide the flaws, only suppress them.
"He was glad to be away from the social elements, though. He tended to panic at parties and blurt out random, untrue things, like being half-human or that the party food tasted terrible."
This one puts the entire focus on Autumn and leaves almost nothing for the Doctor. Plus, I hate to say it but in a Series of fourteen stories, and with seven stories in, none of them seem to quite naturally capture Eight's voice. Something that was easily achieved with Eleven in Trenzalore. Now why is that?
The writing provides a lot to visualize and adds to the tension by bringing in eerie elements and atmospheric details but it all falls flat in terms of the resolution which is pretty straight forward and takes away from both, the mystery and the monsters. This one reminded me of Blink but eventually fell into the trap of a generic and rushed ending. As for Autumn, I'll get down to her after eventually.
Rating - 8/10
“I’m not letting you call yourself the Goddess of Wisdom.”
This story has a good enough plot but again falls into the same trap as Time in the Museum. There is potential but it is not fully realized. About one-third of the story is dedicated to establish the setting, such that when the story finally kicks in, everything begins to happen too fast. Don't get me wrong, it's still fun but I think it could have been much much better. The thing that bugged me essentially was the execution of side characters: Ares, Lily-Rose and Pausanias. They were put there for a reason and they did there bit, but each failed to leave any significant impression. And yes why does the Doctor seem to be a massive pushover?
Still I'll have to admire the effort, the research involved. It was different, good different but nothing spectacular.
Rating - 7/10
"Take your time. It's not as if we're on the clock."
Okay so I've read the articles and they are fantastic but writing a story, that's an entirely different venture altogether and Mark, I truly bow my head down to you because what you've accomplished here is proper stuff. I mean I would seriously love to see this as an episode. Incorporating biblical references, handling multiple threads, including a proper dilemma, dealing with the much talked about question of faith, this one even makes "Kill the Moon" feel inadequate and I'm one of the few who love Kill the Moon so that speaks volumes about how much I loved this story, my favorite story of the lot.
Also I wonder if the Silurian Ark can be the same one we encounter in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Headcanon accepted. Brilliant characterizations amounting to palpable tension and conflict and a very Doctor Who-ish resolution. Exceptional and audacious, I really have nothing to complain about here. And yes, I would love to see you do a Sciency-Wiency of this one. *Snickers*
Rating - 9.5/10
"No, I'm sorry. That's what you can smell, right now. Chot's cooking."
Ah, another mandatory for a proper Series, a base under siege story. This one stands to be concluding piece of the Hunters of Andromeda arc and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusive piece mostly because it is the first story to somewhat aptly portray the Eighth Doctor and differentiate him from others to some extent. There is a hint of Ten and Nine in his actions but he still feels genuinely different in his approach and words. Lily-Rose on the other hand while working as a surprise plot element falls flat as a character and the entire story stands effectively on Doctor's and Autumn's shoulder. I am glad to say that they pull it off brilliantly. The rest of the base crew also contributes what little they can and the characters don’t feel forced or contrived as in some of the previous stories.
All in all this succeeds where The Anger Games and Earthstop/Sunset Forever fail, that is to provide a satisfying end to a story.
Rating - 8/10
"THE WINDOW MAN IS REAL"
A Doctor-lite story, you say. What! Like Love and Monsters. No, like Blink.
Ed my friend, you certainly have a talent and most certainly have a fan in me now. What a brilliant piece of work. I must comment on your writing style, because it's one that I prefer over others. Very script-like in nature, I love how the entire plot is driven by gripping dialogue and fast cuts between many conversations over time. And it all comes together magnificently.
Your command over handling multiple characters and multiple voices is noteworthy and commendable. Plus the fact that you kept me on my toes and invested the entire time is nothing short of spectacular. Generally I have a tendency to get restless if the story starts to bore me but yours was the one that swept by like a breeze without me even noticing. The eerie atmosphere and the mystery was very deftly maintained and just kept me hooked.
The only shortcoming that I think I see is that the story might lose its charm on a revisit but I'm going to let that go because I hardly re-read fan fiction. Very out-of-the-box and very well written.
Rating - 9/10
"Doctor, you've made mistakes, but you can make it up… save Autumn…"
Bigger on the Inside or Autumn Rivers revealed as I like to call it is the story of who Autumn Rivers is and how and why she came to be with the Doctor. Great for Autumn fans but not for me. You see I've avoided mentioning Autumn throughout this review for a reason and the reason is this story.
When Autumn was first revealed in the Earthstop, I found her to be extremely cocky and dislikable, and Genie I think it was great that you made the Doctor refuse her proposal to board the TARDIS, because the Doctor would never take someone like that on board but in The Planet Makers when you made the Doctor accept her as a companion, well it felt odd and very unlike the Doctor to me but the fact is that she is your creation and the Doctor is your interpretation of him so it is not a thing that I can objectively judge.
What I can judge however are her motivation which feel very incongruent. You see the reason she hates the Doctor is because she judges him for deciding the fate of her planet, but then she does so herself by assisting the Epicurus on various expeditions against the Plant. You say that the planet they destroy in The Planet Makers is hers but she doesn't come to know until everything is over, how odd for a character that is generally on top of every detail. If it is hers then isn't she equally guilty? Isn't she a hypocrite because she would allow some other planet to have the same fate for which she herself seeks retribution? In Extinction she decides to kill the baby to save a million others but why is it wrong when the Doctor makes the same choice (and he doesn't, Valerie makes it for him)?
Autumn was a character that I grew to like as the story progressed but this story effectively deconstructed her as character. The criticisms were fair but not the motivation, some of it even felt forced. A story works best when you are able to feel what the characters are feeling. All I could feel through Autumn was cowardice, hypocrisy, unkindness, naivety, inexperience and angst. Perhaps it was intentional, perhaps we are supposed to not like her, in that you have succeeded but then the Doctor shouldn't care. I must commend you because in her you have created a very distinct and puzzling character, but one that I will not like to revisit in the future.
CLARA: So, I may have accidentally invented a boyfriend.
DOCTOR: Yeah, I did that once and there's no easy way to get rid of an android.
- The Time of the Doctor
As far as the android companions are concerned well that was a very bold decision to take, I personally wouldn't have preferred that exposition but let's just say that Eight did it when it got very lonely and that he probably doesn't remember them in his future personalities.
I've personally always liked the idea of a companion betraying the Doctor but this is not I think how it should be executed. However this is a story in which the reveal is genuinely shocking even if I don't agree with it.
Rating - 7/10
"I want you to remember me, and christen me. I want you to remember that speech, and I want you to remember what I mean to you and who I really am: the Oncoming Storm."
Hell yeah, that is THE Doctor. Unwavering even in the face of death, never cruel or cowardly, never giving up, and never giving in. You can't even begin to imagine how happy I felt when I read that speech. Exceptional writing. This is what Doctor Who really is. It works to provide hope and courage. This is the first time in the entirety of the Series where Eight really feels like the Doctor. Bravo.
"Run, you clever boy… and…"
Too many feels. Whoo!! *Claps*. That was totally unexpected. The rest of the story progresses very linearly and things happen in a very Big Finish sort of way but that's okay. We always need stories like these to remember the scope of the elements that we are dealing with. Very RTD-esque both in terms of scale and in terms of cliffhanger...seriously what?
PS: Genie if you and anybody other in the gang ever gets to do official Doctor Who. Drop an email will you? I would most definitely love to review it. :)