With the cast and setting firmly established, it’s time to start teasing a longer narrative for the story arc (beyond being “stranded” obviously!) while still having fun with the new regulars. On both these counts the second half of Stranded 1 does exactly that, making for fun stories that also tease more to come. Want more info? Read on!
Synopsis (of Episode 4 “Divine Intervention”):
As the Doctor becomes desperate, Helen and Liv advise him to accept their situation.
Liv makes a date – but gets more than she bargains for when the whole household comes along.
And when a threat from the future finally arrives, the Doctor is placed in real danger. It’s time for the truth to emerge…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The main positive thing I was feeling by the end of these two parts was a sense of family between The Doctor, his companions and the tenants. Tania, a Torchwood agent and current girlfriend of Liv, is fitting in really well and the relationship between the two is extremely believable and sincere sounding, which is extra impressive given its just audio and a lot of this kind of thing is body language. Sgt. Andy Davison, who I’ll be honest I’m only passingly familiar with (never got into Torchwood back in the day, I’ll give it a proper go sometime…) is good in a bumbling sidekick kind of way, and Robin the neglected teenager who is starting to see The Doctor as a father figure is also developing nicely. The other tenants, like Zakia and Aisha Akhar (the relatives of the poor shop owner who was randomly killed in the last episode) and Ron and Tony (an elderly gay couple) are less interesting but do give certain scenes extra flavour.
Basically, the final episode sees The Doctor treat the whole building to a meal after a funny opening scene of him winning a TV Game Show, and the interactions between everyone felt real and pleasant to listen to. The finale was also a bit more Doctor Who-y as it involved aliens coming back in time to try and kill The Doctor out of hope that it would free their people from enslavement at the hands of humanity in 2,000 years time. The Doctor still doesn’t quite know what he has to do with it but tricks them into giving the TARDIS a bit of a jump start… before being killed. His death mind you is such a paradox that the TARDIS springs back to partial-life and revives him in an attempt to fix said paradox, which… erm, is odd, but fine. The Doctor sends the aliens back through time and ponders on what could’ve caused such a shift in established history, while also hoping the TARDIS might be on the mend at last. It was fun, and has Liv, Tania, Andy and Robin all get involved to various degrees, and the rest of the household at least saw the lizard-like aliens for a while, which should lead to an interesting opening to Stranded 2!
I’ll also mention Mr. Bird, a mysterious character who became a helpful tenant and was the focus on Episode 3, “Must-See TV”. He had apparently planted surveillance devices in the other tenants’ TVs but they started malfunctioning, making The Doctor catch on what’s happening. He’s soon revealed to have the ability to teleport and is generally very cryptic before leaving the household. Throw in an organisation who tried to recruit Robin called “Divine Intervention” in the episode of the same name, a phrase the aliens shouted before being sent back, and we have some fun plot threads to pull at over the next three sets. It’s a shame a certain virus has delayed Stranded 2 until next year…
No, The Curator doesn’t appear again, it’s just the “same cover for all four parts” problem again…
The only real bad I can think of is Episode 3’s length, which is barely over 40 minutes. It felt like I was getting into the mystery of Mr. Bird and wondering where it was going to go, and then it stopped. It was more like the final two parts were an hour and a half special, rather than two roughly hour-long episodes as is usual for these kinds of sets.
As mentioned, Sgt. Andy first appeared in the Torchwood TV spin-off (as well as a lot of Torchwood audios), but having never properly sat down and watched or listened to them, I can’t say much more than that for now.
While on the Quiz Show “You Either Know It, Or You Don’t!” The Doctor is asked about the cricket results from 1982, and while thinking The Doctor pictures himself as his fifth self reading the newspaper in Heathrow that year. This actually happened in the opening moments of TV story “Time-Flight”.
The TARDIS recharging thanks to one temporal spark was established as a thing in the Tenth Doctor two-part TV story “Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel”.
The latter half of Stranded 1 was a lot of fun, filled with a good cast of characters, a believable romance blooming and some more Doctor Who-y elements to keep The Doctor still feeling like himself. Things have been set in motion that are genuinely interesting and exciting, so let’s keep our fingers crossed it all plays out well… over the next few years…