The Stranded story arc resumes with… well, Stranded 2, and we kick off with the revelation that the TARDIS has healed to the point of time travel, but is still very much rooted to the spot. It’s an interesting twist and one that thankfully doesn’t get in the way of the new “family” of companions The Doctor has found himself with. So let’s take a look at the first half of the set, shall we?
Synopsis (of Episode 1 “Dead Time”):
The Doctor wants to take the TARDIS on a test flight. But he has rather more passengers than he’d like. Soon, the crew are stranded once again in an uncertain future. One where planet Earth appears to be dead. And very soon, so will any visitors…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“Dead Time” kicks off this new time machine only phase with the trip to the far, far future. The Doctor, Liv and Helen are joined by Liv’s partner / Torchwood agent Tania, policeman / Torchwood affiliate Andy and Robin, the moody teen from their flats, so a good chunk of the new regulars basically (I’ve decided to count them like companions and not list their actors/actresses names each review, in case you’re wondering) They arrive in a barren wasteland, which surprises most of them given the TARDIS is still rooted into the same spot in London. What’s also new is that the TARDIS interior walls are now entirely see-through, acting like a massive one-way mirror, which is a fun concept, and sort of wasted on an audio production, but there you go. The Doctor, Liv, Tania and Andy go exploring while Helen looks after Robin in the TARDIS, though he manages to give her the slip. Soon The Doctor and Tania are searching up a mountain while Liv and Andy search a mysterious bunker that has both an unnerving countdown timer and a potentially killer robot.
Liv and Andy meet back up with The Doctor, Tania and now Helen, who is desperate to find the missing Robin. They stop the robot and our titular Time Lord makes an unpleasant discovery: there are many more of these robots and they’re all equipped with nanomachines that will release deadly radiation and sterilise the planet, rob it of what little micro life still clings to it. Meanwhile Robin made his way into the bunker and the AI recognises him as a key person in humanity’s history and seemingly “upgrades him” in some way off screen, he later denies anything happening to him, so there’s a plot thread to pick up later! Everyone makes it back to the TARDIS and The Doctor has his ship absorb all the radiation to not only save what’s left of Earth but restore his ship’s energy. It was a fun little story, and had some good dialogue between both The Doctor and Tania, and Liv and Andy, plus a bit of fun with The Doctor and Andy too.
Episode 2, “UNIT Dating”, is an odd one. Gay couple Ron and Tony (David Shaw-Parker and Jeremy Clyde, I guess they had too small a role for me to mention them last time…) are having an argument, and Liv and Helen soon figure out it’s because Tony is having memory issues, and not regular dementia, but because The Doctor is currently meddling in the past and directly effecting him. This turns out to be true as at the same time The Doctor and Tania are back in 70s (or is it 80s etc, etc) UNIT in an attempt to steal his past self’s work on repairing his ship, knowing the Time Lords are about to return full functionality to the TARDIS anyway. While they’re there they get caught in your classic (and possibly over-played now…) time loop story involving an Ogron, The Brigadier, a young UNIT soldier named Ron Winters (Oscar Batterham) and a young UNIT scientist named Tony Clare (Ewan Goddard) There are some funny things, including Tania nearly stopping the young couple from getting together, or one loop where Ron is killed, which isn’t funny but worth mentioning…
Eventually The Doctor sets it right by fixing the Ogron’s time device using the very equipment he came to steal for himself, though not before a really lovely scene where he tells The Brigadier how much he meant to him and apologised for being a bit of an arse. Obviously this loop was one of the ones than vanished, but it was still nice. Modern day Ron and Tony have a dance now they’re fine again, so all’s well and all that.
Not much to say, though I will say I didn’t really enjoy the half of “UNIT Dating” set in the present. Lots of unpleasant dementia-like scenes, Helen just suddenly bringing up that she had a brother that was arrested for being gay and therefore disowned by his father, but she never forgot him… It was more modern drama than I like in my Who, as mentioned in past reviews. Ron and Tony’s struggles to come out to each other in the 70s was enough of a commentary of how far things have come, no need for Helen to ram the point home with the “did you know being Gay was illegal once and I had a never-mentioned brother who was arrested for it?” story literally out of the blue.
I know I say this a lot, but it is a shame there aren’t individual covers, I mean The Curator has nothing to do with this review…
Nothing major. “Dead Time” features both Tania and Andy referring to the fact that they can’t mention that they work for Torchwood because it’s the Tenth Doctor that accidentally creates it, so the current Doctor can’t find out. This is a reference to both “Tooth and Claw” and “Army of Ghosts / Doomsday”, the latter of which The Doctor clearly states “Torchwood? Never heard of it!”. There is also a mention of Liv’s sister Tula, which links to the Ravenous story “Escape from Kaldor”, plus a bunch of spin-offs I haven’t got round to…
“UNIT Dating” is specifically set in between the Third Doctor stories “Day of the Daleks” and “The Three Doctors”, at least the 70s part anyway. The Doctor mentions to Tania that he once fought off a pterodactyl with a mop in the London Underground, a reference to a later Third Doctor TV story “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”.
A good double bill of Stranded stories. It further develops some of the tenants of Baker Street and their tangled relationships while also making good use of time travel, in both directions. Looking forward to seeing where we go next…