Stranded continues the adventures of the Eighth Doctor, Liv, Helen and Tania (plus others…) though it’s officially switched from being stranded in modern day London to being stranded in an alternate timeline where a British corporation / cult named Divine Intervention has dominated the planet and went on to do the same to many planets in the future. Welcome departure or disappointing one? Let’s take a look at the first two stories and see if we find out!
Official Synopsis (of Episode 1 “Patience”):
The Doctor decides to investigate the limits of the paradoxical timeline in which he and his friends are stranded.
But they find themselves hunted by a force of mercenary Judoon. It seems that Earth’s altered history has changed the whole universe…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Both episodes are mixed bags, though episode 1, “Patience”, had more good than bad. The Doctor is being chased by Judoon and so in desperation uses some Gallifreyan tech that resembles a pack of cards to transport himself to one place, Liv and Andy to another place and Tania and Helen to a third place. A lot of the episode is comprised of the companions trying to work out where they are and how they got there while The Doctor tells a fairy tale of a woman who patiently waited to try and have a child through various magic means. The mystery was good enough that my attention didn’t drift but I can’t say I was that riveted. Eventually The Doctor reforms his posse and reveals that Liv and Andy were in the past of a planet while Helen and Tania were in the future of it (with a side effect that seemingly revealed Liv and Tania will have a child in the future, though only Helen figured that out…)
The Judoon that were following them were “defeated” by being in a time loop with The Doctor, though many of them were also de-aged back into nothing (apart from an old Judoon who only de-aged into a baby). The story ends with The Doctor confirming that the alternate Earth they found themselves in has also had a dramatic effect on the greater universe. It was fine but the idea of “advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” being taken completely literally by being a set of playing cards was a bit much and Nicholas Briggs gave a new Judoon voice for the old man Judoon and sadly it ended up sounding like an Ice Warrior, so that was distracting…
I have to say, that’s a pretty poor cover. Something is very off with Paul McGann’s head and the generic blue background doesn’t help any…
While I can’t say it was actually that bad I really didn’t get on with Episode 2 “Twisted Folklore”. Basically everyone is on a planet that had been invaded by Earth/Divine Intervention who were then pacifying the local population but manipulating the children with false stories from a book they claim is from “The Doctor”. Liv and Helen are hiding within Divine Intervention while Tania is hiding as an Earth soldier and The Doctor is stirring up a revolution via radio broadcasts where he tells fairy tales. This immediately annoyed me because it sounded so similar to The Doctor telling a fairy tale in the previous episode. Anyway, Tania is found out and goes on the run with The Doctor, who soon reveals he’s found a deadly worm-like creature in a resistance member, while Liv is found out and infected with one herself and Helen joins up with Divine Intervention scientist Victoria Wilks (Rakie Ayola), the person responsible for coming up with the plan to infect the entire local populace with the deadly parasite that could be trigged by releasing a second half of the worm into the air, therefore getting complete compliance through fear. Just when it seemed like Liv was going to die The Doctor reveals that the worms were native to the planet and that the actual fairy tale (or folklore, I guess, given the title…) was that a song the lizard-like people normally sang naturally killed the worms, so they sang and all the worms were destroyed.
It was an odd story, with plenty of on-the-nose analogies of colonialism and general racism that were so straight forward that they didn’t really have any impact. The fact that everyone was undercover, the idea of the invading humans twisting the folklore and even the visual description of the native species were all slowly trotted out and it just felt like I’d missed something rather than being cleverly written. Like I said, not bad, it had its moments, but not that engaging.
Not a lot, beyond the overall narrative beginning with the first Stranded story “Lost Property” and picking up from the previous one “The Long Way Round”. Plus Liv mentions having spent a year away from the TARDIS a couple of times, which happened in “Escape From Kaldor”.
Stranded 3 gets off to a somewhat subdued start. “Patience” is the better of the two but they both have The Doctor reading fairy tales as a plot device and both have the same feeling of taking an idea for a story and doing it, or at least parts of it, completely straight with zero room for subtly that felt almost insulting. A mixed bag for both so I’ll go down the middle with them, but fingers crossed the next half improves…