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This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Firefly with Time Travel (Review: 'Doctor Who' 8.15-8.20, "Colony in Space") - Part One

[For most of its history, Doctor Who was split into serials each under one title with multiple numbered episodes, usually four or six, but ranging from one to fourteen over the classic era]

A group of intrepid colonists leaving an overcrowded world are facing crop shortages as a mining corporation tries to get rid of them. Suddenly, a spaceship arrives.

It sounds like an episode of Firefly – in fact it’s a serial of Doctor Who aired in 1971, before Whedon had even turned seven years old.

Series 8 of Doctor Who, the second colour season and the second featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) would introduce two of the show’s best known characters, both of whom made appearances as recently as 2010. One of these was Jo Grant. The other was the Master.

Roger Delgado’s portrayal of the Master (it is not a spoiler to say he appears in this story, as he’s on the DVD cover) is a marked contrast to Simm’s madder than a roomful of Victorian hatters approach. He’s urbane, witty – but still utterly insane (telephone cable strangulation, anyone?). Think of Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes – the writers certainly were.

Before we begin, it’s worth setting the scene. After having to call the Time Lords for help (their first actual appearance) in “The War Games”, the Series 6 Finale, the Second Doctor was put on trial for meddling and convicted. His sentence was to forcibly regenerated (a word not yet in use) and exiled to Earth in the 20th century, losing his ability to control his TARDIS. He crash landed, ran into UNIT and the Brigadier, dealt with the Autons (Series Seven’s “Spearhead from Space”) and got a job as their scientific advisor, with a scientist assisting him called Liz Shaw. She lasted for one season – mainly because the new production team (Producer Barry Letts[2] and script editor Terrance Dicks[3]) felt they needed someone who could better act as audience surrogate – i.e. ask the Doctor what’s happening. The team also made the show lighter and more fantasy-based than the “hard sci-fi” Season 7 [1].

With Liz gone, the Doctor found himself saddled with a new assistant, who had used good old fashioned family connections to get herself a job with UNIT. Josephine “Jo” Grant (Jones these days, as she recently appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures), a sometimes ditzy blonde who had failed her Science A-Level, proved her worth in other ways, being not too shabby in a fight.

“Colony in Space” is Jo’s fourth story and her first trip in the TARDIS – in fact she’s never even been in it up to his point and doesn’t believe it’s a time machine that’s bigger on the inside. In fact, it’s the first off-world story since “The War Games”, as the Letts-Dicks team were worried that the show was losing its best selling point and came up with a solution to work around the exile….


[1]That’s not to say it isn’t a good season – “Doctor Who and the Silurians” and “Inferno” are rightly considered classics.

[2]Letts died in 2009 – “The Waters of Mars” was dedicated to him.

[3]Still alive. Wrote an awful lot of Target novelizations and other tie-in books.

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