Ten top stories from New Who
More DVDs to watch to celebrate 50 years of Tardis travel
Human Nature/The Family of Blood
The third of three stories listed here that was based on non-canon Doctor Who fiction, Paul Cornell’s two-parter is one of the few tales from Russell T Davies’ period of stewardship where the emotion feels genuinely part of the story and not lathered on for effect, soap style.
You have to wonder why the Time Lords would ever devise a device that transforms their proud Gallifreyan physiology into a feeble human one, giving up regenerative power, two hearts, faster reactions and greater intellect. Nor would they leave their Time Lordly essence in something as easily mislaid as a pocket watch.
But of course it’s merely the McGuffin that gets the Doctor into a place where he’s not only has to face deadly foes without his trademark savvy and cockiness but falls under the spell of human love too.
Yes, head over heels for Jessica Hynes’ Joan Redfern he goes, making him entirely unable to deal with the Family of Blood and their army of scarecrows, at least until he gets his watch - and thus his mojo - back.
The sequence when the Doctor imagines his finite but full human life as it might be if he remained ‘normal’ is genuinely affecting, though there can be few viewers who wouldn’t trade it all in for the ability to piss off around the universe and have the time of your lives - which is, of course, the flaw in any attempt to win viewers’ sympathies for the Doctor because he can never have a ‘human’ life.
More poignant though is the acknowledgement that the Doctor’s sacrifice of a fulfilled human life was as nothing compared to that of the youngsters sent off to fight in the trenches of the Western Front. You have to be a cynic indeed not to feel a tug of the heart at the story’s final, very appropriate Remembrance Day scene.
Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel
Having brought back the Daleks, New Who was always going to have to revive the Doctor’s second most famous adversaries too. With the Cybermen, however, we get not only a return but the closest we’ve ever come to a ‘genesis’ story too.
Now, purists will baulk at a Cybermen creation tale that makes no reference to Mondas or Telos, and has the metal beings formed here on Earth. But even in the classic series, the origin of the Cybermen was made more murky with almost every passing story. So you can see why Russell T Davies and scriptwriter Tom McRae simply decided to draw a line under established continuity but nonetheless not break it with this parallel universe plot.
And it gets to the heart of the monsters’ advent. Even on Mondas, in the main Doctor Who universe, the Cybermen emerged out of ageing Mondasians’ fear of disease and death, a universal motivation.
More to the point, we get a beefy new Cyber design that emphasises their metallic mettle. Gone are the silver-sprayed wetsuits and flight suits of old, replaced a steel armoured exoskeleton with integrated weaponry. They’re clearly tougher too, taking some serious firepower rather than catapulted pound coins (Silver Nemesis) to take them down.
And what more signals the casual atrocity of the Cyber conversion process than Tight Fit’s take on The Lion Sleeps Tonight echoing through the Lumic factory?