Doctor Who: 4 Modern Series Masterpieces Lifted From Classic Who
I'm filling my time waiting for the 50th Anniversary by doing a lot of reading and rewatching and relistening to the various Doctor Who adventures available to me. If you count the books, the Big Finish audio stories, and the episodes themselves there is approximately infinite Doctor Who to experience if you have the time and money to do it.
What you find sometimes, though, is that with 50 years of ideas invested in the franchise it gets very hard to come up with original ones for new stories. The modern show has had some fantastic moments and scenes and ideas, and many of them are brilliant inventions by seasoned writers of science fiction.
And then there are other that apparently just thought no one would ever go back and find where they originally got the idea from in the first place. Such as...
"Victory of the Daleks" is a Remake of Power of the Daleks": In "Victory" The Doctor is recently off a regeneration and saddled with a companion that doesn't quite trust him yet as he is called to the middle of World War II. There, Winston Churchill shows off his latest weapon against the Nazis, Daleks. Of course, it's all a ruse by the Daleks to lure The Doctor to them in order to use his recognition of them to jumpstart a machine to produce more Daleks.
It's a hell of a good episode, and it should be because they'd already done it before. "Power of the Daleks" in 1966 was Patrick Troughton's first adventure. In it, his companions Ben Jackson and Polly Wright have to learn to trust him after they've watched him regenerate from the First Doctor. The Tardis lands on a space colony that is embroiled in a bitter war between a dictatorial governor and an underground freedom fighter network. Depowered Daleks are discovered, and the governor plans to use them to win the fight and to replace the dead workers once that's accomplished. The Daleks play along in order to use the colony to repower their reproduction machine.
It's easy to steal from "Power" because most people haven't seen it. No episodes currently exist, and the novelization costs almost $40. All the hallmarks are there, though. The Daleks in both episodes repeatedly say, "I am your servant" and claim to want to help "Win the war" without telling the listener which war. The Doctor recognizes the Daleks in both episodes but no one will listen to them, and in both his companions can't vouch for him because they haven't seen Daleks themselves. In both episodes a scientist that believes he brought the Daleks to life finds out he was being controlled all along. The only really difference is that in "Power" the Doctor actually succeeds in stopping the Daleks.
"Human Nature" Was a Seventh Doctor Novel: The two-parter "Human Nature" and "Family of Blood" may very well be the best moments in all of Season 3 of the modern series. In order to escape from shapeshifting aliens The Doctor locks his memories in a pocket watch as becomes John Smith, a teacher in 1910s Farringham. Martha Jones stays close by to watch him under the guise of a chambermaid, watching as The Doctor falls in love with a woman named Joan and prepares to defend his school against his enemies using English warfare.
Doctor Who fans would recognize the story and the writer, Paul Cornell from the eBook of the same name released in 2002. That was part of the New Adventures line. It starred the Seventh Doctor rather than the Tenth, and book companion Bernice Summerfield instead of Martha, but was otherwise identical. The Doctor still falls in love with Joan, the aliens (Called in this case the Aubertide) track the Time Lord because regeneration would give them eternal life, and it results in a showdown that foreshadows World War I. In both cases The Doctor penned science fiction tales based on his own, un-remembered life.
One interesting shake-up that doesn't appear in the episode but does in the book is that the Aubertide briefly impersonate a later incarnation of The Doctor? Which one? They pretend to be the Tenth.
The Vashta Narada's Last Word Repeatings Appear in a Second Doctor Short Story: "Silence in the Library" was another particularly excellent two-parter for Ten, not the least because of the horror that was the Vashta Narada. Microscopic carnivorous organisms, they would hide in the shadows and instantly strip anything they touched to the bone. More chilling was their ability later to manipulate the corpses of their victims still in their space suits to pursue their prey into the light, all the while their suits would endlessly repeat the poor victim's last words.
It's a frightful trick because it combines the senselessness of the words themselves after death with the desecration of the corpse. The Doctor had encountered it before in his Second incarnation with Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield. They briefly stopped by in 1866 at the house of Victoria's family friend Charles Westbrooke in Andy Campbell's 2004 short story "Age of Ambition." To their dismay, they find Westbrooke has been trying to reanimate the dead with gruesome results. Victoria narrates...
"You have been a wonderful wife, my dear," he said again, apparently addressing me; and I realized with a cold thrill of horror that he was simply repeating mindlessly, without sense or purpose, the only remnant of human thought that still resided in his decaying brain: his final words in life....
My terror was made perfect by the old man's evident hostility, in contrast to the tenderness of his words. Now he was advancing more rapidly, his arms outstretched to grasp me.
Then again, there's also the fact that Steven Moffat stole the whole skeleton in a space suit bit from Scooby Doo.
"The Doctor's Wife" is a Lot Like a Seventh Doctor Comic Strip: Neil Gaiman's first contribution to the world of Doctor Who was "The Doctor's Wife," and it's rightly regarded as one of the best stories ever told. In it, The Doctor leaves the known universe, only to be attacked by an incorporeal entity that that has murdered hundreds of Time Lords. Even the Tardis itself is no refuge, as the entity, House, infiltrates it and takes it over.
After the episode premiered sharp-eyed fans noticed that it was very similar to a really obscure comic story by John Tomlinson and Cam Smith called "Nineveh" that appeared in Incredible Hulk Presents #12 in 1989. In that story the Seventh Doctor leaves the known universe to find himself in a null place littered with the junked remains of Tardises. The Watcher of Nineveh, who claims to have killed hundreds of Time Lords pursues him. Even the art ended up being very similar to the planet that House lived on.
It's probably a coincidence. Gaiman is famously well-versed in obscure comic lore (When he asked if he could kill Element Girl in the pages of Sandman DC asked, "Who?"), and he's a longtime devourer of spinoff Doctor Who material. Still, he originally intended House to be the Great Intelligence, which makes it unlikely that he was inspired by an unrelated villain he could have just used if he wanted to, and the comic story contains nothing of the personification of the Tardis at all. History just tends to repeat itself around The Doctor, seeing how he makes so much of it himself.
Join Jef this Saturday at Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park for more classic Who fun as we screen the Fifth Doctor story "The Caves of Androzani. Free admission and prizes awarded for answering trivia questions!
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