Retrospective: Doom Coalition

When the new Doctor Who boss arrives, wouldn’t it be brilliant if there was a Doctor Who/Broadchurch crossover!? It such an obvious and amazing idea if you think about it! So I’m going to make it my business to ask Chibnall if it’s going to happen at every opportunity for the whole of his tenure. And call him an @rs*hole if he doesn’t cheer, agree immediately, and commission a three-hour TV special.

Not as tall as RTD (#chibnallmustgrow), without the coarse wiry hair sported by The Moff (#chibnallmustgoat): Yes, Your Chibness, you’ve got some big shoes to fill (presuming that it’s a requirement of the job to always wear Russell T Davies’ size 14 brogues). Maybe that’s why the-usually-consistently-brilliant Moffat occasionally put a foot wrong, his tiny hairy Hobbit feet clomping about in those whoppers.

But, before we get to review Doom Coalition (stick with me, and – yes – I expect YOU to contribute) the main thing we need to confirm is what we will call the next showrunner? CTC? The Chibb? We only have many, many, many months to decide. And we’ve been suffering, haven’t we, dear reader? Or, indeed, readers, plural, in the off-chance that two people are consuming this weighty tome. (Can a webpage be a weighty tome?) Yes, we’ve suffered. Because we’ve had roughly 14,512 days WITHOUT DOCTOR WHO ON TELLY. And there’s even more time to wait! I know! But before you take a hammer to your flat-screen, you do have options and most of them start with Big Finish. Which you play on a music player anyway, so smash away, kids!

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One way you can fill your time is by reading all of the 45,386 articles (45,386½ if you include this one) on the Internet about what you can do to sate your insatiable appetite for more and more and more Doctor Who before Capaldi comes back at Christmas. All of them (including this one) will invariably include two of the most frightening words in the English language…

DOOM COALITION. Where’ve you gone? Come out from behind the sofa, stick your trousers under the hand dryer, and take a sniff of RTD’s inner sole… ‘Doom’ speaks for itself, but ‘coalition’ has only recently joined the pantheon of the universe’s scariest words. Or at least it was there early last year when the Big Finish Top Brass sat ‘round discussing how to top Dark Eyes. If they were brainstorming titles today they would surely come up with the (far more terrifying) DOOM MAJORITY GOVERNMENT.

Unnh… Shoes, must find RTD’s shoes… Unhand me, madam… Sorry, blacked out there for a second. Now, at the risk of this review being a series of seemingly off-topic asides. Oh ye of little faith (don’t you just hate it when people say that?). I want to let you in on a secret which will surely mean I am cast out of The Magic Reviewers Circle for revealing our dark arts. Before anyone writes a review of anything, they always read other reviews written by other people first. For example, before I sat on my golden Review Throne and attached the mind probe, I Googled ‘Doom Coalition reviews’ to see what lesser mortals thought of the latest McGann offering.

And, by and large, people really liked it. Probably more than me, granted, but everyone’s entitled to tell everyone in the whole universe their own unchallengeable opinions (have you ever met the Internet?).

My next step was to take a quick peek back at DWM 494 to see what the trusty people from the premier Who publication thought of Doom C. And, somewhat surprisingly, the reviewer seemed to place it alongside Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, and Be Here Now by Oasis as one of the greatest cultural achievements of all time. ‘The Eighth Doctor’s latest outing is proper edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting drama… After Dark Eyes, I hoped for a miracle. And that’s what I got. Incredible.’

Flip back two pages and this is how the same issue summed up one of the most astonishing runs of Doctor Who Series 9: ‘But in 2015, at last, we had the Doctor again. Just the Doctor in all his glory. Same old, same old – but never business as usual.’

Spot the difference? I mean, if you had somehow managed to survive on planet Earth never having experienced Doctor Who before (a tear, Sarah Jane?) and picked up DWM 494 to find out where to start, you’d bin the Capaldi Blu-Rays, put your headphones on, and reach for DC…

And, I’m guessing, you might be slightly disappointed. Yes, it’s a good run of episodes: a solid start, a scary and brilliant second, bit average third and… What a mess of a final episode. Which almost everyone else seemed to love. Unconditionally. Is there a hidden hypno-track that didn’t download properly for me?

Cast your mind back, back, back to reviews of Heaven Sent… Such a brave, disturbing and flawlessly performed piece of television that, if it was a one-off drama on BBC Two, The Moff would have had to duck to protect his coarse wiry hair from people throwing BAFTAs at him. Yet some fans employed the unthinking Who fan’s favourite hashtag #worstepisodeever just like the silly twits do every week.

Yet, I haven’t see one review that mentions how so very disappointing the conclusion of the Doom Coalition season closer, The Satanic Mill, is. Without spoiling the ending. Oh, never mind – you can’t spoil something that’s rotten in the first place…

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So, WITH spoiling the ending:

The story so far: The Doctor is trapped, about to be killed, ejected into a star which will take the whole of Earth’s solar system with it. Then we hear the sonic screwdriver buzz and he disappears and materialises back in the safety of the TARDIS. His companions (and we listeners) are curious as to what just happened.

Liv Chenka: Just one thing.

The Doctor: Anything.

Liv Chenka: What happened back there? How did the TARDIS find you?

The Doctor: You didn’t think I’d walk into what was clearly a trap without an escape plan. Did you?

Liv Chenka: Of course not.

The Doctor: You did.

Liv Chenka: Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

The Doctor: Oh ye of little faith.

Helen Sinclair: But how did you do it?

The Doctor: Given the number of times I keep losing her lately I programmed the Sonic Screwdriver with the commands necessary to automatically send the TARDIS to find me. Sort of a ‘return to sender’ setting…

Yes, the Doctor pressed a magic button and he escaped. Incredible. And from now on, whenever he is in any danger in the future, the Doctor can just press the same magic escape button, so we don’t have to have all those annoying adventures ever again. Except if he forgets to press the magic escape button from now on. Then he would have to resort to using his intelligence, guile, ingenuity (and, occasionally, his bloody fists for four and a half billion years) to escape.

Can you imagine if RTD or The Moff had ended a series like that? The Internet would literally explode in a perfect oncoming storm of righteous anger, ham-fisted bun-vending hyperbole and smug self-satisfaction, with the phrase Deus Ex Machina repeated endlessly by people who neither knew nor cared what it meant.

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But somehow The Satanic Mill got away with it despite all the pesky kids with their blogs and smartphones. So, my advice to Chris C is to make Doctor Who using a tape recorder. Then you can get away with pretty much anything.

The Doctor: I’m glad you asked how I did it, Roxy, because there’s no way the viewers at home would have known otherwise, there being no foreshadowing of this in the script. You see, three weeks ago, in an untelevised adventure, before I rescued you from the Ogron Space Brothel, I made a magic science potion so that if I used the code word ‘tranny’, Missy would turn back into a man with man-parts and the universe would be put back to rights. Hooray for me!

So, there you have it. What do you mean, ‘it’s not really a review’? I told you I’ve been thrown out of The Magic Reviewers Circle, and about time too. So I’ve basically got to find another outlet for my Doctor Who ravings. Do you think Big Finish would let me pitch a script? No, you’re probably right. DWM? Yeah, them too. Well, there’s nothing for it, but I’ll have to escape to the universe as a Renegade Reviewer. Do you wanna come with me?

(Now, as promised, it’s time for YOU to contribute.)

You: Just one thing. You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old Review Throne?

Me: Why not? After all, that’s how it all started… Now, I may get into danger, so I must remember to make myself a magic escape button. Hooray for me!

[Correction: After this article was published, the DWC was alerted to the fact that Russell T Davies did not actually wear brogues during his time as Doctor Who showrunner. We apologise for any distress this error may have caused.]

Doom Coalition is out now, priced £40 on CD or £35 as a download.

(Adapted from an article originally published on Kasterborous in February 2016.)