"The TARDIS is gone. Stranded in one time and place, the Doctor, Liv and Helen seek refuge in Baker Street. But the house has changed: they now have neighbours – not all of them welcoming. And someone has a dire warning for the future. The Doctor and friends face their greatest challenge yet: living one day after another, in 2020 London."
These sets go into production years in advance of release... plotting, scripting, even recording. It will be interest to to see if they were able to incorporate anything in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic at the last minute.
1,2 - Lost Property
1.2 - Wild Animals
1.3 - Must-See TV
1.4 - Divine Intervention
PICTURED: Tania, the Curator, Helen, the Doctor, Liv, Andy and Mr. Bird.
Fist of all, there's no mention of the COVID-19 pandemic even though the action is set in 2020 London. Knowing the lead time (these episodes were probably recorded in 2019), I didn't really expect there would be, but I thought they might have been able to slip in a reference in post. No matter. I think the story picks up from the end of "Ravenous" but I'm not certain. I really don't remember, and my recap of the last episode is not that descriptive. The Doctor has had a "safe house" on Baker Street he uses from time to time dating back at least as far as his fifth incarnation (on audio). Badly damaged, the TARDIS instinctively sought out this destination, then gave up the ghost.
As the story opens, the TARDIS has reverted to a simple wooden police box. People have been using it as a book exchange (take one, leave one). The Doctor left his house under the management of Thomas Brewster ("The Haunting of Thomas Brewster," "The Crimes of Thomas Brewster," "The Boy Time Forgot," etc.), but he has disappeared. Before he left, however (and very much against the doctor's wishes), Brewster had the house converted into a block of flats, so now the Doctor is a landlord.
The way it's been set up, rent only just covers the basic expenses of running the flats. With the Doctor, Liv and Helen now stranded there, there is not enough money for them to live on. The Doctor, as personable as he can be when helping someone out of trouble, is not very sociable otherwise. Whereas Helen and Liv have taken the time to get to known their flatmates, the Doctor avoids them. There are five or six flats in the building, so although he no longer has a TARDIS, the Doctor does have a whole "crew" of supporting characters.
One of them is Mr. Midge, the caretaker. He knows the Doctor in several of his incarnations, but he doesn't necessarily know them in order. One of them has left a sort of "puzzle box" which ends up being a sort of message from an alternate future version of himself (i.e., Eighth Doctor), who has been stranded on Earth for hundreds of years. When Midge tells him it was left by a tall version of the Doctor with white hair, his first thought is the Third doctor, but he soon realizes it was a future version of himself and doesn't inquire further.
Tom Baker is in Stranded, but not as the Fourth Doctor, but rather as the Curator. He interacts with Liv and Helen, but not with the Doctor. When one of the characters asks, "Do you have a [phone] number?" he replies, "Yes, but it's a rather high one."
This first episode is mainly set-up, but I find myself very much looking forward to what happens next.
Usually Doctor Who is discussed in terms of being historical (or quasi-historical) or science fiction, but Stranded is the only contemporary arc I can think of with no science fiction elements. It's just the Doctor, Liv and Helen trying to cope with ordinary life. Liv has taken a job in a convenience store, but the Doctor is restless and is having trouble keeping busy, finding something to do and fitting in. Then there is a robbery at Liv's shop. The owner is killed and Liv is shot. The Doctor offers his services to the police, who react... well, just about as you might expect they would to a self-professed "genius" offering his services. He sets himself up as bait and does manage to apprehend a mugger, but it is the police who catch the real murderer.
There is a transgender actor in the cast who plays a transgender housemate living in the Baker Street flat and who asks Liv out on a date. She accepts (both the date and Tania's orientation).
The episode ends with the Doctor and Helen visiting the zoo and the Doctor comparing himself to the animals confined there. the next day, someone has freed all of the birds native to England's climate.
Tania Bell (Liv's girlfriend), we learn early on in this episode, is working undercover for Torchwood. Her police liaison is Sgt. Andy Davidson (Gwen's friend from Torchwood, pictured above). He shows up one day at the Baker Street flat, in uniform, inquiring about Tania. Liv answers the door and covers for Tania, but shells Liv that she and Andy are old friends. They both seem to know that the Eighth doctor is "too early" to learn about Torchwood without disrupting the timeline, so they have to be secretive. Andy thought it would be a good idea to show up in uniform and pretend he's there on some sort of official police business, but doing so (plus the way they act around her) only served to make Liv suspicious.
Meanwhile, a new tenant, Mr. Bird, has moved into the flat. He is generally affable and has quickly become the unofficial handyman for all the other tenants. He lives in the rooms that the Doctor once occupied, while the doctor himself has sequestered himself in the attic.
At one point, Liv and the Doctor discover that their television set is somehow bugged... with alien technology. It broadcasts a live feed of them in their own rooms, whether the set is plugged in or not. Liv suspects the police, but the Doctor wonders whether or not it might be UNIT. Then they discover that the set of Ron & Tony, an older gay couple who also live in the flat, is similarly bugged... except that their set is showing images of themselves from the future. In fact, all of the sets in the flat are similarly bugged. the next time the Doctor looks at Liv's, the broadcast image demonstrates a slight delay, whereas before it had been live.
The Doctor collects all the TVs from all the flats and discards them, much to the chagrin of his tenant/neighbors. The episode ends in a cliffhanger in which Mr. Bird confronts the Doctor.
It strikes me that it might be helpful if I were to identify the characters on the cover above. From left to right they are: Tania, the Curator, Helen, the Doctor, Liv, Andy and Mr. Bird.
(Initial post modified as well.)
DIVINE INTERVENTION: I was mistaken about "Must-See TV" ending on a cliffhanger. I must have misinterpreted what happened. I'll have to listen to it again. Moving on...
This episode begins with the final minutes of the Doctor participating on a TV quiz show. They did a really good job of mocking one up. The questions are really difficult, but the Doctor is able to answer them all and roll up 80,000 pounds. Now his plan is to go back on the show week after week to earn enough money to repair the TARDIS. Helen and Liv explain to him that he's not going to be allowed to break the bank week after week and suggest that they invest some of the winnings into fixing up the flat.
Meanwhile, Robin, a 15 year old resident of the flat, is being courted by some sort of school which apparently runs some sort of behind-the-scenes shadow government. It ends up bein a front for aliens who blame the Doctor for the destruction of their race at some point in the future. The presence has partially recharged the TARDIS, but we don't know exactly how much.In the extras, someone mentions that in the next set, the TARDIS will regain limited ability to travel in space, so there will be another (presumably 21st century Earth) setting.
Stranded does follow on directly from Ravenous, BTW. I couldn't remember so i listened to the end again. From the last scene with Liv, Helen and the Doctor...
LIV: I thought you said the TARDIS couldn't fly...?
DOCTOR: I said it couldn't fly without an energy source.
The TARDIS was in pretty rough shape, but they had just accessed a source of Artron energy. (The last two tracks were of the Masters bickering among "themselves.") I must have assumed the energy was enough to repair the ship, but apparently it was only enough to allow it to a place of relative safety, the Doctor's "bolt hole" in 21st century London.