"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 interesting to see if they were able to incorporate anything in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic at the last minute.
PICTURED: Tania, the Curator, Helen, the Doctor, Liv, Andy and Mr. Bird.
1,1 - Lost Property - p1
1.2 - Wild Animals - p1
1.3 - Must-See TV - p1
1.4 - Divine Intervention - p1 (3)
2,1 - Dead Time - p1
2.2 - UNIT Dating - p1
2.3 - Baker Street Irregulars - p1
2.4 - The Long Way Round - p1 (3)
3.1 - Patience - p1
3.2 - Twisted Folklore - p2
3.3 - Snow - p3
3.4 - What Just Happened? - p3
4,1 - Crossed Lines- p4
4.2 - Get Andy
4.3 - The Keys of Baker Street
4.4 - Best Year Ever
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.
"The TARDIS is still stranded but the healing process has begun. After living in Baker Street for months, the Doctor, Liv and Helen find their new friends becoming curious about who they really are. But is it wise to tell them, when their future – and their past – are filled with danger? And in the shadows, the Curator is watching."
Before I get to the actual episodes, here's some information about the Doctor's "bolt hole" at 107 Baker Street in London.
"In the extras, someone mentions that in the next set, the TARDIS will regain limited ability to travel in space..."
Either I misheard (or misremembered) that, or someone misspoke, because in this set, the TARDIS regains its ability to travel in time (but not space).
"The Doctor wants to take the TARDIS on a test flight. But he has rather more passengers than he’d like. Soon, the crew are stranded once again in an uncertain future. One where planet Earth appears to be dead. And very soon, so will any visitors."
Following up on the mystery introduced last set, the Doctor and his companions take the partially repaired TARDIS millions of years into the future to get to the bottom of it. Several of his flat-mates finagle their way along, including Robin, the 15-year-old boy. they arrive so far in the future that no trace of humanity survives, no cities, no human beings. At this time, the Earth is populated by a race of robots.
"When the Doctor dips into his past to help TARDIS repairs in the present, Andy joins him on a trip to UNIT. In the 1970s, young soldier Ron Winters has just met lab assistant Tony Clare. But in 2020, they need Liv and Helen’s help when their memories start falling apart."
This story is told in three different sections: 1) Ron and Tony telling Liv and Helen the story of how they met, 2) the flashback to tha story, and 3) the Doctor and Andy in the Doctor's own past with UNIT while stranded on Earth decades ago. Little by little, the three stories converge.
The Doctor decides he needs a certain part to continue the repairs on the TARDIS, a part he can get only by nicking it from his own past self. Meanwhile, in 2020, Liv asks Ron and Tony (the two elderly gay men who live in the Baker Street flat) how they met. They reveal that they were both UNIT soldiers, which launches a flashback. They have known about the doctor all along but couldn't decided when to let everyone know or even in they should. Soon, ron begins to lose his memories, probably do to something the Doctor and Andy are doing in the past. Liv and Helen must figure out a way to get a message back in time to him.
"Meanwhile," the Doctor has produced two UNIT ID badges (without pictures) for himself and Andy in the names of "Dr. J. Smith" and his assistant, "J. Grant." Ron and Tony are both new to UNIT, are both in the closet, and haven't met each other yet. They hear of the Doctor and of his assistant who "has an eye for the soldiers." When they meet Andy, they assume that he is "Joe." The Doctor has a remarkable meeting with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. In 2020, Liv and Helen learn that Ron was killed back in his UNIT days, and Tony begins to "remember" that happening.
I'm not going to reveal anymore but, after the resolution of the main plot, Helen reveals to Liv that she once had a brother who was gay, back when being homosexual was a criminal offense in England. Liv and Helen have been traveling together as the Doctor's assistants for years at this point, and Helen has never mentioned it before. When Helen was young and her brother's secret was revealed, he was "sent away" never to be seen again, and her father disowned him.
Off all of the ongoing and new "Doctor Who" series, Stranded is the one I am enjoying most.
"Of all of the ongoing and new "Doctor Who" series, Stranded is the one I am enjoying most."
Tracy has a solo road trip coming up in a couple of weeks, and I asked her which (if any) Big Finish audios she might want to take along for the drive. Right off the bat she said, "Not that one you're listening to now where they're stuck on Earth." This is the one I was going to recommend! (She's heard some of it.) That's what makes horseraces, I guess.
BAKER STREET IRREGULARS:
"The Doctor takes Zakia and Aisha to see some family history: their grandmother had her own secret life in Baker Street, during World War II. As Tania and Liv try to defuse an unexploded bomb, the sisters face explosive revelations of their own."
Stranded returns Doctor Who to its roots, in a way, by alternating sci-fi adventures with "historicals." This is not a "true" historical, however, in that the "unexploded bomb" (uncovered in 2021) ends up being an alien stasis chamber. The sisters learn something about their grandmother (one of them does, anyway), while in the present, Liv and Tania take their relationship to the next level when they decide to commit to getting a cat.
THE LONG WAY ROUND:
"Something is wrong with Earth’s future – so the Doctor decides to see it for himself. But very soon, the travelers are captured. Someone seems to know their every move. An interrogator wants answers, but do they even know the right questions?"
The year is 2050. England is a fascist regime. As the story opens, the Doctor and company (Liv, Helen, Tania and Andy) have already been captured and are in the process of being interrogated, one by one, by a woman named Holbrook. "Meanwhile" in 2020, the Curator is "interrogating" a 12-year-old girl named Jemma who has noticed the TARDIS coming and going. About halfway through we learn that "Jemma" and "Holbrook" are the same person. We also learn that Holbrook is not working for the government. she is part of the resistance, and the government was actually set up by the Doctor, the same "Doctor" who was/will be responsible for the genocide of the alien race in "Divine Intervention."
After interrogating the Doctor and company, it has become increasingly difficult for Holbrook to believe that the Doctor is responsible for the status quo, and it is actually something the Currator said to her 30 years earlier which planted the seed for her to believe it. She lets the Doctor and the others go, but as soon as they depart in the TARDIS, this era's "Doctor" reveals himself. It is the boy Robin from 2020, still apparently 15 years old, who tells her he is not a time traveler, but got to 2050 the same way she did, "the long way round."
Stranded 2 is very much a "pandemic" release, not only recorded and released in isolation, but the characters themselves were interrogated in isolation.
Stranded 3 should be out in November.
"After crashing in 2020 London, the TARDIS is healing. It can now take its passengers through time and space - but the future has changed around them. A sinister force steers humanity’s destiny, and as the Doctor and friends investigate the mystery they’re trapped inside, they may make the outcome even worse."
"The Doctor decides to investigate the limits of the paradoxical timeline in which he and his friends are stranded. But they find themselves hunted by a force of mercenary Judoon. It seems that Earth’s altered history has changed the whole universe."
Started listening to this one this morning. Not a lot has happened so far, just setup. Me, I;m still trying to pick up the plot thread from where I left it nearly a year ago. It no longer bugs me that the first set, written prior to the pandemic but released during it, doesn't really reflect the lockdown. In a universe where Earth can be invaded by the Daleks... multiple times... and then just forgets, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. We're in an alternate future now, anyway. Wibbly wobbly etc. etc.
Tracy's working from home today so no daily commute to listen to Doctor Who. We did listen to a bit more on the way home last night, and I think I'm confused because I'm supposed to be confused at this point. Whenever a new set starts off with a story I have trouble following I figure it's because I've lost the thread between sets, but that's not always the case. In this case, the main characters have been separated into small groups and can't remember why, when or how it happened, or who (if anyone) is chasing them.