A story with two distinct elements to it. The first is the beginning of a new phase of Rose’s relationship with The Doctor. Twice now in recent stories, The Western Front and Arachnoids, The Doctor has left Rose behind while he was in a combatant situation. And she has objected to him doing that. But his argument about the Arachnoid battle was a valid one. She is NOT a combatant in the way that situation called for. Pluck could only get her so far. But his decision to re-instate his dojo in place of the armoury he didn’t want to have on board the TARDIS gives her an opportunity to learn something that will allow her to be his equal in one sense at least.
The Doctor as a master of martial arts is not something we have seen for some time. Jon Pertwee regularly felled his enemies with well-aimed Venusian Aikido, but his subsequent incarnations, even the agile Christopher Eccleston Doctor tended to avoid getting into physical fights where possible. But the image of Eccleston’s Doctor #9 in an all black martial arts gi, performing scissor kicks with his long legs was an irresistible start to the this story.
It was established in the third Doctor’s incarnation that he knows several kinds of martial arts. I have set the number at five. Four of them ordinary Earth arts including the Judo he proceeds to teach Rose and Shaolin Gung Fu. Gung Fu, is, incidentally, the correct spelling. Kung Fu is the Americanisation of it from the 1970s when, as the song went, ‘everyone was Kung Fu fighting’.
The fifth is Malvorian Sun Ko Du, practiced on six inch wide spars across deep chasms. For no other reason than it sounds romantic and dramatic and it also sounds an even more precise discipline than that practiced by Shaolins. There is no ‘superior’ martial art. Shaolin Gung Fu is no harder to learn than Karate or Aikido or any other such discipline. But there is also something quite romantic about the Shaolin disciplines and the monastic Shaolin life echoes the references in The Doctor’s past of the contemplative monks who live in the mountains near his home which he first talks about in Planet of The Spiders, Jon Pertwee’s last story. It would be natural for The Doctor to adopt their disciplines.
His training of Rose in the arts begins simply. He teaches her to sit properly. It is a start on a learning curve.
He is a teacher on two levels. Teaching Rose and teaching his great-grandchildren. And it gives him a purpose in both cases. He NEEDS a purpose. The Doctor has been so long in the universe there is a sense of been there and seen that about him. He needs a way to see it all anew.
And so to the main story. And Beta Delta IV is introduced.
An Earth colony that looks like
The people of this planet have had their souls stolen. This raises, of course, an interesting philosophical question – what IS a soul. And what would a person without one really be like. In this story the soul is the consciousness, the emotional responses of a person. And without them they are hollow people, simply going through the motions of life. I have not made the ‘soul’ a religious issue. This is not because I have a problem with the religious meaning of the word, but because I have, I think, extended the concept of ‘soul’ as being the personality, the memories, the emotions of a person, the very essence of who they are. Without it, they are these shells that can’t love, can’t think for themselves.
And so The Doctor goes in search of the souls, aided by the café people. This assorted bunch of survivors, including a retired military man, the wife of a police officer, the bank clerk and Greg, the young man with a nervous stammer who is distantly related to The Doctor by marriage are the almost archetypical resistance movement that The Doctor arrives to help. They have soul-mates in the Humans who fought the Daleks in the Invasion of Earth and many other such groups The Doctor has fallen in with over the years, ordinary people who rise to the occasion.
As for the bad guys, they prove easy for The Doctor once he has returned the souls and shown the people they don’t need to be afraid. He lets them resolve the situation themselves by and large. And that is how it should be. He gives them the impetus to fight, his technical knowhow, and lets them be their own heroes.
A final element of this story is Rose actually piloting the TARDIS through a dematerialisation. The TARDIS should be symbiotic with The Doctor and only he should know how to use it. But Rose is becoming increasingly close to him and it recognises her that way, allowing her to pilot it under his supervision. Another learning curve for Rose