It’s a good day when we’re back with the Eighth Doctor, even if I’m admittedly biased as he’s one of my favourite Doctors. This month, we’re treated to Doom Coalition 2, the second box set out of a colossal four box set story. Today, we’ll be reviewing the first story, Beachhead.
In an attempt to recharge his batteries after his confrontation with the Eleven, the Doctor takes Liv and Helen to the sleepy English seaside village of Stegmoor. But they find the village in turmoil and, to make matters worse, their arrival uncovers a mystery from the Doctor’s past which threatens the future safety of the planet. Can the Doctor prevent the Voord from invading Earth? And more importantly why have they come in the first place?
There’s a flood in Stegmoor, there’s mysterious prolonged headaches and something’s obviously amiss. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Liv and Helen are off on a holiday; they’ve all of time and space at their fingertips and the Doctor has taken the executive decision to take them to Stegmoor in 2017. Shame the wifi’s rubbish. As well as the weather. Would you really trust the Doctor to take you someone peaceful and tranquil for a holiday? Liv and Helen are both fools if you ask me.
Water is so often an adversary of the Doctor; whether it be in The Waters of Mars or The Labyrinth of Buda Castle, if there’s one thing that the Doctor is defenceless against, it’s water. It even manages to render our favourite Time Lord unconscious in the TARDIS, meaning that it’s up to Liv and Helen to look after the Doctor and try and work out what’s going on. There’s a shiny black rock that could easily be a spaceship that’s been uncovered but the Doctor’s companions don’t want to arouse any suspicion; I have to admit, Liv and Helen are very strategical in trying to work out whether to cause panic or not. The Doctor has taught them well.
The initial premise of this story is really interesting; as it transpires that the Third Doctor had visited Stegmoor in the past with UNIT and cocked up; meaning the Eighth Doctor has come back to try and rectify the situation. Whilst Helen is back with Phillipa trying to look after the Doctor; Liv and Matilda headed back to the village to see if they can help anyone, using Liv’s medical training. To me, the fact that the companions were so centre stage in the first half of this story and that they were split up just goes to show how independent and able both Liv and Helen are; I think this is a great way that Nick Briggs has managed to show the development of Helen especially, from her start during Doom Coalition where she was a bit reserved, unsure and full of self-doubt. There’s a conversation between Phillipa and Helen about how important family is, where Helen thinks they’re kind of important and Phillipa really rallies home the idea to her that family should be everything. I know I say it in a lot of my reviews, but it’s these seemingly little moments that, to me, really epitomises what Doctor Who should be about; appreciating the little things but appreciating them wholeheartedly.
As the Doctor regains consciousness, he seems very erratic and slightly more mad than normal, akin to what he’s like in The TV Movie just after he’s regenerated. When the Doctor realises that there’s a spaceship at the beach, obviously he can’t resist. I mean, if I’m being really honest, it’d be a very dull story if the Doctor just dismissed the idea of a spaceship and went back into the TARDIS and went off. When I first read the synopsis of Beachhead and it turned out that it was a mistake in the Doctor’s past that had brought him to Stegmoor, I initially thought it was just an oversight about an alien; but what Briggsy does so well is take a premise like that and give it two meanings. There’s the obvious take on it, which is the fact the Doctor let something alien slide and it’s causing havoc, but it’s also shown in the fact that, in his third life, the Doctor dismissed an alien sighting and told the bloke who made the call that he had just imagined it; something which plagued that poor man until he died. In A Good Man Goes To War there’s a lot of talk about how the Doctor keeps on running because he daren’t look back; if he’s made this type of mistake more than once, I can understand why he never stops.
Now, I have to admit I’ve never seen the Voord’s televisual story; The Keys of Marinus, but I have to admit that the design of this First Doctor monster has really stood up to the test of time, unlike a fair amount of other Doctor Who creatures from the 1960s. Just don’t look at their feet, please. Like I said, I’ve never seen the Voord in action, but in Beachhead, they seem like a fairly neutral race; the Voord we meet surprisingly doesn’t appear to want to conquer the Earth or wipe out humanity, it just wants to leave; which is somewhat refreshing for an alien in Doctor Who. Even if it does it in a non-pacifistic way.
What would have been nice in Beachhead is if that the Doctor called back UNIT to help him help the Voord, and have a small cameo from new UNIT and having Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Osgood getting to interact with the Eighth Doctor as well as a classic monster. It’s a shame, but who knows what the future will hold, eh?
If I have one slight criticism with this story, it’s that it seems to suffer from The Power of Three syndrome, in which the resolution is rather quick, somewhat out of the blue and a bit underwhelming. I won’t say exactly what happens but I think that Beachhead could have been a much better story if there was an extra fifteen or twenty minutes to develop the story further, meaning we could have a more impactful resolution. Thankfully it does end on a light-hearted note with the Doctor, Helen and Liv running into the TARDIS so they can avoid questions from the police, like the Doctor did in Planet of The Dead.
Overall, I think that Beachhead is a solid opening story for Doom Coalition 2, however I feel like it could have done with a bit more at the end to make the resolution slightly more meaningful. I have a feeling that Beachhead was a slight detour from the massive Doom Coalition story arc, although at the very end there’s a slight turning in the cogs, setting up the premise of this box set in motion.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For Beachhead, I will give a rating of:
Should you want to purchase Doom Coalition 2, it’s currently available both physically and as a download for just £20, which you can purchase by clicking here and make sure you join us tomorrow where we’ll have the review for the second story from Doom Coalition 2, Scenes From Her Life!