Out of Time 2 – The Gates of Hell is the second in a series of specials which sees David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor bumping into former incarnations. While the first paired him with Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, this time he encounters Peter Davison’s Fifth.
Of course, there is an onscreen precedent for this particular pairing. In 2007, they came together for Time Crash, an engaging eight minute mini-adventure in aid of BBC Children in Need. There is also an added dimension which has occurred in the intervening years: the two actors are now family.
The story begins with both Doctors finding themselves in Paris, albeit in different times. The Fifth materialises in 1809 and opts to take a tour of the catacombs, suspicious of some out of place millinery. Here, he meets Time Agent Tina Drake, who is on the trail of a temporal paradox, and falls into a trap.
Some one hundred and thirty-five years later, the Tenth Doctor arrives in occupied Paris. Evading the Nazis, he too finds himself in the catacombs and encounters his former self. Returning to the surface, they find Paris transformed and overrun by Cybermen.
Chasing back through Parisian history, the two Doctors battle to stop the Cybermen’s insidious plan… once they work out exactly what it is.
Despite their cover billing, the Cybermen themselves play a limited part in proceedings and manipulate events from a distance. The focus is primarily on the two Doctors themselves. Far from being adversarial, the pair actively enjoy each other’s company and make an effective team; we loved the research scenes! There is also some sonic screwdriver fun and a great passing Tegan gag too.
While the joy of The Gates of Hell is in these interactions, writer David Lewellyn’s story is also rooted in historical detail. We learnt about the changing use of the Parisian catacombs, as well as a little of rare astrological phenomena. The story also addresses Doctor Who‘s other famous visit to the city of love, with a couple of amusing lines.
We’ll Always Have Paris
At one time, multi-Doctor encounters were a rare treat. While that is not the case anymore, they still generate a frisson of fannish excitement and this is no exception. Both David Tennant and Peter Davison are on superb form and clearly enjoyed working together. We did not pick up on any hints about when the story might take place in their respective Doctors timelines other than, given their recognition, it appears to be post Time Crash.
In the guest cast, Shelly Conn’s whip-smart Time Agent Tina Drake is a joy; smart and well-armed, she serves as the de facto companion in a Captain Jack like role. For his part, Mark Gatiss plays multiple ages of the Frenchman, Joseph Delon, complete with the accent. As the Doctors work back through time, Joseph gets younger as we see him become embroiled in the cyber-plan. The cast is rounded out by the multi-talented Glen McReady, in dual roles, and the ubiquitous Nicholas Briggs on Cyber-duties.
After the epic Dalek threat of Out of Time 1, this second release offers something a little different; spinning the multi-Doctor story format, this pair are not only remarkably cooperative but extremely compatible too. We did feel that the story’s resolution was ultimately a little simplistic. That said, it is nothing that the television series has not done before and in such as quick-witted and entertaining adventure, it almost seems churlish to grumble. For us, The Gates of Hell has the feel of a holiday special, hugely entertaining and full of sparkling Doctorly interaction.
With the series now billed as a trilogy, we can only wonder what the third adventure will bring. The Tenth Doctor is slated to meet Colin Baker’s Sixth, plus the Weeping Angels, in Wink next year.