Doctor Who: SCRATCHMAN Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: SCRATCHMAN Review

Christopher Morley descends into the lair of Scratchman.


We can now, after a long drawn out labour, finally welcome Scratchman into the Fourth Doctor's extensive canon.

First conceived by Tom Baker (aka the Doctor himself) & Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan) as a possible candidate for inclusion within the series itself, it would seem that a combination of apathy from within the corridors of writing power and concerns over budget initially stopped play - but much like the rounders match Harry attempts to get going before the forces of hell rain down on the rugged island off the coast of Scotland he now finds himself surveying in the company of Sarah Jane Smith as the latest stopping off point for the police box in whose capabilities he could scarcely believe, having undertaken a routine examination of a very different sort of patient in the aftermath of his latest regeneration, the game is back on!

And had Scratchman got off the ground in those heady days of the mid-Seventies, the first run out for the new man in charge of that box might have been radically different. It's tempting, however heretical it may seem, to position it as a sort of early attempt at a story arc - the first fruits of which at least pre-Time War must have been seeded with the Key To Time he would later go after, for this is no mere “monster of the week” story! No disrespect of course to Robot, The Ark In Space, The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis Of The Daleks or Revenge Of The Cybermen of course. But the Doctor's enforced dance with the devil in the form of Harry Scratch/Scratchman on the face of it could have, with a bit more backing, consigned them to the substitutes bench.

The scope was even later widened to include a possible feature film before that too was kicked into touch. Scratchman now lives again in print thanks to the pairing of James Goss with the man in the scarf.


Having given Scratchman such a build up it could now in hindsight be seen as Tom Baker stepping on Peter Capaldi's toes? To explore just why that is, just cast your mind back to the essence of the Dark Water/ Death In Heaven double header for the junior of the two Peter Doctors well after old Tom decided seven years was enough, took his jelly babies and went home leaving the job to Peter Senior at the dawning of the Eighties. For, like the series eight finale, old Scratch is not the only villain of the piece (much like Missy, who herself has moved on a bit from being both male & a bit burnt), he's allied himself with the Cybermen! And what do the men from Mondas get in return for their help? First dibs on the dead to convert for their own ends once Scratchman succeeds in breaking out of his own universe of fire & brimstone into ours, starting with the rapidly decimating number of islanders.

Of course, this being the Doctor he'll have to make the reverse journey... which his later Scottish variety does at the behest of his latest companion in an attempt to save the man she loves after he meets his maker. Before that, though, in Scratchman he descends in order to save the two his Fourth-face-looked-upon-first after they're taken hostage, Scratch seeking to use the TARDIS as the means to spread the sort of gift Sutekh would've given the thumbs up to. Sarah Jane will of course later see the results for herself - 1980 ended rather prematurely. Which is of course not very sporting at all! A glimpse of what happens for her long after all of that will be dangled in front of her during a chase through Sexy's corridors, a usually locked room providing a quickly interrupted refuge from one of a massed army of living scarecrows as well as a jumbled look into her future - something the Doctor hasn't planned for. He's a long way from dropping her off in Aberdeen yet, mind!

Not to be outdone in the “sneaky peek at what's to come” stakes, though, the Doctor has someone to gee him along in the fight against Scratch. In two moments of what we might term a TomCrash variety, the Thirteenth incarnation appears for a chat and a few skimmed stones on the beach, knowingly downplayed by the senior of the two incarnations as things get a bit chilly. Ever the gentleman, a certain scarf is offered to her before she returns to days yet to come for him with a cheery wave from long ago. Which in itself could be a nod to Tom's steadfast refusal to entertain the idea that the task of replacing him was only open to men upon his own departure!

Tom Baker had earlier ruled out the idea of ever even writing a Doctor Who novel in one of the many displays of his curiously contrary nature,
"Ah, no, I don’t think so. I’m notorious for my bad taste... After so long I’d have to be radical and then my bad taste would betray me. I’m a bit intemperate in my jokes or ideas."
Perhaps explaining why he had first Ian Marter then James Goss doing the running while he batted ideas about.....and having championed the notion of a woman taking over the TARDIS well before it eventually came to pass, surely we can't pass up the chance to find out what he thinks of his latest successor? Asked in an interview with SFX whether a female take on the role ticks his boxes, Jodie Whittaker got the thumbs up!
"Well, yes, sure it does. And people say she’s very good. And why not a female... Does she wear trousers and things like that?"
No scarf, of course, as memorably also dismissed by Capaldi before her during his own big d├ębut. Long coat, though? Quite so, as picked from the rails of a charity shop rather than the bowels of Sexy's wardrobe.

Next in our list of surprising cameos by the latest of the Doctors is, in a sense, another trip into Seventies nostalgia with her altogether briefer appearance in the relaunched Target novel range's take on the first outing for a more conservatively coated past self. Fantastic, you'll surely agree!

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