The Science of Doctor Who Review

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull gives a spoiler-free verdict on BBC2’s special 50th anniversary programme.

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Having last made an appearance as himself in The Power of Three Professor Brian Cox has returned to the BBC with a recorded lecture looking at, well, the science of Doctor Who. Cox is a fan of the show – why else would he appear in Chris Chibnall’s Earth-based adventure? – he’s said it himself on multiple occasions but here he’s given an opportunity to really flex his fan muscles and prove he’s worth one’s salt. But it’s not just Cox who makes an appearance, Rufus “Peter Eccleston” Hound returns for a jolly good bout of spaghettification (indeed, that is actually an astrophysical term) as well as Dallas Campbell (former presenter of Bang Goes The Theory). Hound, Campbell and others may not be the dream line-up you’d expect but they all put in a good turn, playing along with Cox’s many rollicking experiments.

As much as I’d like people to tune into The Science of Doctor Who because they want to watch the science parts (science is definitely not my forte) many viewers will mainly be interested in the Doctor Who element of the programme. Each investigation Cox conducts is punctuated by several unfortunately short scenes with, you guessed it, the Doctor himself. After a case of confusion Brian finds himself as the Doctor’s latest companion and although there aren’t any madcap, outer spatial adventures (there will definitely some fan-fictions surfacing online post-broadcast) onscreen our imaginations are supposed to fill in the blanks. Matt Smith is on top form, playing well with Stephen Thompson’s (2011’s The Curse of the Black Spot and the more recent epic Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS) script and against Cox himself. The Doctor recognizes Brian’s intellect and The Science of Doctor Who actually proves that the TARDIS crew might benefit from someone with superior brainpower (and not another Adric.)

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When it comes to science I just haven’t a clue but coming away from The Science of Doctor Who I had a stronger interest in the subject than before – and some of Cox’s experiments really are interesting. He puts out a couple of theories to the audience that are rather thought provoking and, in a couple of occasions, alarming. But if you aren’t into the physics half of things then the intercuts will keep you entertained.

I considered giving The Science of Doctor Who a rating but the larger part of it is non-fiction and all about facts so you can’t really mark that. But looking at the, sadly, fictional side of things, Stephen Thompson really nails Smith’s dialogue – slipping in one or two more risqué lines, I might add – but I’m disappointed to not see Jenna Coleman (she has vanished from aboard the TARDIS and her absence is explained just like Kamelion’s); she and Cox might have really hit it off – and I don’t mean it in that way.

If you tune in and find yourself bored rigid at the astrophysics then stay, you’ll learn something new and get to check in with the Doctor whilst the days count down to the grand fiftieth. And be sure to post speculation online over who the mysterious girl is…

The Science of Doctor Who airs 14 November at 9pm on BBC2.

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