Category Archives: Doctor Who

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 6 – “Extremis” – Hope in the World of Illusion

   “Extremis” is a great episode. It is easily up there with “Listen” and “Heaven Sent” for meditative explorations of who the Doctor is and what it means to be him, and it manages to pose bigger questions in regards to sentience too, which strengthens it further. Before I get into spoilers, this is a favorite that is well worth your time.

    The episode was directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Steven Moffat, showing that when it comes to episodes that really should be individual bottle episodes, he can still do great.

   The story involves the Doctor (blind after last episode) is sent an email through his sonic glasses about the Vatican text “Veritas” a text that leads it’s readers to commit suicide. From here the Doctor works with Bill and Nardole to find out the mystery surrounding the text.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is very horror movie esque with the text that kills anyone who reads it and it quickly takes the richer turn where it questions reality. The episode begins with a jump down the rabbit hole and doesn’t stop until it is explored.

The Monks – The Monks are the main threat as they are the ones running the simulation that our characters (who are programs) exist in. They look like giant bats and seem to speak through their minds which is a great aesthetic. My only worry is that they’ll end up being as underwhelming as the Angels and Silents as both of them had really strong introductions but progressively had worse payoff down the line.

Whatever Happened to Missy – The episode begins with a flashback where we see Missy (the Master) being executed for her crimes. In the end she is saved by the Doctor who keeps her trapped for her time for her crimes as he knows she is still a threat. The scenes before he saves her are powerful as River sends Nardole to remind him of his goodness and Missy reminds him of their friendship as we learn that Missy is the one being held in the Vault.

The Nature of Reality and Sentience – Our characters exist in a simulation run by the Monks so that they can best learn how to conquer Earth. The programs are exist recreations of those on Earth and so are real and do exist, even though they are only programs. This is the core point of the Episode and exploring the horror of that knowledge.

What it Means to be the Doctor – The final reveal is the Doctor sending an email to himself through the psychic link in the glasses. This is great as it captures that the Doctor is the fighter and his point is resistance and defense of others and with that hope, even in death. This Program Doctor was amazing as in the end he became the Doctor. The Doctor is hope and in his last act of existence the program gave the Doctor and hope a chance.

Okay: The Vatican – The Vatican is okay, they are played for jokes a bit at the beginning but feel like another player in the threat of the unknown after we arrive at their Archive. I still think they could have been handled better though.

   This is an episode well worth your time that humanizes Nardole and Bill a lot (showing their flaws, courage) even though they and the Doctor are programs…at this point the programs are people showing just how powerful the threat of the Monks is as they have been killing sentient beings over and over again so that they can figure out how to best conquer Earth. I’m intrigued at where the story goes and if we will ever see the simulation our world in this episode exists in, come up again.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. The Vatican bits can be hit or miss but the overall story is great.

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 5 – “Oxygen” – A Heavy Handed Enjoyable Space Thriller

   “Oxygen” is a flawed and amazing episode that is heavy handed with it’s message but is powerful in how it tells it’s story. This is one of my favorite episodes of the new series, even with all of the flaws. It changes things in a way that looks like it may last and we get to see more of the negative in humanity which we largely only got with the 9th and 10th Doctor. Suffice to say, before I get into spoilers…I recommend this episode.

  The episode was directed by Charles Palmer and directed by Jamie Mathieson.

   The story involves the Doctor, Bill and Nardole becoming trapped on a mining space station where they have limited oxygen and are being hunted by A.I. suits as they rush to save the survivors and themselves.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise -The idea of a space station run off oxygen workers by is so wonderfully dsytopian I can’t help but appreciate it. It also gives tension and consequence immediately as the limited oxygen creates a ticking clock.

The Tension – The station expels all excess oxygen added to the station, which forces our heroes to get the suits where they only have a certain amount of breaths, on top of this the suits are controlling the dead who died from lack of oxygen and the survivors are fearful and angry. If any one of these goes over the edge, everything is over for our heroes.

The Miners – The miners are great, we get to see the politics and relationships between them and how they are survivors. They are the characters ready to do anything to get off the station which adds another level of tension to our main characters predicament.

The Doctor, Nardole and Bill – The dynamic between these 3 is wonderful. Nardole is the responsible worry wort holding the Doctor to his promise that he made Nardole make of keeping an eye of the Vault, Bill is the new adventurer who doesn’t have the Doctor’s recklessness the Doctor is the wizard, manipulating and planning his way through every situation even when it looks like he’s lost his mind and lost everything.

Consequences – The Doctor saves Bill but goes blind in the process from the vacuum of space. This is still true at the end of the episode and we see how powerless he feels as so much of what he does it tied to his ability to read what something by seeing it. I hope we have him this way for a while as even TARDIS tech could not heal his eyes.

Okay/Con – Execution of the Message – The message of the episode is that capitalism is bad and eventually people will be exploited for the very oxygen they breathe. I put this as okay because “Doctor Who” has always been a message show, the problem was this wasn’t done with enough “show” there was a good amount of “tell” even though we were witnessing the very premise and didn’t need to be told it. I won’t put it as a complete con but it was the weakest part of the episode.

  This is a flawed and amazing episode that is worth checking out. The tension is strong throughout the entire episode, Nardole and Bill clash with the Doctor while the Doctor has moments where even he loses hope. We also have minor characters we care about and perfect tension through the entire episode. This is an episode that I highly recommend. Can’t wait to see how the consequences of the Doctor’s blindness unfold.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 4 – “Knock Knock” – Boring Side Characters in a Better Story

  “Knock Knock” is the worst episode this season thus far. We are given a whole bunch of side characters who give nothing to the film, a horror story that doesn’t really go anywhere and the Doctor as the biggest jerk he’s been thus far in Series 10. Before I go more in depth on these points, this episode isn’t worth your time and is skippable.

   The episode was directed by Bill Anderson and written by Mike Bartlett.

   The story involves Bill looking for a new place to live with a bunch of flatmates. When they meet the mysterious Landlord they sign the contract to live in an old castleesque house. All is not as it appears to be though as her flatmates begin disappearing and the Doctor arrives to help solve the mystery.

SPOILERS

The Pros: The Reveal – The reveal is that the Landlord is keeping his mom alive with the bugs who feed off the energy of people and help sustain her life. She is a part of the house and is wood. After she finds out the cost of her life she ends the life of herself and her son causing the house to collapse. This basic plot was interesting but it only felt real at the end…

The Landlord – The Landlord is creepy and David Suchet gives a lot of character to the role. He’s welcoming and threatening and he is easily the most compelling character in the episode. It’s a shame more wasn’t done with him.

Okay: The Doctor and Bill – The Doctor and Bill fight all the time. Bill is embarrassed of the Doctor since she wants to become friends with her flatmates and the Doctor isn’t listening to Bill because he wants adventure and to protect her. Neither was a pro this episode. The drama felt like drama for it’s own sake and not story.

The Cons: The Flatmates – I couldn’t tell you what any of them like. They aren’t really characters just plot contrivance and when all of them get taken by the house I found it hard to care. They distracted from the main story and there was no reason that we are given outside of Bill to care about any of them.

The Writing – The writing is cliche and atrocious. The Doctor tries to act all cool, Bill acts jealous and the kids don’t really function as characters just ideas of characters…so the tension is gone in the entire piece in what could have been a great horror episode.

   This is the worst episode of the series so far and I must emphasize again that it is skippable. You’ll get more time with the Doctor and the Vault later or just watch the Vault scenes on youtube. The story is a slog and even great characters like Bill and the Doctor cease to be interesting…The reveal and the Landlord are not reason enough to see this episode.

Final Score: 4  / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 2 – “Smile” – Psychological Horror Meets Classic “Doctor Who” Themes

   “Smile” continues the great writing the Series started out with, but this time giving a more “Twilight Zone” feel combined with Classic “Doctor Who” ideas of new life and the resolution of conflict. It is fantastic and my non-spoiler thoughts are that the only thing that bring it down are the references to modern day like Emojis and selfies, that did take me out of the story when they happened.

    The episode was directed by Lawrence Gough and written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

    The story involves the Doctor taking Bill to one of the first human colonies, that when they arrive at is completely empty except for Robots who control the facility. From here the mystery unfolds surrounds the complex and the robots known as the Vardy.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of robots that kill you if you aren’t happy is fascinating as well as the fact that they can be tricked by a smile. It felt very “Twilight Zone” and “Black Mirror” esque, which I appreciated.

The Vardy – The Vardy are natives to the planet the colonists inhabit and are sentient machines. Their goal is to help humanity how humanity believes to best but also to be respected as when they are turned on they go full defense mode too. It takes a factory reset done by the Doctor to leave their future and how they interpret their relationship to humanity to be in the future.

Bill – Bill is very much the tourist in this as her request to the Doctor is to go to the future and to somewhere happy. This brings her to one of the first human colonies and her realizing that she enjoys the mystery and adventure like the Doctor. She also discovers she likes helping people but that things are more complicated than they appear to be as she is on neither the Vardy’s or humanity’s side in the conflict, so in turn can’t condemn the Doctor, she just realizes what his role is.

The Doctor – The Doctor is the one who is always seeking help and also doesn’t want to be tied down to one location. He is on Earth guarding the Vault, and that is why Nardole is there to hold the Doctor to that promise…which the Doctor abandons to travel with Bill. Both of these actions reveal the childishness and also the maturity and heroism of the Doctor. He is complicated and as we discover at the end of the episode, he can’t solve everything and something there isn’t an answer…he can do what he can to save lives but after he leaves it is up to the people left behind.

The Doctor and the TARDIS’s Role – The sign on the TARDIS says “Advice and Assistance Obtainable Immediately” and part of the reason why it is a police box is because the Doctor is sent where he is needed. This is something we get early on as he describes to Bill that the travel to locations is like a dance between himself and the TARDIS. This is also why he was on Earth as he is protecting a mysterious “Vault,” which more than likely is for humanity’s protection.

Okay: The Colonists – We don’t get to know any of the colonists as they are only reacting to the Vardy. This was a shame as we know humanity was escaping from Earth where they nearly destroyed themselves. That could have been explored if we’d been given a colonist for Bill and the Doctor to play off of.

The Cons: Modern Lingo and References – From the Vardy being called emoji-bots and Bill taking selfies…these things weren’t needed and took me out of the episode. We get what they look like and we get that Bill is a tourist in the future…but it could have been done better.

       The idea of this episode if it had been explored more fully (as in gone full “Black Mirror”) could have turned this into something akin to “Blink” or “Listen.” Because it didn’t it manages to stay solidly good though as so much of the future is still left up in the air. The Vardy have been rebooted and have no memory of what they did, but they still destroyed the colonists under the simple command of making them happy. The Doctor accepts this though and the fact that there isn’t a happy ending boosts the episode immensely.

Final Score: 8.5/ 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 1 – “The Pilot” – Horror Meets Wonder With a Great New Companion

   I’m worried about how the rest of the Series 10 and Capaldi’s run as 12 will go. Moffat and Gatiss ran “Sherlock” into the ground and there is enough time for him to do the same for “Doctor Who,” as for “Sherlock” it only took about 1 1/2 Seasons to do so. Right now he’s starting out strong though! I really enjoyed “The Pilot,” it captures all the beautiful adventure, horror and wonder that comes with the best of “Doctor Who” and sci. fi. time travel exploration. So, before I get into further depth, this one is worth checking out.

   The episode was directed by Lawrence Gough and written by Steven Moffat.

    The episode involves the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) lecturing at a college as a Professor until Bill (Pearl Mackie) a fish and chips cook is pulled into his life when he notices her at all of his lectures listening. She is soon thrown into the unknown though when her crush is taken over by a mysterious puddle, pulling her and the Doctor together as they try and stop the alien from taking away Bill.

The Pros: The World – The world is fantastic as we get to see the Doctor take up the role of professor, a role he clearly enjoys as both 1 and 10 have both done it at different times in the human world as have other incarnations in the extended universe of the Doctor. This love of knowledge and sharing it is part of what makes the series so inspiring and great and it is on display by having it all take place a college with a woman (Bill) who is not even a student sitting on lectures because of her desire to learn.

Nardole – Nardole is still with us after we picked him up at “The Husbands of River Song,” and through the last special too. Matt Lucas is great at being the awkward loaf who is fearful but can find courage (helps the Doctor trap some Daleks in the episode) and calls out the Doctor on his blind spots. He’s very much the Doctor’s assistant in this so I’m curious to see if his role will be explored further, I’m not quite sure why he’s sticking around.

Bill – Bill is an amazing companion (don’t mess this up Moffat!). She is down to Earth, has a desire to learn and doesn’t let lack of money stop her, she is alone in many ways and that loneliness ties to the Doctor in how they connect as their desire to learn and for connection is key. It is her reaching out to her crush that leads to the alien targeting her. She is strong and stands her ground too when the Doctor attempts to wipe her mind as she helps realize how messed up that is and that the adventure was her first happy memory in a long time.

The Doctor – The Doctor has gone from not just the protector of humanity but also helping them learn about time travel as the lecture we see him doing at the beginning is him teaching about the meaning of TARDIS. In this way he is helping humanity thrive and become the force they are in the future. His arc is realizing that his past mind wipes were him being selfish, leading to him not wiping Bill’s mind and choosing her to be his companion as she helps him see things differently and realize and correct his older bad habits.

Okay: The Antagonist – The antagonist is the weakest part. It is sentient oil puddle that is also a space ship as it takes Bill’s crush as the Pilot and tries to take Bill as the passenger. It can some how warp through time and track the TARDIS and what it actually is is never fully explained. I liked the play on Ring type horror it did with anything it mimicked being wet and dripping water but felt it needed to be explored more. It could have easily been tied to the Waters of Mars, which would have really made it a horror story.

  This is a strong start to Series 10 and I’m really hoping it stays that way as Gallifrey and Clara being ruined last season almost made me stop watching the show. Gallifrey needed a good story tied to it and Clara’s choice to die should have been respected. She had so many great good-byes that got canceled out. I don’t want Bill or the 12th Doctor to suffer the same fate. They deserve better and hopefully Moffat can end as strong as he started.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 Antagonist is the weakest part.

The 12th Doctor – Doctor Who Specials – “The Husbands of River Song” – The Pain in Endings

The Husbands of River Song

     “The Husbands of River Song” is a fun episode….and Kingston and Capaldi have great chemistry with one another, I really hope we get to see them in action together again after this. The episode isn’t great, but it was good and the ending definitely pulled at the heart strings.

     Douglas Mackinnon directed while Steven Moffat wrote the episode.

     The story involves the Doctor being pulled into saving River Song’s husband King Hydroflax. He soon learns it is all a setup to get the diamond out of the King’s head but things get more complicated as the King’s robotic body has a mind and agenda of it’s own and River doesn’t recognize the Doctor.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is cool. I like that River doesn’t recognize the Doctor since she only knows past incarnations as far as we know and we know both her and the Doctor have had many spouses, so it is great seeing that explored. They are each forces of nature in their own right.

River Song’s Husbands – All of her husbands, like the Doctor’s wives are tools for bigger agendas and adventures. My favorite was Ramone and the King was alright. I wish we could have met Damsel.

River Song – River is in her element here and it is wonderful seeing her as the star of the show. We haven’t got this for a long time since so much of her prior arc with Smith’s Doctor was her being rescued. Here she doesn’t need that persay, it’s about the exploration of her relationship with the Doctor more than anything else and how she’s aware of how distant and alien he is as a Time Lord and has taken on his attributes in the relationships she forms.

The Doctor – The Doctor is called out in the end as we see just how similar he is to River. He has tons of wives across the Universe which River calls him out on. In the end we see what his philosophy is on love as his final words express how as someone who is Timeless he sees endings all around him, and knows that his and River’s relationship will end, he lived it in his 10th incarnation. He still gives hope though and gives her a fantastic date that he sets up over a long period of time when they go to eat at the Singing Towers and lets her know that they still have time left before the end.

Relationships and Endings – Relationships and endings are a major theme in this as we see River’s husbands meet their end via the Hydroflax robot and her manipulations and we are in the time period where all the Doctor’s earth marriages that we know about (Marilyn Monroe, the Queen, etc.) have all died as well. It’s fitting in a way capturing both of their Time Lord nature, but how even in that, Time Lords can’t escape time and the Doctor has become even more aware of that creating one of the best endings of an episode where River says all “Happily ever after” is is a little more time. I really hope that we see her again, and I’m glad Moffat is showing that this relationship has and will end as Time continues moving on.

Okay: King Hydroflax – He was a bit over the top and never felt like a threat, his robot suit did but the fact that he didn’t kill the people whose head’s he took made him feel like a little less of a threat, which I guess was the tone of the episode…still makes it so the villain isn’t a pro.

   I would recommend this episode. It isn’t the best of the Christmas Specials…that still goes to “A Christmas Carol” and “Last Christmas” but it is a good special and with it, I hope we see more of River in action again. She really is an awesome character and one of my favorite in the Whoniverse. This episode shows why. She is a force of nature like the Doctor who shapes the Universe to her agenda in degrees, even though both characters are still beholden to Time in the end, and with it the eventual ending of the relationship. For all things end and that doesn’t have to be bad. Mortality makes things sweet and gives strength to the time we have.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 12 – “Hell Bent” – Of Letting Go, Healing and Adventure

Doctor Who Hell Bent

     I really liked this episode, it is no “Heaven Sent” but it is still a great episode and I was initially furious when I heard a spoiler about a character who returns. Due to how Moffat executes the story though, I’m okay with who he brought back as the character relationships are still phenomenal and we learn a lot about Time Lord Society and a few arcs are brought to a close.

     “Hell Bent” was directed by Rachel Talalay and written by Steven Moffat.

SPOILERS ahead

    The story involves the Doctor’s return to Gallifrey in order to use and confront the Time Lords to bring back Clara from her death in “Face the Raven.” The Doctor must confront his recklessness from this as the consequences spread through time and space.

The Pros: The Doctor’s Past – This episode is full of references to the Doctor’s past. As we learn where he was going to use The Moment in “Day of the Doctor” was his home from “Listen” and that he grew up on the outskirts of Gallifrey and Ashildr makes allusions to him most likely being not fully Time Lord and being part human and that is why he always returns to Earth and can’t stay on Gallifrey and also shows how he could be the Hybrid as well as the Hybrid relationship of Doctor and Companion who together can be forces of good or destruction. These moments are extremely well done. I can’t wait to see the Doctor’s past explored more in the future.

Gallifrey – Gallifrey is strange, mystical and mysterious and I enjoyed how it was handled. For example the Matrix is protected by ghosts and it is also where the TARDIS factory is so that it is always guarded. The Time Lords are also very stratified and we see those who live outside the City, the soldiers and the Time Lord High Council all being detached from one another with those on the outskirts being the closest to the Doctor and the Time Lords and Rassilon being exiled for what they did with the Confession Dial and during the Time War.

Ohila – Ohila is the leader of the Sisterhood of Karn and I’m curious to see what role she plays as she isn’t exiled and she sees destruction in the Doctor’s future. She is worried about the Hybrid and I never got bad intent from her as I did from Rassilon. I think she just wants to protect the Universe and can only do so by calling out the Doctor on his selfishness or using him.

The General – The General is fantastic! Ken Bones plays him at first but after the Doctor shoots him he regenerates into T’Nia Miller and we see her doing everything to protect her men and stop the Doctor. She is the leader of Gallifrey at this point since the Doctor ran away again. I could see her being a Javert role to capture Clara to bring her back to the moment of her death of Clara and Me have a spin-off series.

Sisterhood of Karn – The Sisterhood makes an appearance and are pretty much on equal footing with the Time Lords showing that they are a pretty powerful organization.

Ashildr/Me – Ashildr has grown in wisdom and by the end of the Universe she is there calling the Doctor out for denying Clara her choice to die and for not letting her go. She is the one who has embraced her role as an immortal, though in the end she gets her wish of exploring all of space and time as the TARDIS the Doctor stole is used by her and Clara to see the Universe on their way back to Gallifrey for Clara’s eventual moment of death from the Raven.

Clara – Clara has agency Donna was never given and I love that she calls the Doctor out on attempting to steal her agency, both with her death and later when he was going to try and wipe her memories of him. Instead they do it random and both take the risk and she watches the Doctor lose all memories of her making it possible for him to move on and for their self destructive relationship to end. She fully becomes the Doctor at this point as the Doctor was her companion and with Ashildr they travel in the new stolen TARDIS on their way back to Gallifrey and her death.

Letting Go – This episode continues the process of letting go and that began in “Heaven Sent.” Here we see how toxic it is not to let go as the Doctor is willing to risk all of time and space for Clara and in the end will lose everything because he is so attached and would even take her agency. He realizes this and gives up his memories of her in the end, stopping their relationship from destroying everything and fulfilling the Hybrid prophecy and most likely Missy’s end designs on where their relationship would go. It’s sad and powerful but we see the Doctor grow and become the Doctor once more.

The Doctor – This episode is all about the Doctor letting go and healing and we see him let go in one of the hardest ways possible, he loses all memory of Clara in order to save them both. It’s powerful and we see just how destructive their attachment to each other is and it is when the Doctor finally realizes that and lets go of those memories and forgets that we see him begin to heal and ends it with a new Sonic Screwdriver as he returns to his role as a Doctor.

The Cons: Rassilon – Donald Sumpter does alright but his Rassilon is never threatening. For someone who was able to use the Master to nearly destroy Earth and save Gallifrey I was pretty underwhelmed. He’s exiled and out there with the High Council now so there is a chance to fix this. I really want to see Rassilon as a threatening threat, haven’t felt that yet in any of the new series episodes.

Should Have Been Two Parts – The Hybrid, Gallifrey, what happened to Rassilon and the consequences of the Time War are never fully explored and that is what could have made this story truly great. Elements of this are there but never fully explored.

This was a great episode, but could have been more. I don’t think Clara should have been brought back but I thought that was handled well…especially with Me playing a role in how things ended. This episode was all about the Doctor and his finally moving on from Clara, which was a huge theme of the season, especially when we see what that attachment is dong to the Universe. The Doctor has always had trouble letting go and the fact that he loses his memory is something that hasn’t been done before, not like this. So I really liked that. There are a lot of stories that are open now because of this episode and in the end it is a great edition to the Whoniverse.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.