Top 5 Favorite Doctors in “Doctor Who”

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     “Doctor Who” is a show whose strength lies in it’s ability to reinvent itself as the Doctor is an alien who can regenerate into a new form on each “death.” Each of these deaths brings with us an era and arc to the show. Making this list is one that I’ll probably have to re-do in the future as this is a show that hypothetically could go on forever, for as long as there are stories to tell with each new regeneration. This list is also incomplete as though I have watched many episodes from the Classic Era I have not seen everything and for the first two Doctors so much was lost over time so their stories remain incomplete. I’ve also not included books or audio-dramas and am only including my experience of the Doctors from the show. I don’t hate any version of the Doctor as each of them does bring something unique to their performance and explores an aspect of who this Time Lord is. I want you to know context of this list going in for that reason though you will find that I have favorite Doctors in both the Classic and Modern era and would not be surprised if the list changes in the future, especially since the 13th Doctor’s story does remain incomplete as well. This list is obviously my opinion but it is a glimpse in what appeals to me in the stories of this fascinating character of the Doctor. So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Favorite Doctors of “Doctor Who.” I’ll list episodes that highlight why I love them too.

Warning this does contain SPOILERS

5) The 9th Doctor / The Ninth Doctor

The 9th Doctor gives us the best complete Doctor story in the Davies era of “Doctor Who.” This is a Doctor reeling from all the lives he’s ended during the Time War and is haunted by survivors guilt and PTSD. His arc involves him learning to trust again through his relationship with Rose as well as facing his demons from the Time War when he confronts the Dalek Emperor and refuses to kill them again. He shows that he stands for life when at the beginning of the show he is far more willing to kill. We also get to see his pure joy when he is finally able to save lives during World War 2 and he is the Doctor who introduces us to the wonderful Jack Harkness. It is really his facing a single Dalek in “Dalek” that changes him the most and that is through Rose’s compassion that makes him the man who refuses to kill in his final episode. Christopher Eccleston gives us so much depth with this Doctor and I’m grateful we got this season with him. He truly was fantastic.

Episodes I’d recommend: “The End of the World,” “Dalek,” The Empty Child,” and “The Doctor Dances.”

4) The 4th Doctor / The Fourth Doctor

One thing I love about Doctors is how alien they are and the 4th Doctor is easily the most alien out of all my favorites. Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor is the only one to have a Time Lord companion in Romana and is comfortable being away from people. I think this is a reaction to the 3rd Doctor’s attachment to humans as often when the Doctor gets too attached his next incarnation will detach and could leave people abruptly and never show up again.  This is Tom Baker’s Doctor who could do an entire episode without a companion but also had many companions over his long run, with the most popular being Sarah Jane Smith. I enjoyed the Sherlock nature of this Doctor as he was crafty and often had to make the decisions alone as in the end he is the one who could have ended the Dalek threat before it began. His choice like the 9th Doctor illustrates his compassion though. At the end the day the Doctor is the one who saves lives and that is what drives the 4th Doctor the most beyond unraveling plots and the discovery of new things. It was tough to choose between him and the next Doctor on this list but in the end the next Doctor had more episodes I enjoyed and it was the limitations placed on the next Doctor that put him higher. The 4th Doctor had full reign from the Time Lords where the next one did not.

Episodes I’d recommend: “Terror of the Zygons,” “Genesis of the Daleks,” “Revenge of the Cybermen,” “The Deadly Assassin” and “The Brain of Morbius.”

3) The 3rd Doctor / The Third Doctor

Next we have one of our more human Doctors. Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor is a Doctor exiled to Earth so the majority of his adventures are him without his TARDIS. This was as strength as limitations came to define just how excellent this Doctor is. This was a Doctor who had to count on UNIT and people and because of it revealed the flaws of humanity. This Doctor also traveled and dressed in style. When I think about the Doctor and his drive for peace 3rd is one of the first who comes to mind as he attempts to broker a peace between the Silurians and humans but UNIT destroys the Silurians anyway. He also felt strongly unlike the 4th Doctor as when his companion Jo leaves his sadness is what defines that leaving as he quietly exits the room. This is the Doctor who introduces us to Brigadier and Sarah Jane Smith who would be part of this show after his regeneration. This is also the Doctor who gave us the original Master and from that, there constant playing off each other and complicated relationship.

Episodes I’d recommend: “Spearhead from Space,” “Doctor Who and the Silurians,” and “The Dæmons.”

2) The 10th Doctor / The Tenth Doctor

One of the most common things you hear when you enter the “Doctor Who” fandom is who is your Doctor. Which Doctor introduced you to the show and is the reason you are a fan? For me that is David Tennant’s 10th Doctor. “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” was the story that introduced me to “Doctor Who” and I was hooked after that. What defines this Doctor is his facing of the impossible and compassion for humanity but also his extreme arrogance. Like the 9th Doctor he was defined as “Last of the Time Lords” and that survivors guilt is really what is behind his arrogance and compassion. This is a Doctor who believes he is always right and can be almost villainous as “The Doctor Triumphant” when he is willing to change time because he can. David Tennant brought so much depth and nuance to this role and gives us not only an arrogant Doctor but when who full of loss and vulnerability. He loses his companion Rose who was his friend and love and hurts the companions who come after in his selfishness. He is also running from his mortality and death as when he is forced to regenerate for the first time he stays himself until he is finally forced to move on. This Doctor gave us one of my favorite companions Martha, who he was unfair too as she was his way to get over Rose and also introduced us to Torchwood, Harriet Jones, Donna Noble, Mickey Smith and one of my favorite character, River Song. The 10th Doctor also faced off against the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Davros, Rasselon and the Master for classic enemies and further explored the complicated relationship with the Master. Tennant truly owned this role and I appreciated how defining he is of the Davies era of “Doctor Who.” He was many peoples’ first Doctor and I’m glad he was mine.

Episodes I’d recommend: “Blink,” “Army of Ghosts,” “Doomsday,” “Human Nature,” “Family of Blood,” “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” “Last of the Time Lords,” “Midnight,” and “The Waters of Mars.”

1) The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor

First place was the most difficult for me to choose as really the top 4 Doctors listed (3, 4, 10 and 12) are extremely close together for me. Each of them has their pros and cons but I really consider the top 4 to really be the perfect examples of the Doctor for myself. So, why did I choose Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor as number 1 if David Tennant’s 10th Doctor was my first Doctor? The reason behind it is because the 12th Doctor has the better story and changes over the course of his time on Moffat’s run. Capaldi’s Doctor has much of the detachment of Baker’s 4th to the point that Clara is the one who he uses to care because initially he cares mostly for puzzles and the big picture of saving the world. He had Nardole and Bill as original companions. This Doctor was the professor and even taught at University and would open many episodes like lectures. For some famous enemies he faced off against there was the Master, Davros, Rasselon, Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors and Zygons. To this Doctor humans matter but all life in the galaxy matters so like the 3rd Doctor he is able to shine a light on the selfishness of humans and call it out where he sees it. He is also defined by his time during the Time War and because of this will always seek peace and the saving of others. He does with the Zygons and humans. His arc also goes from him not wanting to connect with his companions to having many and even having Missy (the current incarnation of the Master) as one. For how much he tries not to care he cares the deepest and unlike his past incarnations he isn’t running from what he did during the Time War. He instead uses the lessons from the Time War to save lives wherever he can and seek peace wherever possible. This is the Doctor who is the thinker, the one who can monologue can carry an entire episode on his own with his own inner monologue. No Doctor was able to do that before or has done it since. For these reasons, Capaldi is my favorite Doctor.

Episodes I’d recommend: “Listen,” “Into the Dalek,” “Mummy on the Orient Express,” “Dark Water,” “Death in Heaven,” “Last Christmas,” “The Zygon Invasion,” “The Zygon Inversion,” “Heaven Sent,” “The Husbands of River Song,” “The Empress of Mars,” “World Enough and Time,” and “The Doctor Falls.”

    I’m curious to hear who your favorite are. These were mine and I can’t wait to see what other stories are told in this amazing universe.

Top 5 Favorite Enemy Factions in “Doctor Who”

     It has been a while since I’ve written anything on “Doctor Who” so I decided to explore my favorite enemy factions the Doctor has faced. I’ll be pulling from some enemies who have appeared in both classic and modern who and will not be choosing individual entities like The Master, Davros or The Great Intelligence. My primary focus with this list is focusing on civilizations and exploring their appeal to me. It feels wonderful to write about all of this again as I enjoy both eras of “Doctor Who” and for me one of the greatest draws has always been the alien civilizations that have been created through the years and how sometimes they are used to reflect aspects of humanity or the Doctor in their missions. I have not read any of the “Doctor Who” books or listened to any of the audiodramas and am just pulling from episodes I have seen from both Classic and Modern “Doctor Who.” For popular enemies who did not make this list I’ll give a shout-out to the Sontarans and Cybermen who have unique cultures but at least in the case of Cybermen are often used by other people as minions. The Time Lords also did not make this list as more often than not they act largely as corrupt humans when they are antagonists. So without further ado, here is my list.

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5th) The Weeping Angels

     First up, in 5th place are the Weeping Angels. They first appeared in “Blink,” during the Russel T. Davies era of the show and were created by Stephen Moffat. There initial introduction presented them as the compassionate assassins. The basic deal with the angels is the they transport you back into the past and feed off your potential energy that was left behind. Beyond their need to eat they aren’t that complex and we haven’t seen any hierarchy among them. It is for this reason that they are not higher on the list. They function as a monster faction but are unique monsters as they appear as statues when you look at them. Later episodes like “Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” played them primarily up as the monsters simply wishing to feed and didn’t even use the time travel aspect, though there was a return to the time travel assassin nature once more in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” If they are to be brought up again I hope we see more complexity in their culture as they continue to be a fascinating threat, even if later episodes after “Blink” did dumb them down immensely. They have faced off against the 10th and 11th Doctor thus far in the show so there are still stories that could be told in future iterations or even Anniversary events where multiple Doctors could be present.

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4th) The Silence

The Silence are an enemy who has so far only faced the 11th Doctor. Originally created as genetically engineered priests made to take confessions for the Papal Mainframe a faction of them broke off and sought to end the Doctor in order to save the universe. This faction is creepy and a great threat as anyone who interacts with them forgets them when they stop looking at them. These enemies were created by Stephen Moffat and have so far only appeared during his era of modern “Doctor Who.” Unlike the angels who got dumbed down, this faction never reached the height of fear in their first introduction in “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon” but did remain a consistent complex threat. In Series 6 the Kavorian Faction shows up at the beginning and end and each time brings tensions as the heroes mark how when they see with tally on their skin. This is a faction I still see promise in, as they did fight with the Doctor in the terrible final “The Time of the Doctor” so there is more that could be done with them as either friend or foe. The fact that you forget them when you look away still leaves them ripe for story, and who knows how their culture could change over time and how they might find identity outside of the one placed upon them by the Papal Mainframe.

3rd) The Daleks

The Daleks are one of the most common and popular enemies in “Doctor Who.” This is a faction dedicated to the destruction of anyone who isn’t them and are mutants from Skaro created by the mad scientist Davros. The Daleks have been in countless episodes of “Doctor Who” and first appeared facing off against the 1st Doctor and have even faced off against the most recent 13th Doctor too. Over the years the most interesting things that have been done with are Civil Wars for leadership such as the Emperor Dalek, Supreme Dalek and Davros as the many leaders of factions and have even had moments of humanity in the modern era. I highly recommend “Dalek” and “Into the Dalek” as great examples of the Dalek’s potential for exploration beyond their drive to exterminate. The reason they aren’t higher on the list is due to the fact that they we got complex political machinations for power grabs the Daleks never grow beyond their superiority. They have individual episodes of complexity but as a faction are unable to get beyond power grabs and their original design. Still, they are popular and have continued to be used through Classic and Modern “Doctor Who” that I suspect we may get that complexity in the future.

2nd) The Zygons

The Zygons are a group of survivors. First introduced during Tom Baker’s run as the 4th Doctor these aliens first sought to conquer Earth after learning their planet was destroyed. These metamorphic aliens are able to shapeshift and infiltrate societies and their technology is all organic. They failed in their initial invasion and wouldn’t appear again until the 50th Anniversary Special “The Day of the Doctor.” It is in “The Day of the Doctor” where they are attempting to invade again until the Doctors (War, 10 and 11) forces a peace with Earth and they take human form and part of human society. This is until a faction wants to live as Zygons again and we get “The Zygon Invasion” and  the “The Zygon Inversion.” The 12th Doctor once again forces a peace (and gives the best Doctor speech on the horrors of war, Capaldi is one of my favorite Doctors and is amazing) but I’m curious where things are going to go from here. The Zygons are refugees whose culture has been subsumed by humanity and they cannot even be themselves to a degree from all that they see. I hope that is explored further as they are a species without a home and easily one of the craftiest factions the Doctor has faced and the faction that has now forced humanity to face it’s propensity for war twice that we know of. They have such a cool design and it is when their organic technology and diversity of thought is on display that really makes them stand out to me. They almost made my number 1 but didn’t because they are so often presented in the human shifted form and sadly have been forced to live in that form now for most of their time since returning to the show. They were also used as joke in “The Day of the Doctor” which also hurt where I placed them on the list.

1st) The Ice Warriors 

The Ice Warriors like the Zygons is a species of survivors. They were once a huge empire but when we meet them for the first time during the 2nd Doctor, they are introduced as the last of their species as their home planet Mars is now dead. Like the Zygons those thawed out of the ice try to conquer Earth and are stopped. We do not see them again until the modern era and the 11th Doctor’s “Cold War” where we see an ice warrior out of it’s mechanical suit held hostage on a Russian submarine. This species is dangerous in combat and in “Cold War” takes out any threat against it until the Doctor eventually reasons with it and it is rescued by a remaining Ice Warrior ship. We see them once more in “Empress on Mars” where like “Cold War” they are facing off against humans. Their Empress does not trust and it takes a lot of death, before there is finally peace. Unlike the Zygons who are forced to look like humans the Ice Warriors always stay as they are when peace is formed and there is so much more power in that as they are a unique culture. This culture is one built around a hierarchy, honor and an Empress as the leader. I have yet to watch a bad story with them and the episodes they appear in are some of my favorite of “Doctor Who.” I hope to see them in more stories as the complexity of diplomacy and finding peace has been illustrated beautifully with them twice.

That is my list. If you have one of your own I’d love to read them in the comments. This was fun to do as it has been quite some time since I’ve written about “Doctor Who.”

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 12 – “The Doctor Falls” – When Change Leads to Pain

Moffat and Finale’s are a mixed bag. Moffat is a writer who is afraid to kill off characters and take risks with story. So much of what he’s done with the “Doctor Who” lore is to reset the status quo. I’m not sure how far into the series you are so I won’t go into detail, but a lot of powerful decisions that Davies made in storytelling Moffat cancels out, as well as his inability to let go of characters and an insistence they must keep coming back (he’s been better about this with Capaldi’s stories in regards to this lately though). “The Doctor Falls” thankfully does not have this problem. Before I get into spoilers in the review, this is a story with consequences and since Moffat knows he’s leaving he manages to give some wonderful sendoffs to quite a few amazing characters.

“The Doctor Falls” was directed by Rachel Talaley and written by Steven Moffat.

The story picks up where we left off, with Bill turned into a Cybermen and the Masters torturing the Doctor. The tables are turned though when the Cybermen attack as the Doctor revealed he expanded the definition of humanity to mean Time Lords as well forcing all of them to team up as they make their final stand on a village higher up in the ship.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Base Under Siege – The base under siege is a major “Doctor Who” story trope that is handed really well here, as we have a small group of people who the Masters, Nardole, CyberBill and the Doctor must work with as they work out a plan to save themselves or save the villagers. It’s powerful as most of the villagers are children and the Cybermen have been attacking them for years. It is a losing battle without sacrifice leading characters to make choices that will define them. In the end Nardole leads the survivors further up the ship and is left as their guardian as he, once a con man has now become a good man from the Doctor.

The Masters – Simm’s Master has no empathy and is still the same insane man from the Tennant era while Missy feels guilt and cares for the Doctor. This leads to her killing her past self to regenerate into her current self but not before she is shot by Simm’s Master as the Master’s self-destructive nature leads to the Time Lord’s destruction. It is a tragic and powerful scene and in it the Master is redeemed as Missy’s final act was to do away with her bad past and embrace the goals of the Doctor, and in doing so it ends her life. It is a great ending for the Master as a character and Michelle Gomez, who has owned this role gives so much life and emotion to those final scenes with Simm’s Master and the Doctor.

Bill’s Good-bye – Bill is in the final fight and helps the Doctor get back to the TARDIS with the help of the Pilot who returns. It is at that point she becomes the water entity too and dies…as the Doctor established the Pilot is it’s unknown entity and now Bill is a part of it. It is sad and tragic and beautiful as some part of Bill will carry on traveling even though she is dead in both body (turned into a cyberman) and now self since she joined the entity.

The Doctor and Change – Through this episode we see the Doctor ready to die and in a way wanting to I think. He lost his best friend the Master (both when he thinks she’s leaving with her past self and for real when see their death), he can guess that Bill is dead given she isn’t on the TARDIS and stayed to fight with him and all his past pain, from losing River and losing himself as he changes each time. This leads to his last acts before the TARDIS takes him to his first incarnation…him resisting regeneration. He just wants to die and for the pain to end. He’s tired of loss and if he’s going to go he wants to go as himself. I can see why and it is done so much better than when Tennant’s Doctor implied the same with the long good-bye. Can’t wait to see the Christmas Special explore this more.

The Cons: Genesis of the Cybermen? – So where the Cybermen created here? Simm’s Master calls the Cybermen he made the Genesis of the Cybermen but we never see them leave the ship and the Mondas look and connection is never made fully clear. I liked them as a threat but why all this setup if it doesn’t lead anywhere?

This was an episode I highly recommend. It is a favorite and easily some of the best of Moffat’s writing in this series. I’m going to miss Capaldi so much but I’m glad Nardole, Bill and the Master got some amazing good-byes and I hope Capaldi’s Doctor get’s the same. This was a season where Moffat finally learned that it is okay to let go. Clara doesn’t have to keep on dying and being brought back and becoming an immortal fixture who ceases to be a character…it is okay so good-bye and storywise it lends power to sacrifice and loss. This was a two-parter that did that so well and showed just how great of a writer Moffat can be.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

For the Two Parts: 9.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 11 – “World Enough and Time” – The Failure of the Good

    Steven Moffat as a showrunner as usually always been great at Penultimate episodes during his run in regards to two-parters. “Heaven Sent” was a brilliant exploration of the 12th Doctor’s psychology, self and drive and “Dark Water” gave us a great reveal of what the Heaven was during that season as well as the identity of Missy. His Finale’s on the other hand are more of a mixed bag but I’ll get into that when we review the finale for this season. This is an episode, like the others above that gives us that same level of threat, character development and reveals leading to one of my favorite Doctor Who stories.

“World Enough and Time” was directed by Rachel Talaley and written by Steven Moffat.

The story involves the Doctor, Bill, Nardole and Missy answering a distress call of a giant ship that is trapped above a black hole. The Doctor has Missy lead the mission, hoping that she can prove she is good but things soon get out of hand when a mistake from a civilian they are trying to help leads to unintended consequences and a darker plot at hand.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Doctor, the Master and Bill – There is a scene early on where Bill is expressing how she doesn’t trust Missy and the Doctor recounts his memories of the Master being his best friend at the Academy. It is wonderful as we see how close Bill and the Doctor are (the fact that he is sharing his past with the Master) as well as his trusting in the good in people, even with all he knows. It is powerful and I loved how this was explored and kicks off the episode.

Creation of the Mondas Cybermen – In this episode we learn the Master created the Mondas Cybermen when he he used a large colony ship trapped near a black hole to make people wish to live even if it was painful since life was hell and infection already. After a mistake Bill is shot and his Proto-Cybermen capture her as he pretends to be the assistant as he pulls the strings of the colonists. In the end he uses Bill’s trust to trap her and change her into the first of the Mondas Cybermen. The episode works really well as all are trapped at the bottom of the ship, infected by radiation for the ship. It is a living hell where all are sick and dying, which is a prime world for the philosophy of Cybermen (strength over feelings and emotion) rules the day.

The Death of the Good and the Master – The theme of the episode is the fight or trust in the good and the better nature in others. This episode has this end in a few ways, Bill becomes a Cyberman trapped in a living Hell, Missy joins forces with the Master and the triggering of the events in the episode happen when an alien shoots Bill when he panics. Fear and despair rule the episode…from the colonists who want to become Cybermen, Missy missing her past ways and having the chance to be that way again and Bill losing her humanity…for the Doctor all that is left is the good he chooses to do because the episode has killed it everywhere else.

This is an episode where there wasn’t much I could find wrong with it besides brief moments of pacing. It begins with a stinger with the Doctor leaking energy on a ice planet before we jump to the past and set up the themes of mortality, death and choice. This is all handled beautifully and I really enjoyed the reveal of Simm’s Master and the fact that he’d been manipulating Bill the entire time in order to get the Doctor and his future self Missy. The setup is beautiful and the Doctor and Nardole are left in a state where anything bad can happen as the Doctor failed to protect Bill and must face the consequences from that.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 10 – “The Eaters of Light” – Connection in Conflict

     “The Eaters of Light” was an episode that the trailer made look terrible. Giant monster hunting soldiers…it didn’t look like it was going to be deep in any way and the monster looked uncreative as hell. Suffice to say I was gladly disappointed. This episode deals with similar themes as “Empress of Mars” and Capaldi’s Doctor excels as the peace Doctor. Without getting into spoilers, this is an episode worth checking out, as it gives justice to it’s characters, story and theme.

The episode was directed by Charles Palmer and written by Rona Munro.

The story involves Bill, Nardole and the Doctor investigating the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion in Scotland. They are separated and discover a creature is hunting the people in the region.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Factions – The native faction and the Romans are given a lot of humanity in this. You get why each is in the situation they are in, whether it was the tribe leader summoning the best to protect her people from the Romans or the Roman soldiers who had to follow orders or die. It is a bad situation and shows the tragedy in conquest as the people we meet are the few surivors from the war.

The Characters – I enjoyed the characters in this…we have some wonderful moments with Nardole becoming part of the trible, Bill helping the Roman soldiers find courage again and the Doctor as the peacemaker getting the two factions to stop fighting so the creature won’t kill them all and the world.

Coming Together in Conflict – There is hate and rage that has to be worked through by our characters as fear is what released the creature and since there are so few left of the tribe and Romans that they can only build it by coming together. It is very well done as they choose to fight the beast rather than let the Doctor do it in their place. It is a powerful scene and showed that even though the past wasn’t erased, to save the future the soldiers could come together. They even stop the Doctor from doing his heroic sacrifice as they realize that this was their battle to face.

Okay: The Magic Elements – There is music around the stones where the battle happened. I thought this was alright but also wasn’t needed. I wouldn’t call it a con though.

The Creature – The creature is kind of boring. It fears light and kills quickly and has a reptile mixed with an insect look. Apparently it is a space locust as they feed and eat across universes as they jump through dimensions. I would have liked to know more as what we’ve got is okay, but not great.

This is an episode worth checking out. I thought it would be a boring survival story with a misunderstood monster, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case. The minor and main characters get fleshed out and the Doctor doesn’t get to save the day. Capaldi’s Doctor is one who excels as the Peacemaker as some of the greatest episodes during his run have been like this one where he helps factions come together. I’m going to miss him after he regenerates.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10. Only reason it isn’t higher is the monster wasn’t all that interesting and the magic elements brought it down.

 

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 7 – “The Pyramid at the End of the World” – An Interesting Idea Trapped in a Mess

   “The Pyramid at the End of the World” is a mess. It is a good idea trapped in a train-wreck and to  no ones surprise, one of the writers is Steven Moffat as after the great setup of the last episode it had to fall pretty hard. Suffice to say, it will be good to have a new showrunner if we get more episodes like this than the promise of this season will go away, and we will once again and “Doctor Who” will get “Sherlocked,” and end for Capaldi on a bad note. Hopefully this doesn’t happen.

The episode was directed by Daniel Nattheim and written by Steven Moffat and Peter Harness.

The episode kicks off with the Monks invasion as a Pyramid appears in a DMZ where three world powers are (China, Russia and the U.S.A.). It is up to the Doctor and his companions to solve the mystery before the world ends or humanity consents to rule by the Monks.

The Pros: The Monks – The Monks are one of the most compelling parts of this episode. They are mysterious and powerful and their need for their victims to consent to their rule is powerful and messed up. They are almost vampiric and so much more could have been done with this idea in the episode.

The War Zone – The War Zone with the 3 Major Powers (Russia, China and the U.S.A.) in a standoff with the Monks in the middle with the Doctor now President of the World is really interesting. The sad thing is the Generals have no development and exist only as ideas.

The Cons: The Lab – The Lab has a strange romance between two people doing experiments. Something goes wrong and before you know it this is where the end of the world will happen. I hated this, the acting here is strange and it isn’t ever clear what is happening. The whole place was contrived for the Doctor to be in danger so Bill would make a deal with the Monks and consent to their rule so the Doctor will get his sight back and won’t die. Suffice to say, it is pretty bad.

The Writing and Structure – The structure jumps all over the place, it isn’t really ever clear where we are on the timeline and every. The writing is a lot of contrivances to get Bill to consent and surrender Earth to the Monks (since you can only successfully consent if you love another in order for the Monks to rule). It really is a trainwreck.

Much like “The Silence” and the exploding TARDIS with the crack in time…the Monks are another great idea that doesn’t payoff in regards to their invasion. Nothing that happens this episode is tied into the last one and the conquest is so hackneyed. There is a good idea in there as the Monks doing conquest through consent is messed up, twisted and interesting…but I couldn’t describe the Doctor, Bill or Nardole in this episode to you. They are all plot devices and in the end this good idea is a mess and a failure of an episode.

Final Score: 4 / 10

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 3 – “Thin Ice” – Bland Villain and Monster Bring Down Good Character Moments

   “Thin Ice” is the first mediocre episode this series. This is an episode that has great character moments with Bill and the Doctor but the support characters, villain and the creature are so boring and unfleshed out that it brings down the entire peace. It isn’t a bad episode, as the characters stuff was strong enough to keep me engaged, but it isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination.

    The episode was directed by Bill Anderson and written by Sarah Dollard.

   The story involves the TARDIS transporting the Doctor and Bill to the Thames Frost Fair of 1814. It is here they must unravel the mystery of the creature underneath the Thames as Bill is confronted with a choice that will define her and humanity.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros; The Doctor and Bill’s Relationship – This is an episode where Bill debates with the Doctor his role. She asks if he’s killed and it takes him a long time to say that only when it is one of the last options available…and in it we see the Doctor as a soldier and veteran, while for Bill this is all so new to her as she is faced with these choices for the first time and better understands the danger in the adventure.

The Doctor – The Doctor is great in this in how he expresses that he does what he does to help and safeguard life because he is called to it…by his companion, the TARDIS, or the people they are helping. I saw it as partially him pushing responsibility off himself, but it also helped illustrate how he’s been learning. So much of 10’s trauma was because he got involved and didn’t listen. I think 12 has learned from the past in that way…now lets just see if the writers will keep it consistent.

Bill – Bill is faced with the darkness in humanity in this one…from there hanging out with pickpocketing children, to a racist landowner who is controlling the monster for money. In the end she does what she can to save as many people as possible and trick the villain…and from here we see how the Doctor and the TARDIS make the companions more like them.

Humanity’s Choice – Save the creature and risk human lives…or keep things the way they are and live the guilt of enslaving another being. This was the core dilemma at the end of the episode that turns Bill more into the Doctor as she chooses the second choice and larger moral implications that come with it. All life matters…be it alien or human.

The Cons: The Villain – The villain is a racist landowner exploiting the creature for resources as it has been in his family for generations. He is so bland and uninteresting and easily one of the worst villains to come out of Doctor Who. There was no motivation beyond greed.

The Supporting Cast – There are a bunch of child actors and none of them can act. This usually isn’t smart to do in any film medium and Doctor Who isn’t known for it’s great writing…and young actors usually don’t have the charisma to carry a scene the way an older more experienced actor could have…to make up for the pitfalls in the writing and dialogue.

The Monster – The monster is a giant fish that sounds like a a whale that we never get to fully see. It eats people, so we know it is dangerous…and apparently it’s a native to Earth, but that is all we know. It is there to be rescued and that is it.

   This is a film that is only worth your time if you are a major fan of the show and a completionist. There are way too many 2 Dimensional characters in this episode and even the core concept of the companion being the stand in for humanity could have been explored a lot better. There are some great dialogue and character moments between Bill and the Doctor, but this is a time where that wasn’t enough to bring the episode to good or great.

Final Score: 7 / 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