The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 10 – “Face the Raven” – A Great World and Decent Good Bye

Doctor Who Face the Raven

     This is an episode of Spoilers so I’m not going to talk about the details of what happens until I get further into the review. Suffice to say I do think this episode was great, even though I would have done things differently in regards to the ending…it’s an episode that had an idea that was explored really well and the idea of a bunch of alien refugees living in London was actually really cool.

        “Face the Raven” was directed by Justin Molotnikov and written by Sarah Dollard.

SPOILERS ahead

     The  story involves the return of Rigsy who calls for Clara for help after he’s been infected by an alien curse that has him on a countdown until he dies. It is up to Clara and the Doctor to rescue him and trace the origin of the curse as they discover the street that is ruled by Ashilder/Me who is the Mayor looking after her people, an assortment of alien refugees hiding out in London as Rigsy is accused of having killed their most loved member.

The Pros: The Missing Street – A world of alien refugees who live by a strict code where any breaking of the code leads to Ashildr killing them with the Raven who is possessed by a Quantam Shade that kills the members who have been cursed/Chronolocked. It’s powerful and you see how much the peace is valued and also how easy it is to break it.

 The Janus – The Janus are a 2 headed alien who can see into the past and the future. Anah was the one who made everyone at peace when she talked and we see that they are one of the vulnerable species as their abilities are one anyone threatening could take advantage of.

Rigsy – Rigsy is a father! We learn about his wife and child in this when he is living with the countdown and see him make comfort with his death until Clara convinces him to pass the Chronolock onto her. He helps a lot in this and has some great dialogue and nickname as the Doctor calls him Local Knowledge…only calling him his name when he’s about to tell that the countdown is for his death leading him to have the Doctor to please just call him nicknames.

Ashilder/Mayor Me -Ashildr continues to be a great complicated character. She is very much in the same vein as Jack Harkness and River Song as we see her antagonistic relationship with the Doctor leading her to make a deal with his enemies (my Money is on Missy and Davros) in order to protect her people. If she’ll do something to make up for it remains to be seen, I did enjoy how much she respects Clara though and that she didn’t want her death.

The Doctor – The Doctor is wonderful in this as we see him advocate for the life of Rigsy and also admire Ashildr for keeping the peace on the Street, even though he disagrees with the methods. We also see his anger too as he would have done worse than kill Ashildr if Clara hadn’t forced him to promise to be a Doctor. Before he leaves we see his sadness in Clara’s good bye and his rage as he is transported to an unknown place at episodes end.

Clara Oswald – This is a good episode that shows how Clara has become like the Doctor (risking herself for others) but also what sets her apart as she reminds the Doctor to be a doctor and not a warrior at episodes end. She also takes on the curse of her own free will since she sees all that Rigsy has to live for, while she is living each moment to the fullest in adventure.

Okay/Good: Clara’s Death – Clara faces the raven. It was an okay/good death but not the best exit. I thought Season 8 with her and the Doctor lying to one another was better as was the “Peter Pan” ending with Clara dying as an old woman in the Christmas Special. This was a decent good bye but because the better ones had already occurred it was always going to be less. Now here is to her remaining dead.

      I can’t really state it anymore than I did above, this was not Clara’s strongest death but it still meant something and I do like the Doctor being alone and i hope he stays that way until he gets a new companion. She had her arc and now that it’s done the story can continue to move forward as we see what the Doctor’s enemies have in store. Hopefully we will return to the Missing Street again someday. I really enjoyed that world and could have easily spent 2 episodes there.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 7 – “The Zygon Invasion” – The Zygons are Amazing Again!

The Zygon Invasion

         The Zygons are great again! After their introductory episode in “Terror of the Zygons” (one of my favorite episodes) and sadly being turned into jokes in “Day of the Doctor” it’s nice to see them back in form as a worthy and complex enemy of the Doctor and humanity. The Zygons are one of my favorite enemies so I really hated how they were played as a joke in “Day of the Doctor.” This was an episode that did a lot right and is easily one of my favorite for the season.

      “The Zygon Invasion” was directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Peter Harness.

       The story involves the peace treaty established in “Day of the Doctor” falling apart after the death of Osgood by Missy as a fanatical group of Zygons seek to establish a world where they can live as Zygons and no longer have to deal with humanity as a threat.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Introduction  and the Osgoods – The episode begins with the Osgoods (who we later learn have now become hybrids of one another as part of the treaty) are keeping a box safe that the Doctor gave them that is only to be used if one of them dies. It’s powerful as we see just how fragile the peace is even though the Osgoods are friends and their friendship was the basis for the treaty.

The Tone – The tone is wonderful! It is a high stakes political chase where tension is built over the course of the entire episode and we see how deep the Zygon manipulations go. It pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

UNIT – UNIT is competent again and we see soldiers emotions being manipulated by the Zygons taking the formed of their loved ones (like one of their’s mother) and Kate Stewart is back in action investigating the plot and searching for the missing Osgood (as they were core to the treaty).

Kate Stewart – We get to see why she is in charge of UNIT as she keeps the operation small and seeks to isolate the radical Zygons and figure out their plan. In the end she is ambushed by one pretending to be a human survivor but my guess is she survives and we see her patience in dealing with the Zygons even with all the secrets.

Clara – Clara is great in this as we see her playing an active role that eventually leads to her capture and replacement by a Zygone named Bonnie.

The Zygons – The Zygons are wonderful! It’s great to see one of my favorite aliens from “Doctor Who” back in form again. They are a huge threat and have a bigger kill count of their own people (the fanatical faction that has taken the good idea of living openly to the extreme of targeting those working with humans in cooperation). In the end they have the faction working with humans to keep the treaty either dead or on the run and UNIT in the United States and the U.K. annihilated or destroyed. They are fantastic threat and show that there should be reason to fear them.

The Doctor – The Doctor kicks things off rocking on his air guitar, which is wonderful and we see that he loves to fly around in a Jet even if he doesn’t want to be President. In this we see that he is willing to do anything to keep the peace and doesn’t realize that the folks he are dealing with don’t want peace until a rocket is being fired at his airplane. Really curious how he and the surviving Osgood are going to get out of this one.

Okay: The Good Zygons – I would have liked to see them and their motivations explored more. Do they take on the memories of those they shape shift into or is it something else all together? Is it out of fear or do they respect humanity? I hope Part 2 answers why there are those who still want peace given humanity’s track record with aliens in “Doctor Who.”

  This is one of my favorite episodes and I really enjoyed seeing the Zygons as a threat again. If you are a fan of Classic “Doctor Who” or any good political thriller where each side has motivations that can at least be explored in a good way, this is the episode for you.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 5 – “The Girl Who Died” – The Doctor Creates a Tidal Wave

The Girl Who Died

 “The Girl Who Died” could have easily been “Robot of Sherwood” bad but where that didn’t take the drama or characters seriously…this one did and elevated what could have easily been a joke script into a high concept Time Travel drama that is bigger than the sum of all it’s parts.

    The episode was directed by Ed Bazalgette and written by Steven Moffat and Jamie Mathieson.

SPOILERS ahead.

     The story involves the Doctor protecting a Viking village from a race called the Mire whose leader eats Viking Testosterone. It is up to the Shield-maiden Ashildr (Maisie Williams) Clara and the Doctor to stop them before the Mire make war on the village and destroy it.

The Pros: The Viking Village – The vikings are actually humanized! There is one character who is a father and a blacksmith and it is his child that makes the Doctor aware that he has the face he does so that he will always remember to save people…that he’ll always find a way (the man Caecilius the Doctor saved in “Fires of Pompeii”). The characters are all humanized and even though are played for laughs sometimes, never feel like jokes.

The Mire – The Mire are pretty cool. You have species who feed off of testosterone and are highly armored since their faces are giant mouths…I really liked their design and it’s wonderful seeing a new Warrior Race. I hope we see them again.

Clara – Clara is there to remind the Doctor of his role as a protector again as after they help save a species that a greater species was trying to kill they are put into the situation again when Ashilder declares war on the Mire for the destruction of her warriors. It is from here she is always pulling the Doctor back from his detachment and need to run. She is the one who reminds him he can stand and fight and think of a plan.

Ashildr – Ashildr is our new Harkness! She is the storyteller and Shield-maiden of the village who is the outsider even among her people and it is her taking advantage of the Mire’s hacked technology that turns the village’s puppets into Dragons that force them to run in fear. She dies in the process though and it is the Doctor using Mire tech. that brings her back to life, making her a hybrid immortal as the Mire are self-repairing and cannot die. It’s a powerful scene as at the end we see the world changing around her as she stays the same and goes from joy to pain at living. She is also most likely the Hybrid Warrior that Davros spoke of in the prophecy.

The Doctor – The Doctor warns about creating waves and ripples and it is implied that saving Ashildr was the right thing to do but he may have created a ripple that’s out of his control (Like Jack Harkness) and it is implied we will feel the consequences of saving Ashildr later. It’s powerful as the Doctor is questioning his power and the choices to make…that sometimes it is right to run and other times the most you can do is save one person…be it Caecilius or Ashildr and deal with the consequences of those choices later.

The Doctor created a wave in this with giving us another immortal and I really hope we see the full consequences of it as this time the show is really analyzing what it means to give someone immortality and how seeing the ones they love die can change a person and make them hard, like the Doctor. Being immortal be it as a Time Lord or a hybrid is shown to be a responsibility which the New Series hasn’t really fully dealt with until now. For these reasons and more I highly recommend this episode that may end up being the best this season.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

“Doctor Who” Series 8 Reflection – Of Capaldi, Illusions and a Return to the Old

Doctor Who Death in Heaven

“Doctor Who” has finally returned to form. After a questionable Series 6 and 7 (seems to be habit that in the last era of Doctors who last more than one series…that inevitably their character development and stories decline in quality (See Series 4 and the Tennant Specials). The later series of Doctor Who, whether it’s the Smith era as 11 or Tennant era as 10, eventually the themes got more scattered and the writers can out of ideas and began going more for explosions and cheap jokes, rather than actual deep stories with high quality. But, as I said before, Capaldi turned that around for the Moffat era.

This is an assessment of the entire series 8, so this will have spoilers. So be warned.

This was an era of great episodes like “Listen” (which may be one of the best Doctor Who episodes of all time), from “Time Heist,” and “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven.” There were only two terrible episodes, “Robot of Sherwood” which was insulting in how it portrayed it’s characters, and “In the Forest of the Night” which had Moffat’s worst Fairy Tale storytelling on display. But besides that it was an extremely solid and enjoyable series that had a very great theme.

If I were to define 12’s era I would say it’s themes were the cost of war on soldiers, if fighting is always the right thing to do and the nature of lies and illusions and breaking through those to reach the truth.

The greatest cost of war on soldiers is seen with Danny, who distrusts officers because of what he was ordered to do. He killed a child in the war he fought in and this is something that gives him motivation on teaching children and trying to be a good man. He lives with the guilt, just like the Doctor refuses to kill and to fight because of what he had to do during the Time War. Danny dies a soldier but his final act is in Heaven giving the child he killed a chance at life again and in turn giving up his life with Clara. The Doctor also makes the choice and rather than using the Cybermen to liberate refugees and free the world (at the cost of his soul) he lets Cybermen Humanity be lead by Danny and save the human race. It’s their battle in the end. This theme is also witnessed with the alien in :The Caretaker” which is a Robot designed to destroy and the Mummy on “Mummy on the Orient Express” who stops killing once the Doctor tells him they surrender. They than salute one another and the undead soldier is finally allowed death, or the Teller finally allowed to live with it’s partner. Soldiers can fight for what’s right but so often they are broken tools of people like Missy or the Mummy’s creator. This is the horror of war and what it’s cost can often be on soldiers…not everyone is able to have a life after like Danny did.

The second issue is if fighting is always the right thing to do. Sometimes it is, in the episode “Flatline” the Boneless keep killing and attacking people, leading the Doctor to sending them back to their dimension. He tried everything and nothing worked. In “Deep Breath” he talks with the Half-Face Man and it’s left ambiguous if the Half-Face Man took his own life out of guilt and realized how killing was wrong because of how human he had become. Capaldi’s Doctor chooses not to fight unless it is necessary or to protect another. He was only willing to kill Missy so Clara wouldn’t have to, and when Brig made the choice for the Doctor he was grateful. One theme is that even if it is necessary, killing always has a cost. Danny is very PTSD and dealing with the trauma of what he had to do when he fought, and the last paragraph covered pretty thoroughly what happens when those in power use people to their own ends and as soldiers’ in their wars. I think the Doctor realizes this, which is why he won’t let Clara become as broken as he is.

We see this theme of lies and illusions in how the series kick’s off in “Deep Breath,” where 12 asks Clara, “Am I a good man?” The Doctor sees himself as a lie to a degree and wants to make sense of what he’s become, since his existence breaks the rule of regeneration in regards to Time Lords. We see it in how Clara lies to Danny and the Doctor lies to Clara. In most cases the lies involve withholding information and it taking a tole. We see lies and illusions played out in how every person meets Missy in Heaven at the end and soon learn that Heaven is not what it appears to be and is truly a Hell. This in turn is an illusion in order for Missy to get her friend the Doctor back. She has been just as hurt from the Time War as the Doctor and just wants companionship again with her childhood friend. It is here the Doctor breaks through the illusion that the Time War foisted upon him, that he is an officer who must use others. He rejects it and gives the power to Danny and admits he is just an “Idiot, with a Box, passing through.” Though he still holding onto lies and when Missy gives him the coordinates to Gallifrey he lies to Clara about having found them, just like Clara lies about Danny returning. It takes “Last Christmas” and dealing with the loss of Gallifrey and Danny for the two to reconnect and be true Doctor and Companion again. They aren’t whole until the Dream Crabs put them through the docket of illusion leading them to face the truths of what they’ve lost and what they mean to one another.

This was a great series and if you haven’t watched it yet I highly recommend it. It deals with the “So What?” and Capaldi’s Doctor is one of the best. He’s a call back to the old Doctor’s like Tom Baker where he isn’t attracted to people and truly alien in how he doesn’t see age, he just sees people. He also is cold and detached even if his hearts are in the right places. Much of his arc is learning to care both about himself and about those around him beyond a detached level where his goal is to save as many as possible. Capaldi brings depth and humor to the role and has a great magician look to his Doctor. Now that his arc is done I look forward to seeing how he and Clara change (though Clara could have left twice this season and it would have been perfect, she would have had the best companion exit in the new series) and I hope Missy comes back. She is one of the best enemies and versions of an old enemy..,,but she deserves her own post, which I’ll be waiting on writing, especially if she’s coming back. Once again, go and check out this series. If you are fan of Doctor Who, either Classic Who or New Who, you will probably love it the same way I did.

 

The 12th Doctor – Doctor Who Specials – “Last Christmas” – Letting Go of Dreams

DoctorWho_LastChristmas_DVD

    Besides “Waters of Mars” and “A Christmas Carol,” this is by far my favorite of the Doctor Who Specials and definitely the most character heavy of the Christmas Specials which is what gave it so much power. It wasn’t about the stories it took inspiration from, it was about the characters who inhabited the story, which is what made it so brilliant.

    “Last Christmas” was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Paul Wilmshurst.

SPOILERS ahead.

       The premise of the episode is a base under siege story. It begins with the Doctor picking up Clara from her home and taking her to the North Pole. It is there they work with the survivors of the base against the Dream Crabs who are killing 4 of the people on the base. When Santa comes to the rescue we soon learn that all is not as it appears to be and the Dream Crabs are more powerful than first realized.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise reminds me of “Inception” meets “Alien” or “John Carpenters The Thing” as the Dream Crabs have a creepy slimy design and so much of who they are is what you don’t see since by seeing and thinking about them is how they get power. They are a great enemy who I hope we see again. They raise the stakes and keep us guessing about what is real during the story, which makes the reveal of Clara telling the Doctor Danny is dead and the Doctor telling Clara he didn’t find Gallifrey all the more powerful. The base is haunting too, which makes the dream sequences all the more creepy.

The Humor -The best joke in the series is the Professor says the premise reminds him of the film “Alien.” The Doctor is horrified, “There’s a horror film called “Alien!” No wonder everyone keeps invading you.” Santa and the Elves relationship is great too as he has to put limits on how they praise and talk about him…at one point even giving a warning to stop.

The Survivors – Each of the survivors is living the life of who they wished they were. They are all scientists because of the shared dream and the movies one of them watched before the Dream Crab got her. One of them wakes up and finds she was in a wheel chair and younger than she was in the dream, the other was a teenager who was a woman in the dream and the final person who held them in her dream was alone and her mind had sought out others. It’s powerful and we see Clara needing the Doctor and Dream Danny to help get out of the Dream within a Dream as she wants to be with Danny so much. All of them are human and scarred in different ways. Michael Troughton, son of the 2nd Doctor also appeared in this episode as a professor, he isn’t given much to do but does a good job.

Dream Danny – Dream Danny is great in that he gives Clara the chance to grieve and have one last Christmas with the man she loves. It’s a great scene because it isn’t real and Danny isn’t coming back, it is there to help Clara heal and let go…which is what lends it power.

Clara – Clara is wonderful in this episode. She realizes they are still in the dream after they manage to wake up from one of the dreams and we realize how much she loves the Doctor. It is powerful in how she grieves for Danny and in how she helps the survivors escape the Dream Crabs. She sees the bigger picture and still functions as the Doctor’s conscience to some degree. At one point we get her good-bye where she is an old woman, until the Doctor is given another chance playing with the twist on what is real or not. I wish she had said good-bye. Her story as an old woman was awesome! She traveled and taught but Danny was her one love besides the Doctor. I really liked that. Well, I guess we’ll see if her last good-bye can compare to the last 2, which have been amazing.

Santa Claus – Nick Frost does a fantastic job as Santa, and his sarcastic elves actually end up adding some great humor. From hating being called Elves or other people being called humans…to other sarcastic quips. Santa is one who knows he is a dream and helps the others get out of the dream the Dream Crabs have them captured in because it is who he is.

The Doctor – Capaldi is amazing and I’m really glad he’s sticking around for at least 2 more seasons. He is the Doctor who speaks harsh truths. He recognizes some traumas never go away and that the person may never be okay, and he is able to connect with Santa since they are both immortals who are not quite human. We see how afraid he is of hurting Clara too and in the first ending doesn’t return to her for over 60 years. He’s afraid of disappointing her that he didn’t find Gallifrey and fears hurting her. Capaldi adds so much depth and sadness to the role, as well as excitement like when they make their escape from the Dream Crabs in Santa’s Sleigh which helps them to wake up. He is one of my favorite Doctors for sure, I just hope his next two seasons can keep up this quality and that we can avoid “Robot of Sherwood” and “The Forest of Night” type stories…given the rest of the season has explored him in great ways and been at least good if not great. This episode captured 12’s coldness, passion, fear of hurting others, empathy and showed just how much he cared about Clara, even if he was unable to let himself care about others for fear of losing them. This Doctor has learned and I can’t wait to see where else that growth takes him.

The Message – Even things like Santa that aren’t real can inspire us. It is in the dream that Santa saves the day and his existence is left up in the air at the end. He’s not overpowering but still is there as a support and the one thing binding all our characters together. This is the power of belief, and when that belief is positive it can in fact make a difference in the lives it touches…much like Santa Claus…or even the fairy tale like Doctor.

Okay: Clara’s Good-bye – Clara almost got her second Good-bye but the Doctor getting a second chance took away from what could have been the best of the companion exits. This could still work, but twice now a great chance for Clara to leave on great terms has been passed up to keep her around. That’s why this is okay and not a pro.

       I highly recommend this episode. Clara doesn’t have Danny come back and gets to say good-bye to him and chooses to live. This episode had consequences and almost the best companion exit of the series. I wish the Doctor had said good-bye to Clara when she was an old woman so he’d be forced to change and learn without her. She’s been a great addition this series but this is the second time she was given a great exit that was taken away. First with her and the Doctor lying to one another, and second with her as an old woman who had lived a full life. The Doctor got his second chance with her, which is great, but eventually he too will have to say good-bye. Major props to Nick Frost as well for playing a very human Santa Claus who was stern, real and compassionate. I really liked his character.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. One of the best of the Doctor Who Specials. Merry Christmas all!

The 12th Doctor – Series 2, Episode 12 – “Death in Heaven” – Of Lies, Consequences and an Impressive Finale

Doctor Who Death in Heaven

This was a great episode. The episode had consequences which changed circumstances for everyone and an emotional depth to it, in any of the scenes that had named characters. Suffice, to say it has been a while I’ve been this impressed by a finale in the new series of Doctor Who.

“Death in Heaven,” like “Dark Water” was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay.

SPOILERS ahead

The episode picks up with the Cybermen in the middle of London before UNIT arrives on the scene causing them to each go to a different city. From here the story unfolds as the Doctor is made President of the Human Race and must work to figure out Missy’s plan with the Cybermen before it is too late.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: UNIT – It is great seeing UNIT back! Especially Osgood and Kate Stewart. It is here we learn that they had a plan put in place to make the Doctor the President of the Human Race since he was the best at facing alien threats. This was cool and showed how UNIT and Torchwood mistakes had been learned from of treating the Doctor like a prisoner or threat.

Kate Stewart – She is only in the first half of the episode but she’s there helping the Doctor figure things out before the Cybermen attack their plan where they are holding Missy. she falls but is saved by her father who was resurrected as a Cybermen along with the rest of the dead. Jemma Redgrave is fantastic.

Osgood – A small part which ends up being a sad part, as her brains draw the Doctor in and he promises her to be a companion for her bucket list. Missy, not liking this kills Osgood shortly after, having broken out of her restraints. RIP Osgood. This episode had consequences out the door. Ingrid Oliver really was a great character. In this episode she had a bow tie to replace the large scarf and tells the Doctor, “Bow ties are cool.”

The Cybermen – The Cybermen are tools of the Master and only function as tools, but they are horrifying. All the dead throughout time made slaves by her manipulations and used to force the Doctor to make a choice. Use them to conquer in order to save Earth or surrender. The Doctor in the end chooses neither when he realizes he isn’t a good man, he’s just an idiot passing through and throws the Cyber Control device to Danny who is a Cyberman with emotions who than uses it to have all the Cybermen explode, destroying the rain that would have turned the living into Cybermen. They were a great threat this episode and they only failed as a weapon because of the Master’s need to prove a point to the Doctor.

Danny Pink – Danny makes amends, he saves Clara as a Cyberman and after his sacrifice he sends in the child he accidentally killed during the war. His ending was perfect as he didn’t get happily ever after and used the Master Cyber Control device to help someone he’d killed and someone who had much longer to live. His good bye to Clara is touching as well as when he is asking her to turn off his emotion because the pain of being a Cyberman who is undead and being second to the Doctor is too much. He calls out the Doctor though on the Doctor refusing to make a choice…the Doctor is an officer still even though he denies it for being the man who runs and tries and helps.

Clara Oswald – We see her be super clever here and learn Missy is the one who kept them together because Clara’s the control freak and the Doctor resists it and Missy thought it’d be perfect for making the Doctor like her. Clara shows the depths of her rage after Danny’s sacrifice when she almost kills Missy before the Doctor takes the weapon. She says good bye to Danny and realizes that she wasn’t the best partner. It is sad and it ends with lying as the Doctor believes her and Danny are together and she allows him to live that illusion, just as he lies to her in turn.

Missy / The Master – Missy wants her friend back, conquering the world is boring and it takes a Good Man to conquer the world. She tells the Doctor about prisoners in Dalek Camps and other things and tells him the Cybermen army is his so they can save the Universe together. It is a brilliant mind game. We also learn she left Gallifrey during the 50th Anniversary since the Doctor’s had left a brief window open. She than teases Gallifrey still being around but Gallifrey is in fact gone or she was lying about it being back in it’s original location. This Master is the greatest threat, as she kills Osgood, Danny by putting him in the situation, a lot of UNIT and hurts the Doctor and Clara before Cyberman Brig kills her. I’m hoping she isn’t gone…this is probably my favorite version of the Master. She’s crazy, fun and dangerous and plays up the emotional connection to the Doctor better than many before. She wants to prove that he is like her and in the process have her childhood friend back. It is terrifying, beautiful and sad and really goes into the psychological makeup of what makes the Master the Master. Michelle Gomez truly owns this role.

The Doctor / The 12th Doctor – The Doctor is powerless for much of this episode and it is when he gives up power to Danny and the Brig (his companions) that he wins. I don’t think he realizes that part Missy’s point about him having an army was his companions, but I think he might have realized it too. After Missy’s death by the Brigadier he goes to the location that Missy mentions and finds nothing even as he is lying to Clara about finding it so visits will be less. It’s powerful and is illustrated when they are hugging and he explains why he doesn’t like hugs, “Hugs are a chance to hide your face.” Capaldi owns this role and I’m glad his run isn’t over. I just hope Missy can come back, as death has never stopped the Master before.

The Ending – Danny gets closure with the child he killed, Clara and the Doctor live a lie and pretend everything is alright but are finally about to hold and comfort each other, Missy is stopped and Gallifrey is gone or Missy lied, we learn that Missy was the mysterious woman who brought the Doctor and Clara together (and gave Clara the Doctor’s number), people died (named characters at that) and weren’t magicked back to life. I loved this finale. It had consequences and explored relationships deeply. This is the best Moffat final since Series 5, lets see if he can keep this up.

The Cons: 3W – 3W is kind of left on the wayside, we just learn the first Cybermen were probably rich who’d feared dying who had chosen to become Cybermen. How they’re used isn’t bad, but they’re gone because they aren’t really brought up again in any meaningful way.

Death of Missy – Not sure if it’s permanent or not (this is Doctor Who) but I want this Master back. I get the poetic justice in the Brig staying the Doctor’s hand from killing her and the Doctor being willing to kill her to save Clara’s soul…but his attachment to the Master? Why didn’t he go more into his own thoughts? That was what I’d have liked to see more. Missy spoke her thoughts far more than the Doctor in regards to their relationship. She is the Master, so she might be back though, death has never stopped the Master before.

Like I said before, this is my favorite finale of the Moffat years since Series 5 and I’d rate it on part or better than Davies’s Master Arc…I’ll have re-watch it though before I can say that for certain though. Regardless, it is worth watching for the companion drama, UNIT drama and of course Missy and the Master. It was these things that made this episode shine. I just hope the Christmas special doesn’t take away the consequences we experienced…Danny should stay dead as should Osgood, they are human and not Time Lords who have broken the laws of death before.

Final score for “Death in Heaven”: 9.8 – Solidly amazing.

Final Score for “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” and finale as a whole: 9.5, weaker but great start and an amazing and powerful finish.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 11 – “Dark Water” – The Missy Reveal

Doctor Who Dark Water

I’m just going to say it now, Michelle Gomez makes a great Missy, what I mean by that will be revealed in the assessment as it is nearly impossible to review this episode without giving spoilers as who Missy is, is the entire point of this episode really. The other relationships are side compared to her manipulations that she’s had set in motion since this series started.

This episode was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay.

SPOILERS

Clara calls Danny to confess all the things she’s lied about to confess her love for him, and he gets hit by a car. This kicks off the episode as Clara shows how far she is willing to go to get Danny back which leads the Doctor to use her and Danny’s psychic link to get them to the Nethersphere/Heaven. It is here they meet Missy and the story unfolds as they learn about 3Ws and their agenda in regards to the dead and some of what Missy has in store for her overall plan.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Clara and Danny – These two are secondary in the episode and really the lesser plot at this point so I will cover them first. These two have trust issues, especially Clara. There is one point in the Nethersphere where she is talking to Danny through a Skype-like contraption and we see how Danny doesn’t know her that well (he isn’t able to answer the question about Clara about something only he knows about her…this is partially because of Clara’s lack of sharing. Their relationship is a bit one sided at times), and her willingness to create a Paradox to bring Danny back to life even if means destroying the TARDIS and Doctor. It’s a very River Song “Wedding of River Song” thing to do. I thought it was great as it revealed their flaws and failure to see the big picture going on around them (A Cybermen is being revealed as they talk and Clara isn’t aware of it until it’s too late).

The Nethersphere – The idea behind the place was cool and when we see it in action (Danny talking to a child he killed during war) and the dead who are revealed when the Dark Water goes away that they are Cybermen…the dead chose to give up their trauma and embraced becoming Cybermen because living was too hard is what the episode implies. All their minds are in a Gallifreyan device called the Matrix Data Slice, which than downloads the memories of the modified dead into the Cybermen giving Missy an amazing army. This is the first time we’ve seen the Cybermen used as tools of a higher power, and I love it since it captures the tragedy which is made all the more tragic as the dead chose their fate.

The Doctor – The Doctor is much like Clara and Danny and when Clara shows she’s willing to betray and destroy the Doctor to bring Danny back he still helps her. He doesn’t trust her anymore but he clearly still loves her. This speaks depths in regards to the question of the Doctor being a good man. He clearly is and Capaldi owns his scenes. This comes to the head in the end when Missy makes out with him making him completely vulnerable as he doesn’t like being touched and becomes worse when Missy reveals her identity and the Doctor realizes he helped create this situation. What it means fully remains to be seen as he is powerless to warn the people as the Cybermen invade. We’ll know more of their relationship in the next episode.

Missy / Mistress / The Master – Michelle Gomez is wonderful and I love the implications of her kissing the Doctor. The Master has always felt affection for the Doctor and this confirms it. The kiss shows that their relationship did have an unspoken other dimension and it adds a lot to both their characters (the Doctor and the Master). We also see the just how brilliant the Master is for creating the Nethersphere and tricking the dead into becoming slaves by forcing them to face the pain they experienced in life. She’s brilliant and deadly and I hope she survives this series. Much of the after scenes make more sense now, like her hope the solar flare would destroy Earth…now all that’s left is why she chose Clara and what Clara’s connection is to the Mistress. The wonderfully deadly Time Lady. Also I love how this episode sets up the potential for a female Doctor further down the line.

The Cons: Nethersphere Human Minions – These guys are just there and don’t really do much but give exposition. When Missy kills one of them it doesn’t really establish anything except her cruelty, which we already knew from the implication of the Cybermen being the dead who chose slavery.

Slow in Parts – The episode does lag in parts, for example the Clara and Danny conversation is the same thing stated again and again. “Prove you’re Danny.” “I love you.” This cycle just goes on and on, a few of the scenes of this could have been cut out. Danny doesn’t know Clara and Clara doesn’t trust…just like the Doctor.

Can’t wait to see where this episode goes as the Master Arc from Series 3 is one of my all time favorite arcs in the New Doctor Who Series and the Missy Arc could end up being just as good if it’s handled right. It all depends on the next episode as I usually don’t count the Christmas Specials in the arc, just like Davies Specials they are more often than not their own thing that focus more on character stories…with sometimes some pretty great baddies. Moffat, please don’t mess up Missy. I thought she might be the Master, now is the time to fully explore what her relationship to the Doctor and Clara is and what she has in plan with her invasion and the Matrix Data Slice. “Death in Heaven” could still save things by being good, but a lot is at stake now as the Cliffhanger has raised my expectations for how Missy is handled as she and the Doctor are far more interesting than the Clara and Danny arc going on currently.

Side Note: I had hoped Missy might be Romana or the Rani but the Mistress being the Master is still very good if predictable reveal in my book and shows so much more potential for future exploration of what it means to be a Time Lord and the relationships between Time Lords. “The Doctor’s Wife” had left this open as an option (Time Lords changing Gender via mention of The Corsair) but it’s great to finally see it happen!

I’ll do a score of the arc together before I talk about the series as a whole at the end of the next episode (as well as giving “Death in Heaven” it’s own score as a single episode). But this episode was a favorite.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great and setting up some great potential for the Mistress.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 10 – “In the Forest of the Night” – Too Much Fantasy

http://pcnewspull.dtforum.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Doctor-Who-Ep10-s8-Iconic-50MB.jpg

Since Moffat has become showrunner of “Doctor Who” after Russell T. Davies left there has always been an element of fantasy in his series. The strongest of this and the best version of it was Series 5 when Matt Smith was the 11th Doctor, and weakest was the series 7…Smith’s final season and one of the most inconsistent seasons that gave us a lot of the worst of Moffat’s writing and themes. This episode is not as bad as the worst of series 7 and would have been good if not for the ending, but because of the ending I can only call it okay. I’ll get into what I mean in the assessment.

The episode was directed by Sheree Folkson and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

The premise is that the world has become overgrown by a forest that grew in a day. The Doctor doesn’t know why it happened and is left with Clara and Danny as they find that one of the Coal Hill Students Maehb maybe tied to the events and are left facing this new mystery and whether it is something good and temporary or a the signs of an invasion. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a forest overgrowing the world is a great idea! Especially since it adds a lot of mystery and in this instance plays into the human fear of the woods. Which we see in fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood both of which are made visual illusions to in the episode. There is a sense of danger and a sense of loss too given the events of the fairy tales.

Danny Pink – Danny is good at being the one grounded on being in the moment and looking after the kids to make sure they are connected. We see how this appeals to Clara even though she is so drawn to the excitement, mystery and adventure of the current circumstances. She assumes the Doctor can sort things out, Danny assumes nothing. We learn that this was due to his experiences as a soldier and he has no desire to repeat it given what he wants most is right in front of him (Clara). It’s a sweet moment and I liked how he was handled in this episode. Even with Clara lying about adventures with the Doctor and them even happening he is there until she can figure things out.

Clara Oswald – Clara is very much the companion in this episode, and she loves it. We see her separate herself from the Doctor at the end though when she asks him to run since if humanity will go extinct they will do so together and she doesn’t want to be the last of her kind. We see her attachment to Earth in this episode and her love of Danny even if she doesn’t know how to fully communicate her situation with the Doctor and being straight with them both. But she grows some in this episode which leaves things curious in regards to how her leaving will be handled at the end of this series.

The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor – The Doctor is interesting in this episode. We see him not being very good with children in that he isn’t very aware of them and is drawn in the most to the mystery. It takes a student being connected to the events for him to truly care and though he says he will stay with humanity he is rejected like he rejected helping humanity in “Kill the Moon.” I liked him in this episode but he couldn’t save it as there were other things bringing it down.

The Cons: Child Actors – Having one is bad enough, but this one had a bunch. They weren’t bad all the time but it make the threat seem so much less since it’s a family show…they aren’t going to kill a kid. This made the episode feel G when it was dealing with mortality, which was a shame.

Everything is Okay Again – I really don’t like how this series, especially when the episode has a kid (“Kill the Moon” again, and “The Caretaker”) try to keep consequences from occuring. The Earth doesn’t change and the Doctor talks about people forgetting. There was no point for the episode beyond it advancing the character arcs, which is a waste of a premise. “Kill the Moon” at least gave Clara reason to doubt and for a while was actually a great thriller so the concept was handled better. This one, not so much.

Everybody Lives – There are aliens that predate the Doctor in this episode and apparently they saved Maehb’s sister. “The Doctor Dances” did this so much better, because it was a war, there was consequences going on, there was despair and death so people living meant something. This corny ending gave nothing to the Whoverse and made Moffat going dark feel like a lie. Well, we’ll see how the final goes. Most episodes have been good but this ending is part of what’s wrong with Moffat. It’s too much fantasy, and not the good kind where magic is an element but not a magic reset button of entire character situations.

This episode could have been worse, the mystery was better than “Robot of Sherwood” at least and the character moments did improve the story. But they got to stop using child actors…I know this is a kids show but the original Star Wars didn’t have any child actors and was better for it. Kids can take dark, and some of the darkest Doctor Who (Series 1-3 on “Doctor Who”) were actually quite amazing. Fantasy writing shouldn’t be an excuse for not having stories without consequences. Happy endings should have a cost, or better yet be bittersweet.

Final Score: 6.5 / 10. Would be lower if not for Clara, Danny and the Doctor.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 9 – “Flatline” – A Slow First Half But Powerful Finish…How the Doctor Sees People

Doctor Who Flatline

This episode was really boring at first, I mean I was watching it and couldn’t find myself interested in anyone…and I like the Doctor and Clara. What changed it though was what they did in the Second half when the action started happening and we saw the Doctor as more honest than he’s been in a long time. It was refreshing. I’ll get into what I mean in the assessment.

“Flatline” was written by Jamie Mathieson and directed by Paul Wilmshurst. It is also the 9th episode of Series 8.

The premise of the episode is that aliens from another dimension are taking people away and sucking out the energy of the TARDIS. This shrinks the outer dimensions of the TARDIS while the Doctor is still on board leaving Clara in the Doctor role as she works with some folks doing community service work to make up for their crimes as people continue to be sucked away and the intentions of the new aliens are slowly revealed.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Premise – Aliens from the Second Dimension causing chaos is a great idea! The idea of Clara having to take the role of the Doctor is a great idea! These two main points do eventually payoff but initially do not.

The Boneless – These aliens are great (We’ve had a lot of great aliens this series) and I like how they eventually made themselves 3 dimensional after stealing the energy and matter from others. They built themselves up and we didn’t know their intentions and still don’t fully except that they are destructive. It’s nice seeing a monster for the Doctor to face for once. Most of his enemies this season have had redeemable qualities, even a Dalek. They feel like a good threat too and get defeated very creatively.

Clara – Clara is still lying to Danny and is very much like the Doctor in personality (much to his dismay). We see this in action as she says that to give them hope she needs to lie to them so they’ll be more likely to survive and to weigh each situation and so that the least harm takes place. Clara has no place for warmth an empathy in this episode and we see it in her lying and brushing off of Danny and how she talks the people around her and the Doctor as her companion. She calls herself “Doctor Clara” and mocks him to comedic affect throughout the episode. This is really her giving him his own medicine and he gets the message it looks like at the end.

The 12th Doctor – This episode started out boring, but once it got into the meat and bones of the Doctor’s character gave us some great character moments and exploration. Him having to fully depend on another because he was stuck in the TARDIS is a good illustration of how the Doctor/Companion relationship can sometimes be at it’s core. He saw himself through Clara’s eyes and realized just how far from being a good man he is. He weighs everything logically and doesn’t allow himself to get fully invested in people beyond bringing about balance. He saves people, though some die. He stops Monsters (his speech to the Boneless about this dimension being protected and them being monsters even though the Doctor tried to communicate was brilliant) though many times though becoming one…He takes people for granted and lies and he realized that in the process he destroys those who try to be him. We don’t know how things will end with Clara but Missy feels she chose right at the end of the episode and the Doctor leaves in sorrow.

“You were a exceptional Doctor…it had nothing to do with good.” The Doctor realizes that about himself and what that does in regards to others. I like that as Capaldi’s Doctor started out as one of the more unaware Doctors, though that has always been a thing which is why there have always been companions.

The Cons: The First Half – The first half was boring even as the aliens were introduced. I didn’t care about anyone because nothing happened. There was no action that felt like it advanced the plot and even though the TARDIS was shrinking and it was intriguing I felt as detached as the Doctor.

The Minor Characters – The folks doing community service and the guy in charge of them were tropes. The kid down on his luck trying to get his life back together  and the dickish leader of them. I didn’t care about all of them.

This was a good episode but in no way great. The first half could have been a lot better and given us more of Danny and Clara and the lies as well as the Doctor’s reaction to it or we could have got more of the aliens reeking havoc or some of the minor characters. Because it started out detached it gave us nothing to invest in initially. I personally did think it was still good but you have to have patience to get to the second half where there is actual payoff.

Final Score: 8 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 6 – “The Caretaker” – The Time War’s Mark

The Caretaker Doctor Who

“The Caretaker” ended up being a great episode. It started out a bit choppy but the moments of greatness outweighed the moments that didn’t work. This episode shows us the effect of the Time War and his role further on the Doctor and also gives us some great glimpses into Danny and Clara too. The episode was written by Stephen Moffat and Gareth Roberts and directed by Paul Murphy.

The premise of “The Caretaker” is that a Skovox Blitzer has been attracted to London due to special particles and that if it feels threatened it has enough fire power to destroy the entire Earth, leading the Doctor to go undercover as the Caretaker under his popular alias of John Smith of Coal Hill where Danny and Clara teach. It is here Clara’s double lives are at stake of being revealed and the Doctor’s prejudice against soldiers is fully expressed.

Per usual SPOILERS ahead

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Direction and Cinematography – There are some great shots that help with the time where the episode lags. Such as Clara’s reflection being filmed during her confession of her double life of life with Danny and life with the Doctor. Also a Wes Andersonish shot of the school was appreciated, however brief it was.

Courtney Woods – A rebellious kid who reminds the Doctor of why he fights for humanity. She believes him when he says that he’s an alien and isn’t putoff by the TARDIS. Ellis George does great for what little scenes she is in.

Skovox Blitzer – The soldier who is there to take out threats to it’s existence and follow the rules of it’s superiors. It is a great alien and one I hope we see again. Our introduction to it is it blowing up a police officer. The alien is like Garris from “Mass Effect” meets a giant robotic crab.

Coal Hill School – Coal Hill feels like a real school and Danny and Clara actually feel like teachers. It’s great seeing their interactions with the Doctor as the Caretaker and with one another professionally. I hope we get more drama here at the school as the series progresses. It really grounds the series which has never been done before in the new series as characters ended up switching universes (Rose and her family), retconning it happening (The Year that Never Was in regards to the Master arc) or always new jobs and environment ( In the case of Donna’s Life as well as Amy and Rory’s). The school adds a much needed base for the human element.

Clara Oswald – Clara is human, flawed and fantastic. She is tackling the dilemma of her double life in a way Rory and Amy never were and I think that adds a lot of depth to at times a very slow and tonally inconsistent episode. We see how her love for Danny and the Doctor come out and why she was attempting to protect them from one another when she didn’t have to. This episode is her learning to trust and it is done well as aspects of Danny and the Doctor are revealed that she and we hadn’t known before.

Danny Pink – Danny Pink has had a bad experience with officers because he was a soldier risking his life while the officer was safe. The Doctor acted like his officers and there is precedent that he is an officer both in his Children of Time (Rose, Donna, Martha and for the 11th Doctor Rory and Amy) and how he never fully accepted how he made them in to soldiers. Danny hates that the officers he worked with didn’t realize that, and I don’t think the Doctor does yet too since Danny tells Clara that if he pushes you too hard come to him for help. They have a grudging respect for each other at this point since they’ve both disrespected one another to each other’s faces multiple times in this episode. Though Danny respects Clara’s love for the adventure the Doctor offers too.

The Doctor – The Time War…it’s all about the Time War though it doesn’t state it out right. The Doctor commanded troops, he was one of the higher ranking Time Lords and though he was a soldier sometimes he had the privilege of his position which he still does to this day. He’s the thinker and planner who has his companions as the decoys and warriors. He doesn’t use a gun…he just uses others to shoot for him. I hope this addressed as the series progresses. It was dealt with at the end of Series 4 and “Dalek” and “Into the Dalek” but never fully. So much potential here…I’m glad Danny is a regular as I think he will be the one to shine that light once again on the Doctor as he did in this episode. Also he approves of Clara and Danny’s relationship and has a grudging respect for Danny for helping him stop Skovox.

The Ending – The Police Offer died is in heaven or paradise and this time it’s more foreboding as Missy has someone else speak for her and only glares when we see her. If you didn’t realize she was the villain this episode should make it very very apparent. Still good though as it has a haunting feel now added to paradise. The people are dead and may be trapped.

The Cons: The Tone – This episode didn’t know if it wanted to be a drama or a comedy at times which made it really hard to invest in initially. At times it is zany and the Doctor is up to antics…and other times there are character revealing heart to hearts. The extremes are very apparent and that brings the episode down.

Slow Start – The episode starts really slow which is ironic since it starts with Clara and the Doctor chained to posts about to be eaten. The Skovox takes too long to appear given how much of the main threat it is in the episode and how it the initial double life of Clara takes a rough beginning.

This is an episode I’d recommend. The great moments really shine and the bad moments aren’t enough to make me not recommend it. It is a great Clara, Doctor and Danny episode and one that gives us a lot of potential into future development of the Doctor and how he lived the Time War and is dealing with it in his current incarnation who remembers once more.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10.