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

Doctor Who Hell Bent

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

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

SPOILERS ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.

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 9 – “Sleep No More” – All Gimmick, No Point…”Doctor Who” meets Found Footage

Doctor Who Sleep No More

     “Sleep No More” could have been great, but the fact that the Doctor was confused by the story he was in didn’t help. We are introduced to a fascinating world that doesn’t actually go anywhere. The Doctor and Clara are fine but there is no overall point to this story and the ending sets up a bigger story if they’d wanted to make this story more than a gimmick.

     The episode was directed by Justin Molotnikov and written by Mark Gatiss.

       The story involves Clara and the Doctor arriving on one the Neptune Station Triton as they work on solving the mystery on what happened to the crew as they and the crew are hunted by Sandmen. It is told as a narrative by the man who invented a new machine that makes it so you no longer have to sleep.

The Pros: The World – The world is the 38th Century where Indonesia and India have become one world power. It’s cool as everyone is polytheistic and there are Grunts who are cloned soldiers built for war and protection. The world is driven by productivity too reading to the Morpheus Pods that make it so you don’t have to sleep.

The Doctor and Clara – These two have great banter throughout the episode and are the best part as the world around them is not executed well at wall. They make dry remarks, especially the Doctor in his cynical way on how horrible humanity is and Clara when she learns the Grunts are created soldiers. If only this had been the episode.

Okay: The Sandmen – These guys are a collective conscience that spreads like a virus as they spread via radio-waves and are tied to dreams. They are dust creatures that only want to consume. So much more could have been done on their motivations…besides eating I didn’t know what they wanted.

The Cons: The Crew and the Scientist – Didn’t care about any of them. They have no personality, which is partially the fault the format of the episode as found footage doesn’t give you the chance to know characters as they become only reactive to the world around them. When they died it didn’t mean anything. The scientist who set everything in motion is just as weak too as in the end he was just an illusion and was already consumed.

Found Footage – Everything is dark and hard to see and it takes away from the scary moments as it looks so shoddy and bad. I was hoping it could get beyond the format but it never rises beyond it.

Plot Holes – So they spread by people watching the video…so is Clara infected, she was in one of Morpheus Pods, is this how future Earth is destroyed or what? It is so stupid and I could never take the Sandmen seriously because of it.

   This is an episode I would not recommend and easily one of the worst “Doctor Who” episodes I’ve seen since “In The Forest of the Night” and “Robot of Sherwood.” This episode doesn’t make any sense and the fact that the Doctor is confused only illustrated this point further. Gatiss was just going for gimmick, which is a shame since I know he is capable of writing great stories.

Final Score: 4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 8 – “The Zygon Inversion” – The Doctor’s Case for Peace

The-Zygon-Inversion-promo-pics

  Capaldi’s monologue in this episode is what “Day of the Doctor” could have been if it hadn’t had such a clash in tone and turned the Zygons into a joke. In this, because they are a serious threat and they have stakes in the War that the Doctor completely understands. It’s powerful, even though I do think the last episode was better.

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

The story picks up where we left off with the Doctor and Osgood escaping as we learn that Clara is facing off against her Zygon counterpart Bonnie who she can influence in limited ways. This leads to faceoff as Bonnie seeks the Osgood Box to bring the War in full force as Osgood and the Doctor race to rescue Clara and stop the War before it fully begins.

The Pros: The World – The Zygon Pods underneath the ground are organic and amazing and feel really alien. This is part of what “Day of the Doctor” missed as the Zygons felt like an afterthought.

Kate Stewart – Kate has fully come into her own as we see her take out multiple Zygon attempts on her life but also show the wisdom to be the first to stand down when Bonnie is attempting to push them to war and using the Osgood Boxes. We very much see why she is the leader of UNIT and protector of humanity.

Bonnie – The Zygon who takes Clara’s form is a good threat as we see her stare down the Doctor multiple times, nearly kill him at least once and fear Clara into submission so that she find the Osgood Boxes. She is also wise enough that in the end she does stand down when she hears about the Time War from the Doctor and how Zygon domination won’t solve anything. She becomes the new Osgood after so there are two again, which was a nice touch. Her arc is complete from Nationalist to Peacekeeper.

Clara – Clara is not a victim at any point in the episode and she holds her own against Bonnie, protects the Doctor and Osgood and shows why she is the Doctor’s companion. Her scenes are small but powerful.

The Doctor – The Doctor’s trauma from the war will never go away, and that’s why he will do anything for peace including tricking the fanatics from different factions that they have the power to commit genocide when they don’t (The Osgood Boxes are empty and only have buttons) and it is through his advocacy for the value of all life (Human or Zygon) and his knowledge of the trauma from War that really sell the episode. Capaldi’s monologue is easily the best in the series and his trauma as the Doctor is deep.

The Osgoods – The Osgoods truly show that whether they are Human or Zygon doesn’t matter and are fully devoted to peace and their role as Peacekeepers. We never learn if the surviving Osgood was a human or Zygon and Bonnie becoming the new Osgood shows it doesn’t matter. It was the Osgood perspective that helps make peace possible and why the Osgood Boxes exist which again prevented war. Their perspective is powerful and key because it looks beyond Species and only to intelligence and sentience. They are full formed characters.

The Choice of War – The choice of War is the nature of the Osgood Box and what makes this episode work. Unlike “Kill the Moon” which I liked but got worse with each viewing because the Moon being a Space Dragon is stupid the choice of war is not and the reasons behind war (tied to identity, politics, resources) are not stupid either and just as there are reasons to fight it is all the more important to know when to stand down and stop the war before it begins.

The Osgood Boxes – How the Doctor articulated it is one choice kills the Zygons, another reveals them and on the human side and Kate is told she has the same choice. In the end the choice is the illusion as either player in the game can make the weapons again or start the conflict, which was the point of the Boxes. They were an illusion to reveal how pointless the conflict between them was.

The Cons: The Doctor Moffat-splains – The Moffat has a lot of condescension in this episode mostly to women (Kate and Bonnie) and that is annoying. This is sad because the Doctor’s monologue is really powerful, it is just that condescension that brings it down. Bonnie and Kate were called Sweetie way too many times and it felt out of character.

This was a great episode that I’d highly recommend. It accomplishes what “Day of the Doctor” couldn’t and gives full justice to what a conflict between Zygons and Humans would mean. Doesn’t mean there won’t be conflict later (I hope there will, I like the Zygons as enemies and friends) but at least between our factions on Earth, there is peace again as the Rebel Leader is now an Osgood working for Peace. What a fantastic exploration this was.

Final Score: 9 / 10

The Zygon Arc: 9.3 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 4 – “Before the Flood” – A Great Villain, Bootstrap Paradox and Loss

Doctor Who Before the Flood

     “Before the Flood” has a lot of great things going for it, but the ending in regards to our minor characters don’t quite work all the way…at least I didn’t believe the setup and found it contrived…everything else mostly works though making for a great ending to the story and showing us how Clara is changing.

    The episode was directed by Daniel O’Hara and written by Toby Whithouse.

SPOILERS ahead.

      The story picks up where we left off where Clara is with Clara, Cass and Lunn facing the Doctor’s ghost while the Doctor goes back in time to stop the ghosts and find their source as he soon does in the Alien Warlord known as The Fisher King.

The Pros: The Opening – The opening of this episode is great where the Doctor expains the Bootstrap Paradox as someone who goes back in time, finds the person they loved before doesn’t exist so they create the history of that person before returning to the present which than leaves the question of how did the thing they created(Beethoven as the person missing and Beethoven’s 5th as the created piece as an example)  come about in the first place? He then opens playing Beethoven on his electric guitar before it does the “Doctor Who” theme from it in the style of rock.

The Format – I like that it jumps between 1980 and the small town the Fisher King kills in and the future with the underwater base plagued by the threat of ghosts under the Fisher King’s control.

Clara – Clara is great in this! We see her willingness to use others to solve problems that she can’t solve herself as well as her growing detachment from others and her love of adventure and the rush of it all being the core part of her personality. She’s becoming a lot like the Doctor and the side characters point out how that can end up being bad since she is starting to think in a way that doesn’t consider the lives fully of those around her.

The Doctor – The Doctor is wonderful in this and he isn’t able to save everyone! (those who died are dead and his ghost was just a hologram). We also see that not wanting to lose Clara has become a primary motivation, she’s his only real human connection who somewhat gets him and he is a sadder Doctor than before. We see this when he morns the former UNIT person who the Fisher King killed and the fact that the Ghosts are forever unable to die.

Okay: The Crew – The crew is alright. Cassie got some development when she called out Clara and the UNIT individual gave us backstory, they still weren’t super memorable though, they just weren’t bad.

The Cons: Couples – Apparently every male character liked every female character (and it was who they were trapped with too) leading to a contrive loved lost moment (I never believed that the folks who went with the Doctor had feelings for each other or the ones who stayed with Clara). It was stupid and brought down the story. Losing friends is hard enough, you don’t need to add having a contrived crush or love to it as well.

 This was a really good episode overall and a solid arc, though not a favorite. I thought the last 2 episodes were better even with the Doctor playing a long game. The Fisher King was an awesome villain and I hope we see his people again (his people against the Ice Warriors would be awesome) and the episode taking place in two time periods lead to a greater sense of mystery.

Final Score: 8.4

Final Score for Arc: 8.2 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 3 – “Under the Lake” – A Ghost Story With Potential

Doctor_Who_Under_the_Lake_Ghosts

    “Under the Lake” is a story with a lot of potential that really depends on how well the second part of the story can pull off the first half. It is a story with “Doctor Who” tropes but still manages to have some pretty interesting minor characters and gives us a fascinating mystery that I am looking forward to being answered in the next episode.

    The story was directed by Daniel O’Hara and written by Toby Whithouse.

     The episode begins with the TARDIS transporting the Doctor to an underwater base and reacting with fear as something isn’t right on the base. We soon learn that the thing is ghosts which reject the concept of Time as they exist when death is what keeps time flowing and is an essential part of existence. From here the Doctor, Clara and the crew must catch one of the ghosts and find out why they are trying to kill them and what their purpose is.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Tone – The tone has an era of danger and darkness that keeps the episode going, and the final scene completes this payoff as we see the Doctor having been turned into one of the ghosts.

The Mystery – The mystery is fascinating as we are left wondering why there is a ship with no pilot, how the crew are coming back as ghosts and where the ship was originally going, which we soon learn was coordinates to a Temple. This leads the Doctor to go back in time with a few members of the crew while Clara is with the others in the present. The ghosts are attempting to bring more to boost the signal too as each dead person boosts the coordinates.

The Ghost – The Mole Man in Victorian garb creates a very threatening image and him being the jump scare works well given how much the one we met before was a total coward (they were last in “The God Complex.” So it being one of the villains is a nice change of pace.

Cass and Crew – Cass takes over and is their deaf leader and her and the crew have a great relationship where they look out for one another. She chooses to stay when she realizes that they need to find out what’s going on so one else goes through what they did. Her crew is great too as they are all young and are new to it all.

Clara – Clara is reckless in this and it is pretty wonderful as we see her fully embrace the discovering mentality. She is very much like the Doctor and it is a nice contrast to the crew as she like the Doctor is the outsider and notices for the first time. She also has a mystery to solve as in the present the Doctor is a ghost after he goes back in time.

The Doctor – The Doctor is fully driven to solve everything and we see an element of recklessness too as he eggs on the crew to stay feeding their responsibility, all because he wants to solve the mystery. It is this driven factor that shows his selfishness even as he protects them and uses them. This episode really illustrates his detachment and willingness to go to any ends to discover something new.

The Cons: The Corrupt Businessman – Name isn’t important, wanted oil at the bottom of the ocean. Probably dug up the Temple in the coordinates is a selfish git who ends up dead. He is a weak “Doctor Who” trope that has yet to be pulled off in an interesting ways. We want characters not caricatures.

This was a good episode but not great as the ensemble cast made it feel unfocused at times and the corrupt businessman was a major detriment to the story. The story is very much unfinished too so it can’t get a higher score as the mystery is unsolved and we get a cliffhanger at the end with the Doctor going back in time and being in the present as a ghost. It could be a great two-parter though depending on how the next part plays out.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good.

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 2 – “The Witch’s Familiar” – Compassion and Complicated Relationships

DoctorWho-TheWitchsFamiliar-Missy

       “The Witch’s Familiar” gets a lot of things right, though I found the first part of this arc superior since it felt like more was at stake, there are some things that happen at the end that take away the tension and a lot of the really cool actions that had happened before…not to the extent that it completely does away with those great conversations and character moments, but it does detract from them creating a lesser story in regards to this episode.

     The episode was directed by Hettie MacDonald and written by Steven Moffat.

Spoilers ahead

      The story involves Davros telling the Doctor he is dying and the Doctor being alone and being given the choice to end the Daleks once and for all. From here is given another choice as he and Davros talk of themselves and their relationship. Elsewhere Missy and Clara go undercover to rescue the Doctor from the Daleks.

The Pros: Missy’s Story – Missy gives a backstory on how the Doctor escapes immortal androids by using their own tech against them. It’s cool and explains how the Doctor always wins because he expects to win and it is when he believes himself in a corner that he begins playing all his cleverness to the fullest.

The Sewers – The sewers are the Dalek Graveyard as they can’t die so they just rot there for an eternity filled with hate. It’s creepy and wonderful and it’s interesting how the Doctor uses these dying Daleks against the ones above as Davros had forgotten about them and that regeneration would affect them too.

Davros –  Julian Bleach does a fantastic job as Davros, lending him humanity as he admires the Doctor’s courage for looking out for his people and takes advantage of the Doctor’s compassion to get regeneration for himself and the Daleks, though in the end he misses the details such as the sewers and the rotting Daleks there who have no loyalty to those above at all. He is the most human Davros so far and this is the only time Davros has felt like a good villain outside of “Genesis of the Daleks.”

Missy – Missy is wonderful in this and is a twisted Doctor with Clara as they work together and she uses Clara as a canary in a pit, a Dalek to kill Daleks and finally attempts to trick the Doctor into killing her until after when the Doctor tells her to run she approaches the Daleks from a place of power showing that they’ll probably work with her. Michelle Gomez owns the Master role and I’d watch an entire series of just her plots and adventures at this point. So glad she’s sticking around.

The Doctor – The Doctor is shown to be both compassionate (refuses to kill the Daleks and describes compassion as the greatest disease) and shares his isolation with Davros as they are both cut off from their people. In the end he does what the Doctor does too as he uses Davros’s own plan against him turning the undead Daleks in the sewers against those on the surface and his anger when Missy almost tricks him into killing Clara who is once again inside a Dalek (“Asylum of the Daleks” being the first time). In the end he is able to teach the Daleks the inkling of compassion too after he saves a young Davros on the battlefield and tells him of the importance of mercy and that sides don’t matter. This pays off as Daleks do have mercy as part of their vocabulary.

Okay: Clara – Clara is just kind of there, Michelle Gomez devours most of her scenes as Missy is a much more interesting character and Clara is never able to really compete. She if anything feels like an audience surrogate in the episode.

Okay/Con: Questions – Do the Daleks have regeneration now? What’s going to happen to Missy? What will happen to Davros? If the Daleks have regeneration how will they change? Will the prophecy of the Hybrid warrior go anywhere? Will the Daleks hunt for Gallifrey since the Doctor told Davros it is back? Why did the Doctor think he was going to die if all along he was playing the Daleks? I’m doing con because if these questions are dropped this season as has happened in regards to Moffat before, this overall season will go down.

The Cons: Knew It All Along – The weakest part of the episode was that the Doctor and Davros were just playing each other, this took away from the amazing conversations they had and how they found humanity in one another. In the end Davros just wanted regeneration for the Daleks and the Doctor used this to turn the undead Daleks in the sewer rotting against their counterparts above…these two things took away from the moments as it was one long con on both their parts similar to the Doctor in “Time Heist.”

   This was still a really good episode, largely for the conversations and the Missy and Clara Team-up and really any scene with Missy…but it did fall apart at the end and there are a lot of questions, which Moffat does not have a good track record of answering well. This is still a really good Dalek episode and a favorite “Doctor Who” episode, but it doesn’t reach it’s full potential in regards to Davros and the Doctor, which brings it down.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10

Final Score for the “Davros Arc”: 9 / 10. Solidly great but brought down by the final reveals.

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 1 – “The Magician’s Apprentice” – The Return of an Old Foe and a Choice

The Magician's Apprentice Doctor Who

    “The Magician’s Apprentice” kicks off a promising start to Series 9. There are some awkward moments for sure and it doesn’t appear that they know what to do with Clara this season as Missy is so front and center, but it is a lot of fun and overall a great ride. I’ll get into the details further into the review. I plan on reviewing all the episodes of Series 9, just as I did for Series 8.

      The episode was directed by Hettie MacDonald and written by Steven Moffat.

     The story involves the Doctor going into hiding as Davros has returned and he fears that their confrontation will end in his death. It takes Missy and Clara working together to find him and from there they are captured by Davros as the story unfolds from there.

The Pros: The Child in the War – The episode opens with a child in the middle of a battlefield watching and running as soldiers die around him. The Doctor throws him his screwdriver and when he asks for his name we learn it is Davros, leading the Doctor to leave him to die. It’s powerful as we know what Davros’s future holds just like the Doctor though at the same time this is when the Doctor is innocent, leading to the question of the Doctor maybe having created Davros through his fear and heartlessness.

Return to Old Sites – We return to Old Sites as Colony Sarf (a minion of Davros) looks for the Doctor. We got to the Shadow Proclamation and see them with Dragoons and they call Sarf away and we end at Karn where the Doctor is hiding with the Sisterhood. All of it is amazing, especially these 2 locations where powerful women rule.

Colony Sarff – This minion of Davros is awesome. He is a Colony of living Snakes and is a deadly foe and is super creepy and awesome. He finds and captures the Doctor’s friends and is the one who made all of Davros’s plans possible this episode. I liked the enemy a lot.

Skaro – Skaro is back and it looks awesome! Lots of Dalek buildings, the fact that they cloaked their planet after rebuilding it and it still looks like a wasteland like Gallifrey. It’s great being back here again.

Missy – Michelle Gomez really owns this role and it is wonderful as she stops all planes to hold the world hostage in order to get help from Clara to find where in time the Doctor is. It is a pretty cool scene and we see her kill multiple UNIT folks establishing she is the same old Missy and her defense of her friendship and rivalry with the Doctor shuts Clara down as we get glimpses of her and the Doctor’s childhood together in the references she makes. Later on she is shot by Daleks, but death has never stopped the Master before.

Davros – Davros is back as the anti-thesis to the Doctor and in his dying breaths wants to kill compassion in the Doctor and make the Doctor him. We see the 4th Doctor in “Genesis of the Daleks” appear and all the conversations Davros recorded of he and the Doctor together. He does this through letting his children the Daleks kill Missy and Clara though it is more complicated as he remembers the Doctor seeing him as a child…so there might be more going on. Did he send back the Doctor to kill him? Is Davros full of regret for what he’s done? I got that vibe from their conversation together.

The Doctor – The Doctor parties it up in Medieval England for a while and brings a tank and electric guitar…ti’s fun and frivolous and I didn’t like how it clashed with everything…it did show how the Doctor has been running from Davros and his regret at both probably not saving the child Davros and not killing him…as the episode ends with him ready to kill Davros the child with one of his own weapons from the future. The Doctor’s friends matter more than his core is what we see now, though with the Doctor there is always more going on.

Okay: Clara – She’s just kind of there. She helps UNIT figure out Missy’s plot and she talks Missy down but after that Missy owns the scenes and Clara is the side character (or puppy as Missy describes her) which is a shame. I don’t think the writers know what to do with Clara once again…except being the goodside of the Doctor while Missy is his darker side.

Okay/Con: The Doctor’s Party – The party is over the top and frivolous and I didn’t like it. It was okay I guess but it added nothing to the episode and took up time we could have had with Davros or Missy.

   This was as great episode, the only downsides were the party and Clara not doing all that much, but the dialogue between 12 and Davros is fantastic and Davros is finally humanized beyond a Saturday Morning Cartoon Villain. In this 2 parter we will no doubt learn how he became the way he is, and if that can be changed…as well as the Daleks being an inevitability of being created by him or if they will always find a way to exist in this Universe. Can’t wait to see what the next episode brings.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

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

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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 8 – “Mummy on the Orient Express” – The Doctor’s Motivation

Mummy on the Orient Express

This is one of the better episodes exploring if the Doctor is a good man. What are his motivations? What drives him to make his decisions? This episode really captures the alien parts of that and pushes us closer to Clara’s leaving. It also provides a good mystery that keeps with the soldier theme of this series.

“Mummy on the Orient Express” was written by Jamie Mathieson, directed by Paul Wilmshurst and produced by Peter Bennett.

The premise is the Doctor is taking Clara on a last adventure for her to say good-bye, which also gives him a chance to explore why the mysterious “Gus” has kept offering him free tickets as far back as “The Big Bang” on the Orient Express. We soon learn that they are test subjects as the mummy kills them in a pattern. From here the story unfolds as Clara considers whether this should be good bye for good and the Doctor’s reasons for the things he does are revealed.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Orient Express – I really like the setting in the episode, it is classy and at the same time a prison. We see this when Gus drops all illusions on the train to have them appear in a lab and begins killing customers because they aren’t figuring out how to stop the Mummy, who kills people once they see it, in 66 seconds. For this reason there is constant tension throughout the episode as the Doctor and other doctors work to figure out how to stop it.

Captain Quell – He is the first soldier we meet on the train (this is a theme of the season and the episode) and we see that experiences PTSD when he was the only survivor of an attack. This leads to his lack of action until 3 crewmembers die. He goes down fighting and alive though, when the Mummy targets him for his PTSD and he dies whole. David Bamber was good in this role, as it takes a lot for him to come around to the Doctor. The Doctor has to earn his trust.

Perkins – Is the engineer who it hints at, may no more than he leads on. He targets the Doctor when the Doctor dismisses the deaths of the captain, the mythologist and others as he’s told they don’t have time to morn, they need action to find out how to stop the Mummy so their death’s weren’t in vain. Perkins eventually gets this and is on the TARDIS at the end and realizes the nature of the TARDIS forces a person to change, which leads to the Doctor mentioning how it has changed him, many times. He was a good minor character and Frank Skinner did a good job.

Professor Moorhouse – This is the character who is all about data, which the Doctor uses to his advantage to learn about the myths surrounding the Mummy, and to get information from him when the Mummy is about to end his life. He is serious about his work and is up until the end, though he does start trying to make deals and reason with the Mummy as others tried to do in the myths, which doesn’t save him. Christopher VIlliers was good for playing this gentleman.

Clara – A major part of this episode is exploring Clara’s relationship with the Doctor. They hinted at her  not being in this episode, which I wouldn’t have minded…but her being there did advance her arc with the Doctor. In this one she is his soldier lying to Maisie to get her to the room with all the equipment. The Doctor does save her when he tries an experiment and we are shown the Doctor is like Maisie’s grandmother…sometimes well intentioned, but cold and cruel. She calls him out on doing that, but he mentions that it was the only way to try to save her and she calls him a good man at the core…until the Doctor foreboding brings up the other part. He was as detached when he risked his life for Maisie as he was when Moorhouse and the Captain were killed. This is going to play a part later though Clara embraces the adventure now, knowing the Doctor will always try to do the right thing even if it isn’t coming from the right reasons.

The Mummy – Is a soldier from a future war. The reason it isn’t seen is because of cloaking technology, and it targeted them one by one to destroy the weak first so there wouldn’t be distractions and so it could take their energy. It had no choice to stop fighting until the Doctor surrenders. It was a really cool concept, and like Captain Quell’s PTSD showed another dimension to war. It dies saluting the Doctor and it’s core is used to beam everyone into the TARDIS before Gus destroys the train.

The Doctor – This episode is Capaldi in his element. We truly see the Doctor more fully and can better understand his motivations. He does the right thing or tries too, but it’s with detachment and he isn’t attached to caring about people beyond the present moment. We also see his investigative side in action as he solves the mystery of the Mummy and risks his life to find out the truth. He’s calculating, but also willing to take a chance on a whim if it will help someone and help him solve the case. He tries to find out who Gus is too but Gus destroys the train, which also put folks at risk when he did that from inside the train. The Doctor and Clara decide to take the next adventure together but the Doctor is questioning now since Clara was ready to say good bye and her change of heart has him confused since he knows he’s still the same person who made and makes her angry. For this reason, we are that much closer to Clara leaving, even if she isn’t aware of it.

The Cons: Maisie – Couldn’t get into her character. She was mostly there to draw illusions to the Doctor and Clara’s relationship through the relationship she lost and to give us a new perspective on the Doctor. She was a plot device.

This was a great episode and another one of my favorites this season. It was better than “Deep Breath” and a lot of fun. My only issue would be how much we don’t know about Gus and if he is connected to the Missy arc or not. I’m also waiting for an enemy that is generally bad and evil and isn’t a Dalek. Most enemies this season have just been misunderstood slaves or soldiers….or really cheezy villains like in “Robot of Sherwood.” I definitly recommend this episode and think that when Clara leaves, we’re going to feel it.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10