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!

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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

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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 7 – “Kill the Moon” – The Doctor’s Cruelty

Kill the Moon

“Kill the Moon” is an episode that really shows how cold the Doctor can be, and just how much he can take his companions, and humanity for granted. If he faced no consequences for that this episode I’d be rating it pretty low, but thankfully Clara calls him out on what he puts her and others through this time around. This episode he’s up there with the cruelty of the 9th and 10th Doctor though thankfully not up there with the 6th Doctor, or I’d stop watching the show.

The episode was written by Peter Harness and directed by Paul Wilmhurst. Both do a pretty good job this episode.

The premise is Clara is angry at the Doctor for telling Courtney she wasn’t special so the Doctor decides to make Courtney special by taking her to the Moon in 2049. The three of them are there with the last astronauts who are going to destroy it after a Mexican mining base was completely wiped out. From here the story unfolds as the creatures begin picking off the crew one by one and the truth of the Moon is revealed presenting humanity with a dilemma. From here the story unfolds.

SPOILERS ahead

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Courtney Woods – She is a a student and acts like it, from posting pics on tumblr of her adventure on the moon, to her fear in the face of the Moon Spiders. She holds her own though and is the one who accidentally finds out how to kill them with Windex. She is grateful to the Doctor in the end and doesn’t realize just how badly they were used and put into a situation that they never asked to be put in. In that way she offers the naive companion perspective which Clara discards by the end of the episode.

Lundvik – Played by Hermione Norris, she’s the military astronaut coming with the nukes to destroy the Moon. It is realizing the truth of the moon and Courtney and Clara who help her change her mind. She also doesn’t put up with the Doctor’s crap and ignores him at the end. She adds humanity to a difficult role and her loss of her crew is huge as she recites the reality of the grandson that one of them just had before the mission. She feels what the Doctor is unable to feel.

Danny Pink – Appears briefly at the end to comfort Clara and be there for her after the using the Doctor did. He also asks her to find a calm place in first to make the final decision and tell him about it as he knew from his own experience that being angry at someone means you are still thinking of them.

The Premise – The premise really is amazing, and pretty well executed. An innocent creature that has destroyed lives is hatching with unintended consequences and humanity has to decide what it wants to be. This is a great idea that we saw in “Torchwood: Children of Earth” and “Fire’s of Pompeii” in “Doctor Who,” and a few others. It’s an idea that deserves constant exploration as new dilemmas are presented.

The Doctor – I hated the Doctor this episode, and I think I was supposed to. He transports Clara and Courtney to a life and death situation and leaves them there to decide the moral fate of human kind on weather an innocent baby whose parasites have been killing all humans on the moon should live or die…not knowing if it will cost humanity. He tells them it isn’t his Moon, it his Earth…it’s theirs so their choice. This is wrong given he put them in the situation in the first place and this moral choice is one he’s ignored on countless occasions. I got the feeling he did it a lot this episode to teach a lesson when the lesson was never asked for. This is the most selfish we’ve seen this Doctor and pays the price for it when Clara leaves him at episodes end. He is as cold as the 10th Doctor taking away Donna’s choice to die or 9th torturing a Dalek. He doesn’t get it in the end either which means before he finds Gallifrey, he’s got to find himself and be a good man or at least try to be like he was prior in the season. He uses people and is their officer in battlefields he chooses. He’s cold and distant, the oncoming storm for both the people he cares about and his enemies. He’s the Doctor.

Clara – Clara is one of my favorite companions after this episode. She stands up to the Doctor and leaves him and if they travel again before she officially leaves she has got to set up boundaries. The Doctor has always taken advantage of his companions and that has got to stop. They aren’t his soldiers, they’re supposed to be his friends. Clara’s calling him out was the best scene of the film as well as her decision to ignore Earth along with Lundvik and Courtney to let the creature live. I wish we could have had this happen more with Smith’s 11th Doctor as he never got called out on much at all. The only other person who did this was Donna, it is good to know Clara has Donna-like qualities in facing the Doctor’s using of people and taking her and humanity for granted.

The Cons: Execution of Premise – The moon being an egg is an interesting idea, but the Moon Spiders as parasites felt lazy. They were never fully dealing  with the creature being born as a threat until the very end with the moon breaking apart so it could hatch. The parasites were just there. It gave an “Alien” feel to it that clashed at the end with the creature is good, which we’ve gotten a lot now. When are we going to see a bad complex alien that isn’t one of the Classics like Daleks or Cybermen?

This was a great episode that I highly recommend. It gives a moral dilemma and has consequences come from it as the Doctor finally has to face how much of a sociopath he is being to those around him and that his using people without their consent has consequences. I can’t wait to see what those consequences will be so he can grow up. If Clara did what needed to be done and stood up for herself, which we haven’t seen a companion do in a long time. Even with the premise not as well executed as it could be, it is still a favorite.

Final Score: 8.6 / 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.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 4 – “Listen” – The Power of Fear

Listen

“Fear doesn’t have to make you cruel and cowardly. Fear can make you kind.” – The Doctor

“Listen,” is a great episode, I’m just going to say that now. It has some of the best Moffat writing and really shows the potential and promise for the rest of the season. Speaking of which, Steven Moffat was the writer of this episode and Douglas Mackinnin directed. They did fantastic.

The story shows us the Doctor’s curiosity as it begins with the Doctor wondering if there is someone or something there under the bed and just out of sight as he’s read about the dream throughout time and experienced it for himself. This also happens when Clara is going on her first date with Danny Pink, and the story unfolds from there.

SPOILERS

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Tone – The tone is one of reflecting and fear. The Doctor is thinking about fear and trying to discover if there is a creature it is tied too. This leads to his usual recklenessness (Clara tapping into the Psychic link to the TARDIS to find her first memory of it) and his actions on the last planet in the Universe.

The Cinematography – The cinematography captures the epic scale of what the episode covers and shows us the personal and universalness of the emotion of fear. Mackinnon did a great job directing.

Danny Pink – Danny is in this episode briefly at the end where he and Clara make up, and during the date where there is romantic tension, but where they both aren’t very socially aware. Fear has paralyzed them rather than forcing them to action. This is sorted by the end as they both learn kindness from their fears of failing each other. We also meet Danny as a child as Clara has a link to him from the date and she and the Doctor help him face the mysterious creature under the covers and letting it leave the room. It’s a great scene and we learn Danny was an orphan.

Clara – We see her awkwardness here in her first date with Danny, her connecting with the their descendant who is also a time traveler who gives her the soldier without a gun that she gave to Danny as a child and that she later gives to the Doctor as a child. She is active in this and reminds the Doctor that fear is important, as his lack of fear and curiosity almost gets him killed on the last planet in the Universe. This is another great Clara episode as she is connected to the Doctor but still her own person, she isn’t the Doctor’s McGuffin like in “Name of the Doctor.”

The Doctor – I’m saying the Doctor as a whole cause though Capaldi is amazing, this story is bigger than him. We get a glimpse into his childhood as he is afraid of the dark and his own fears and demons that haunt him so he chooses to sleep in a barn. The young Doctor is always in shadow, but he has long hair like the 1st Doctor. It is similar to when we saw the young Master, and just as if not more powerful as he chooses later to return to the barn as the War Doctor to make his big choice. We see his curiosity as we visit a young Danny Pink and his ancestor who it implies is related to Clara. The Doctor is the soldier so brave, he fights without a gun. He faces his fears armed only with his mind and in that succeeds.

The Message – Like the quote above, fear can make us kind as we realize what it is that is making us vulnerable and afraid. Fear can make us fight for the ones we love and fear can make us superheroes and make us run and fight faster and harder than we would (as expressed by the Doctor to a young Danny).

The Mystery – Something was under Danny’s bed, so there is a creature or creatures most likely still out there. Not knowing in this case serves the story, like in Series 4 and “Midnight” where we never find out what creature was haunting the train and possessing people and the Doctor.

This is perfect Moffat. He does the tone and mystery and making you scared of what you don’t see and having a bigger purpose. He turns associations of fear on it’s head and show how fear can be a positive. We also get amazing Clara, Doctor and Danny development. I highly recommend this episode.

10 / 10. Moffat at his best and in his element.