The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 11 – “Heaven Sent” – The Doctor’s Secrets and his Vengeance

HEAVEN SENT (By Steven Moffat)

  Capaldi is one of my favorite Doctor’s at this point. He is amazing when he is alone and we see everything he brings to this character. This episode is living proof of why as we get to explore all the depths and layers of what makes the Doctor the Doctor as he we see the torment of him facing himself and just how far he’s willing to go to keep some things secret. This is one of my all time favorite episodes and easily the strongest for this season.

      “Heaven Sent” was directed by Rachel Talalay and written by Steven Moffat.

SPOILERS ahead

      The story involves the Doctor being trapped in a mysterious castle that changes whenever he confesses. It is up to him to find a way out without revealing too many of his secrets as his present loss of Clara haunts him.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Murray Gold’s soundtrack really sells this film. It adds layers to events and helps us get even deeper into the mind of the Doctor. Moments of tension are made greater and sadness pervades the entire piece. He truly is one of my favorite composers and this episode helps capture why.

The Castle – The Castle is in the middle of water with millions of skulls underneath. It’s haunting and is full of videos recording the Veil’s tracking of the Doctor. It is a masterful prison that changes with each of the Doctor’s confessions. In the end we see that it is what is inside the Doctor’s Confession Dial.

The Veil – This creature is wonderfully scary. We never see it’s face but we hear it slither and see the flies flow from it. It also kills the Doctor in one strike. It is creepy and a great threat as it can kill the Doctor in a single strike. His only way to survive is resetting things back to the beginning leaving his body behind, where each time his skulls fall into the water and he is returned with none of the knowledge of past events and has to figure things out again.

The Doctor’s Secrets – The Doctor left Gallifrey because he was afraid, We learn this relates partially the the prophecy and from it him wanting to protect Gallifrey. By episodes end we learn what that means. There are more stories too, the Doctor dies again and again to hide his secrets…showing us all the more stories the show can explore.

The Doctor – The Doctor is awesome! I felt so bad for him in this, not only is in a hell, trapped alone and hunted mourning the loss of his friend and companion Clara but we see him rise and face it. He doesn’t mope around like 11, he does something about it and in the end through pecking away at the diamond he takes the long way out of the Confession Dial to appear and Gallifrey and he’s angry. This is “Family of Blood” and “Human Nature” Doctor level anger. His Mind Palace is also him in the TARDIS, which makes complete sense. It is great visualizing the conversations with himself as they lend depth to how he thinks and how he mourns Clara.

The Reveal – The Doctor is the hybrid who will conquer Gallifrey. This could mean he’s the hybrid because he left Gallifrey and is more human from all the time spent on Earth, or maybe he is half human. At the end of the day what it means is up to interpretation. The reality is though the Doctor is Gallifrey’s greatest enemy right now because of what the Time Lords pulled with Clara’s death.

  This was the perfect episode and with “Listen” is the best episode of Capaldi’s run. Regardless of how Moffat ends it, this episode stands strong on it’s own and is a must see for any Capaldi fan. This is him in his element where his full experience and talent as an actor is on display and from that all the complexity that makes the Doctor compelling.

Final Score: 10 / 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 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

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 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