Top 5 Favorite Doctors in “Doctor Who”

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

Warning this does contain SPOILERS

5) The 9th Doctor / The Ninth Doctor

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

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

4) The 4th Doctor / The Fourth Doctor

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

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

3) The 3rd Doctor / The Third Doctor

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

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

2) The 10th Doctor / The Tenth Doctor

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

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

1) The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor

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

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

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

Top 5 Favorite Enemy Factions in “Doctor Who”

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

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5th) The Weeping Angels

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

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4th) The Silence

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

3rd) The Daleks

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

2nd) The Zygons

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

1st) The Ice Warriors 

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

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

The 3rd Doctor – Season 8, Episode 5 – “The Dæmons” – A Great and Ancient Power

      “The Dæmons” is an amazing 3rd Doctor story. This a story that goes into the lore that makes up the show, gives us a great standoff against a classic foe and has something important to say about the nature of power. This is a story that has five 24 minute parts but it feels like much less. The flow and tension of the story is beautifully handled and there are fantastic rising action with great antagonists and some wonderful exploration of our heroes. This story is quality “Classic Doctor Who,” and one I definitely recommend.

“The Dæmons” was directed by Christopher Barry and written by “Guy Leopold” the pseudonym for Barry Letts and Robert Sloman.

The story involves the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) attempting to stop a cult that seeks to awaken an ancient power beneath an English Church, while attempting to connect with U.N.I.T. for aid as the Doctor comes to face an old foe.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Tension and Story Structure – “The Dæmons” is a 5 part story that does a great job at establishing the threat, building up the standoff and having stakes and growth throughout the entire episode. This episode is great. The Doctor needs to be saved early on by Jo and U.N.I.T. The Brigadier needs to arrive with reinforcements to help against the Cult and get past the heat wall and the Cult’s actions and infiltration have to be dealt with by our local heroes, Jo and the Doctor. The action builds beautifully and the payoff is fantastic and fits with the theme of power that is weaved through the episode.

The Master and his Cult – The Master and his Cult are such fun villains. The Cult controls the local village and has people in all levels of power. The Master for example is the local leader of the church and we see cult members pop up in local government and around U.N.I.T. This keeps the tension high as the Master is winning through most of the episodes and it isn’t until Brigadier with the full force of U.N.I.T. and Jo’s sacrifice against Azal that he finally finds all his plans turn to ash and himself captured by U.N.I.T.

Azal – Azal is a powerful alien and last of species the Dæmons a powerful alien species who have been experimenting on humanity through history. It is from this that we get a force that doesn’t even care about the Time Lords beyond how he can use them to control or use Earth. He doesn’t show up that often but when he does you get why he is the big bad of the episode.

Brigadier and U.N.I.T. – Brigadier is fantastic and him coming to help against the Cult is a major plot point. For much of the episode we follow soldiers under his control as they seek to get him to the scene of the action. When he finally arrives it is a great show as we see U.N.I.T. in action against a gargoyle and and the Master’s cult. I love how Brigadier hates being under the Doctor’s control but listens anyway. It gives a great dynamic as he is the only one who understands he needs to follow what the Doctor is doing, but doesn’t have to like it.

Jo Grant – Jo is very much the Watson to the Doctor’s Sherlock. He even references this point at one point. This is a relationship where she is learning through the entire episode and her pure goodness is what saves the day in the end. Because she isn’t detached like the Doctor she is able to care about others on a way the Doctor won’t let himself do. We never see the Doctor sacrifice himself through the series in the way Jo does here. Unthinking she jumps against a killing blow that Azal sets against the Doctor, which in turn saves the day.

The Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee is such a great actor, and one of my favorite Doctors. This gave him a story worthy of his talents as we got to see him investigate, be vulnerable and own his role as the protagonist facing an old foe and forces more powerful than him. At one point he references Sherlock Holmes and he is perfect in that role as his Doctor has many aspects of his character. Pertwee’s Doctor is detached from people even as he desires to help them. This episode is powerful because it is an episode where he comes to better understand empathy and love and it is quite beautiful.

True Power – The main drive for many this episode is power. The Master wants it destroy the world, the Doctor doesn’t want it and Azal wants to bestow it to destroy his enemies. In the end the one who saves the day is Jo. She willingly sacrifices herself which reverses the power and saves all of their lives, causing Azal’s destruction and the capture of the Master by U.N.I.T. It is cliche but I still appreciate how love was the true power all along. It was Jo’s love of the Doctor that defeated the last of a powerful alien species set upon destruction.

Okay:

The Witch – The witch is an okay character. She’s introduced early and she does save a U.N.I.T. Captain from a cultist, but she also doesn’t do much beyond that. She along for the Doctor’s story once she shows up and I wish we’d had more of her facing off against the cult and the church. This was a character full of potential, who was still acted well but got forgotten by the end.

This is a great episode and an episode that shows why Jon Perwee is one of my favorite Doctors. In this we get his detachment, investigative skills, his fighting ability and all his caring. In the end this episode has him grow in his caring and shows just how wonderful Jo is as a companion. She is his Watson to his Sherlock. Seeing Brigadier and the Master using their minds and forces to the fullest also makes for a intriguing face-off that payoffs in a well earned victory for our heroes. For any fan of “Classic Doctor Who,” this is one that I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. A great episode of the Pertwee Era.

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The 4th Doctor – Season 17, Episode 1 – “Destiny of the Daleks” – The Limits of Logic

     “Destiny of the Daleks” is the second appearance of the Dalek’s during the 4th Doctor’s run. The first was one of my favorite episodes, “Genesis of the Daleks” that explores their origin and introduces Davros for the first time. “Destiny of the Daleks” is okay. I’ll explore why deeper into the review, but to summarize this is a story that has villains that have poor design, are never really explored and we never get to know the heroes and those assisting them. There were multiple chances to explore characters and civilizations and this episode only stuck to telling the story without going any deeper.

The episode was directed by Ken Grieve and written by Terry Nation (who as written a ton of “Doctor Who” episodes).

The story involves the Doctor and Romana materializing on a mysterious planet. From things unfold as they find themselves separated from the TARDIS. The Doctor realizes they are on Skaro as the Dalek’s are searching for Davros to help them in their stalemate with the Movellans.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Daleks – The Daleks are great. They are certainly limited by technology of when it was filmed (they can’t fly making an easy escape for our heroes at one point when they go up a ledge), but they are enjoyable in how ham the exist as a species. The design of the Daleks is distinct and their irrational hatred for anything not a Dalek (apparently with the exception of Davros) makes them hilarious in their own ways. This episode is a great example of how stupid the Dalek philosophy is. They care so much about winning and extermination they can’t even catch when a rebellion is occurring and when they are being outsmarted. On top of this they can’t go up stairs or ledges (which the Doctor uses to escape at one point) and they can only see out of their eye socket, which sticks out from the shell. The Doctor easily defeats one by putting his hat on the eye stalk leading to the Dalek panicking and being easily defeated. Surprisingly enough they do manage to be threatening early on and they are such a fun species that they were definitely a pro in this story.

Romana – This episodes doesn’t explore Romana as a character but she is always active during the episode. Most of the time she is helping the Doctor or helping to revert a genocide of some kind (The Movellans or Daleks) and it was obvious why she traveled with the Doctor. She is a character who sees the value of life and relationships and protects those around her. Her siblingesque relationship with the Doctor is great too. He is clearly the older brother as he’s been around longer but she listens and as a team they figure everything out. They are both Time Lords and there is a lot of history to get to this relationship but it is great to see in this episode.

Davros – Davros is the genocidal creator of the Daleks who the Daleks both hate and need, depending on where they are in time and space. Here their whole goal is to bring him back so they can find the Movellans. Davos is an arrogant sociopath who works because he is the mad scientist trope. Here we see that on full display as he knows his creations will rescue him no matter what the Doctor and Romana do. He is eventually defeated when they don’t see how the conflict with the Movellans could lead to a human rebellion and because of it Skaro is returned back to the status quo of inactive. Why I enjoy his character and what makes him work in this is both the Doctor and Davros are arrogant mad geniuses, but Davros is the one who has no empathy and the Doctor calls him out quite a few times in their time together. Knowing that it was this Doctor who first met Davros enriches it even more as here is where they now continue their relationship as enemies post “Genesis of the Daleks” in regards to the television stories.

The Doctor – Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor is once again shown to be one of my favorites again in this one. In this he is largely outsmarting and neutralizing foes, but he still gets a lot of good banter in with Davros, and given their history together I love how the Doctor finds humor in how unchanged the monster Davros is. It is part of what makes this episode fun. The Doctor and Davros are both intelligent, but the Doctor can think chaotically where Davros can’t and that is how the Doctor defeats both the Daleks and the Movellans as they are both logic based species trapped and consumed by it. He does the unpredictable and because of it, humanity, Romana and the Doctor win.

Okay:

The Story – The story is pretty basic. You have two logic based species trapped in a stalemate trying to use those who are more intelligent to end the stalemate. The Movellans want to use the Doctor and destroy the planet and the Daleks want to use Davros to end the stalemate. This isn’t used in any intriguing ways. We don’t really get to know any character more and the factions aren’t even explored that deeply. It isn’t awful but there is so much potential in an enemy who can fight the Daleks to a stalemate.

The Cons:

The Movellans – As said above, this episode doesn’t explore the Movellans at all. We learn they are androids but that is it. Who created them? When did they start fighting the Daleks? What are their aims beyond the Daleks? None of these questions are answered and on top of it the costumes suck. They are wearing white costumes with white bead wigs. This is an episode that basic effort was put into and it shows. There was no this was going to make great as even great actors like Tom Baker can only work with what they are given. The Movellans are such an underwritten and poorly designed species that nothing about them works. The Daleks deserved better foes. They have history behind them as to why the Doctor fears them. By the end of the episode we have no reason to truly fear the Movellans.

I would only recommend this episode to the die hard 4th Doctor Tom Baker fans. This is an average fun episode of “Classic Who” but nothing elevates it to more than that. The Movellans are just awful villains and even the Doctor and Romana aren’t given a chance to be expanded more as characters. Nothing that happens in this episode changes them and the characters that surround them, outside of the Daleks, remain unexplored. This was the return of the Davros and the Daleks and in opposition to the the Doctor they really deserved a better story and a better foe to put them in a stalemate.

Final Score:  7 / 10. In the end on okay episode that could have been so much more.

 

 

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

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

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

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

SPOILERS ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 9 – “Empress of Mars” – An Amazing Exploration of What it Means to be a Soldier

   The Ice Warriors are one of my favorite aliens in “Doctor Who.” These are a species who are amazing warriors with a code of ethics that makes them complicated. They are driven by honor and I love seeing how that plays out in their interactions with humanity…be it in Classic Doctor Who or “Cold War,” their first time returning in the new series, which was an episode also written by Mark Gatiss. Non-spoiler thoughts, I really enjoyed this episode. Mark Gatiss is great at writing these guys and I can’t wait to see more of them in the future as so far I have yet to see a bad Ice Warrior episode.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Mark Gatiss.

The story involves a legion of Victorian British on Mars who are transporter there after they help Friday (an Ice Warrior they discovered and helped heal) who was alone on Earth. All as not as it appears to be as they discover the Tomb of the Ice Empress. Trouble begins to unfold as fear and greed create conflict between humanity and the Ice Warriors.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of this story as we have Friday who is a warrior who was a prisoner of war in way and made friends with his enemies, you have the Empress caught in the old ways wanting to restore an empire that no longer exists, you have Catchlove who is blinded by pride and personal honor and Godsacre a man who was hung for cowardice who is ready to lay down his life to protect his men and in turn saves them because the Ice Queen sees the honor in his act and makes his men part of her Empire. It is a powerful scene and shows just how complicated conflicts based around honor can become.

First Contact – First Contact is shown in two different ways. The Ice Empress kills one of the soldiers who awakens her as he is still jewels from her tomb and over the course of the series it involves holding back her anger as well as the fear from some of the soldiers who Catchlove is leading given how outmatched they are by the Ice Warriors. We also see peaceful first contact too when the Ice Warrior beacon is awakened at the end  and the alien Alpha Centauri welcomes them to the Universe (setting up the group they will be a part of Classic Doctor Who later in their timeline).

A Conflict of Honor – The driving issue is one of honor and understanding as both Catchlove and the Empress want territory for their respective powers and live for the fight and domination, while the Doctor, Friday and Godsacre have been hurt too much by what honor has done…Friday was last of his people until the Empress was awakened, the Doctor was the last of the Time Lords at one point and Godsacre was so terrified at what he had to do in war that he ran. It is those who have lost and who realize the horror who are willing to submit their honor and in turn find a higher form of honor in the process. Catchlove is killed and it is Godsacre’s submission along with Friday’s protecting of those he can (the Doctor, Bill, the soldiers) that lead peace and a union between the two species. There will always be fights but there is no reason that personal and greater honor can be met rather than it leading to the destruction of all.

The Cons: The Ending Scene – Missy appears at the end after the TARDIS pulls Nardole away and there is this awkward almost sexual scene where the Doctor says she has to go back into the Vault. It is just strange and breaks the tone of the entire episode.

I really liked this episode. It was on par with “Oxygen” from this season but not as good as “Extremis” but I still consider it a favorite episode and hope that Gatiss can write more episodes like this. Like “Cold War” he is in his element when he is writing about conflicts of honor between soldiers and finding resolution and hope amidst fear. This episode is a shining example of the writing he is capable of on this this show and I look forward to more adventures like this in the future.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 8 – “The Lie of the Land” – Great Idea that Chokes a Bit at the End

“The Lie of the Land” is an episode that could have been great. If we’d spent more time with the Monks as occupiers and seen more of what they were doing that was beneficial it could have caused more conflict…or if there had been more setup on how there defeat could occur. Both these issues were not explored as well as they could have been which created a really rushed episode that in the end failed to be great, even if it was enjoyable.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Toby Whithouse.

The premise involves the Monks now control the world and everyone believes they have always controlled it. The Doctor is putting out propaganda videos that the Monks see as subversive and Bill is searching for the Doctor as she holds onto her sanity through her only connection left, the one to the memory of her Mother.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of the Monks ruling through mind control is actually pretty neat as it makes those who rebel not knowing who to trust (which the episode does do some stuff with). I liked Monk occupied Earth as it felt fearful and threatening and well off…and that was a good draw.

The Occupation – The occupation is full of Monk propaganda as they insert themselves throughout all human history and advancement. Those more prone to follow authority are also the greatest threat as the Monks themselves are usually the ones who never kill, it is their human followers. This adds a level of threat we haven’t really had in a Doctor Who invasion as often times it is the alien threat, rather than us as the threat.

The Monks – From their subversive occupation to mind controlling the human population through the power of a single act of consent…the Monks are truly an amazing threat and I’d like to see them in the future. They were a good invention and I got the idea from this episode that what they desire most is power and control and having that through the galaxy.

Missy – Missy comes up to help the Doctor and Bill and lets the Doctor know that the only way to stop the occupation for good is to kill the one who caused it, aka Bill. How she says it is without malice, just a fact and she blames the Doctor’s sentimentally for causing problems in the long run…though to contrast this she is recounting sorrow as she remembers the names and faces of all she has killed. The Master is growing and changing.

Bill and the Doctor – Bill and the Doctor are the leaders of the rebellion as we see each of them have gone about fighting in different ways. Bill by holding onto the truth and the Doctor by slowly recruiting and deprogramming others. I love their dynamic as both feel they can’t trust one another and first and through reveals find trust again. I wanted more with these two in the episode.

The Cons: Defeating the Monks – The Monks are defeated by Bill remembering her mother and using it break the propaganda Monk at the center of the Pyramid, which is the headquarters of the Monks. The Doctor takes responsibility for it claiming to have left Bill pictures of her Mother…we never see him actually do this. This peeved me off as it stole from Bill’s moment and we never saw the Doctor do it. This is what kept the episode from being great.

“The Monks Trilogy,” was mixed. The first episode is one of the best episodes of “Doctor Who,” while the second is one of the most annoying and disappointing. This one is mostly good but also has some of the problems of the second episode, which makes this Trilogy hard to recommend. Overall I enjoyed the Trilogy but you don’t need to watch the second one. The first and third are strong enough episodes on their own that you’ll at least get decent stories that reveal an intriguing enemy that I hope we see again in the future.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Solidly good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 6 – “Extremis” – Hope in the World of Illusion

   “Extremis” is a great episode. It is easily up there with “Listen” and “Heaven Sent” for meditative explorations of who the Doctor is and what it means to be him, and it manages to pose bigger questions in regards to sentience too, which strengthens it further. Before I get into spoilers, this is a favorite that is well worth your time.

    The episode was directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Steven Moffat, showing that when it comes to episodes that really should be individual bottle episodes, he can still do great.

   The story involves the Doctor (blind after last episode) is sent an email through his sonic glasses about the Vatican text “Veritas” a text that leads it’s readers to commit suicide. From here the Doctor works with Bill and Nardole to find out the mystery surrounding the text.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is very horror movie esque with the text that kills anyone who reads it and it quickly takes the richer turn where it questions reality. The episode begins with a jump down the rabbit hole and doesn’t stop until it is explored.

The Monks – The Monks are the main threat as they are the ones running the simulation that our characters (who are programs) exist in. They look like giant bats and seem to speak through their minds which is a great aesthetic. My only worry is that they’ll end up being as underwhelming as the Angels and Silents as both of them had really strong introductions but progressively had worse payoff down the line.

Whatever Happened to Missy – The episode begins with a flashback where we see Missy (the Master) being executed for her crimes. In the end she is saved by the Doctor who keeps her trapped for her time for her crimes as he knows she is still a threat. The scenes before he saves her are powerful as River sends Nardole to remind him of his goodness and Missy reminds him of their friendship as we learn that Missy is the one being held in the Vault.

The Nature of Reality and Sentience – Our characters exist in a simulation run by the Monks so that they can best learn how to conquer Earth. The programs are exist recreations of those on Earth and so are real and do exist, even though they are only programs. This is the core point of the Episode and exploring the horror of that knowledge.

What it Means to be the Doctor – The final reveal is the Doctor sending an email to himself through the psychic link in the glasses. This is great as it captures that the Doctor is the fighter and his point is resistance and defense of others and with that hope, even in death. This Program Doctor was amazing as in the end he became the Doctor. The Doctor is hope and in his last act of existence the program gave the Doctor and hope a chance.

Okay: The Vatican – The Vatican is okay, they are played for jokes a bit at the beginning but feel like another player in the threat of the unknown after we arrive at their Archive. I still think they could have been handled better though.

   This is an episode well worth your time that humanizes Nardole and Bill a lot (showing their flaws, courage) even though they and the Doctor are programs…at this point the programs are people showing just how powerful the threat of the Monks is as they have been killing sentient beings over and over again so that they can figure out how to best conquer Earth. I’m intrigued at where the story goes and if we will ever see the simulation our world in this episode exists in, come up again.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. The Vatican bits can be hit or miss but the overall story is great.

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 5 – “Oxygen” – A Heavy Handed Enjoyable Space Thriller

   “Oxygen” is a flawed and amazing episode that is heavy handed with it’s message but is powerful in how it tells it’s story. This is one of my favorite episodes of the new series, even with all of the flaws. It changes things in a way that looks like it may last and we get to see more of the negative in humanity which we largely only got with the 9th and 10th Doctor. Suffice to say, before I get into spoilers…I recommend this episode.

  The episode was directed by Charles Palmer and directed by Jamie Mathieson.

   The story involves the Doctor, Bill and Nardole becoming trapped on a mining space station where they have limited oxygen and are being hunted by A.I. suits as they rush to save the survivors and themselves.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise -The idea of a space station run off oxygen workers by is so wonderfully dsytopian I can’t help but appreciate it. It also gives tension and consequence immediately as the limited oxygen creates a ticking clock.

The Tension – The station expels all excess oxygen added to the station, which forces our heroes to get the suits where they only have a certain amount of breaths, on top of this the suits are controlling the dead who died from lack of oxygen and the survivors are fearful and angry. If any one of these goes over the edge, everything is over for our heroes.

The Miners – The miners are great, we get to see the politics and relationships between them and how they are survivors. They are the characters ready to do anything to get off the station which adds another level of tension to our main characters predicament.

The Doctor, Nardole and Bill – The dynamic between these 3 is wonderful. Nardole is the responsible worry wort holding the Doctor to his promise that he made Nardole make of keeping an eye of the Vault, Bill is the new adventurer who doesn’t have the Doctor’s recklessness the Doctor is the wizard, manipulating and planning his way through every situation even when it looks like he’s lost his mind and lost everything.

Consequences – The Doctor saves Bill but goes blind in the process from the vacuum of space. This is still true at the end of the episode and we see how powerless he feels as so much of what he does it tied to his ability to read what something by seeing it. I hope we have him this way for a while as even TARDIS tech could not heal his eyes.

Okay/Con – Execution of the Message – The message of the episode is that capitalism is bad and eventually people will be exploited for the very oxygen they breathe. I put this as okay because “Doctor Who” has always been a message show, the problem was this wasn’t done with enough “show” there was a good amount of “tell” even though we were witnessing the very premise and didn’t need to be told it. I won’t put it as a complete con but it was the weakest part of the episode.

  This is a flawed and amazing episode that is worth checking out. The tension is strong throughout the entire episode, Nardole and Bill clash with the Doctor while the Doctor has moments where even he loses hope. We also have minor characters we care about and perfect tension through the entire episode. This is an episode that I highly recommend. Can’t wait to see how the consequences of the Doctor’s blindness unfold.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10