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

Doctor Who Hell Bent

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

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

SPOILERS ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.

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

Doctor Who Face the Raven

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

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

SPOILERS ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 9 – “Sleep No More” – All Gimmick, No Point…”Doctor Who” meets Found Footage

Doctor Who Sleep No More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 4 / 10

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

The Zygon Invasion

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

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

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

SPOILERS ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 6 – “The Woman Who Lived” – The Cost of Immortality

The Woman Who Lived Doctor Who

    “The Woman Who Lived” is my favorite episode this season. It blends humor and message together beautifully and manages to explore immortality in way that we see the consequences of it rather than being told the consequences of it like with Harkness earlier in the series. This is easily one of the best episodes of “Doctor Who” and there are many reasons why.

    The episode was directed by Ed Bazalgette and written by Catherine Tregenna.

     The story involves The Doctor running into Ashildr as they seek the same item, the Eyes of Hades as the Doctor is forced to deal with what happens when he leaves people behind. From here Ashildr and the Doctor are at odds as a 3rd Faction manipulates them both.

The Pros: The Time Period – The episode takes place in the 1600s, which is smart as it gives us an idea of how much time has past since the Doctor saved Ashildr and granted her immortality. It’s also a good use of the period too since it’s not quite our period but not Medieval either.

Leandro – Is a lion-like alien who manipulates Ashildr into opening the Portal so his species can invade. He was pretending to be the last of his kind but it was all a ruse as he was scouting ahead for the Leonine. I liked his design and I wouldn’t mind seeing his people again.

Sam Swift – This guy is a thief who loves puns, so I enjoyed the character a lot as I also greatly enjoy the use of puns and the character was someone who was a crook but had a heart and quite a good memory. His life is used to open the portal and he is later saved when Ashildr gives him the final Pill to reverse it.

Ashildr/The Knightmare/Me – Ashildr has grown bitter and no longer remembers who she was as she can’t remember her past so she writes it down. She no longer goes by Ashildr and just calls herself Me and is the thief known as the “Knightmare” in her current time period. Her story is a tragedy as she has lost husbands and children throughout time and is forever alone. This is how Leandro is able to take advantage of her and her perspective and distance from everyone is why the Doctor can’t have her as a companion. We learn this is the reason he’s never gone back for Harkness. Their perspectives are to similar so they’d bring out the worst in one another. In the end she decides become the Patron Saint of the Doctor for those who are left behind so she can heal the damage he causes from saving the world. It’s powerful and we see her core good again as much of the episode showed how detached she was from humanity and life as a whole. Maisie Williams put in an amazing performance again. Her character has been through so much, but endures it all and even finds hope again.

The Doctor – The Doctor shows us just how deeply he cares about humanity in this. “The Mayflies remind us of how important life is.” In that quote we see why he has companions and why he fights for humanity. They give a perspective his people lacked and a mentality he knows that he can fall into…he is so much like Ashildr when he’s detached and it scares him. She reveals his darker side as well as that he does forget about those he leaves behind because he is the man who always runs away. He owns up to that though and we see his sadness at not being able to take Ashildr with him. Capaldi’s performance is utterly amazing, especially his mayfly monologue on why humans and life matters.

  This was the perfect episode of the season and I’ll be surprised if there is one that tops it. It stands alone like the let episode and there is no Clara until the end so we get to fully know Ashildr and see how her relationship develops with the Doctor, as well as their clashing of philosophies initially. I have a feeling we will see her again in the future and I hope we will see  Harkness too as the Doctor talks about he was the other Immortal he traveled with at one point and that Ashildr is bound to meet him at some point. Suffice to say, this is one of the best stories to come out of “Doctor Who.”

Final Score: 10 / 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