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

“Doctor Who” Series 8 Reflection – Of Capaldi, Illusions and a Return to the Old

Doctor Who Death in Heaven

“Doctor Who” has finally returned to form. After a questionable Series 6 and 7 (seems to be habit that in the last era of Doctors who last more than one series…that inevitably their character development and stories decline in quality (See Series 4 and the Tennant Specials). The later series of Doctor Who, whether it’s the Smith era as 11 or Tennant era as 10, eventually the themes got more scattered and the writers can out of ideas and began going more for explosions and cheap jokes, rather than actual deep stories with high quality. But, as I said before, Capaldi turned that around for the Moffat era.

This is an assessment of the entire series 8, so this will have spoilers. So be warned.

This was an era of great episodes like “Listen” (which may be one of the best Doctor Who episodes of all time), from “Time Heist,” and “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven.” There were only two terrible episodes, “Robot of Sherwood” which was insulting in how it portrayed it’s characters, and “In the Forest of the Night” which had Moffat’s worst Fairy Tale storytelling on display. But besides that it was an extremely solid and enjoyable series that had a very great theme.

If I were to define 12’s era I would say it’s themes were the cost of war on soldiers, if fighting is always the right thing to do and the nature of lies and illusions and breaking through those to reach the truth.

The greatest cost of war on soldiers is seen with Danny, who distrusts officers because of what he was ordered to do. He killed a child in the war he fought in and this is something that gives him motivation on teaching children and trying to be a good man. He lives with the guilt, just like the Doctor refuses to kill and to fight because of what he had to do during the Time War. Danny dies a soldier but his final act is in Heaven giving the child he killed a chance at life again and in turn giving up his life with Clara. The Doctor also makes the choice and rather than using the Cybermen to liberate refugees and free the world (at the cost of his soul) he lets Cybermen Humanity be lead by Danny and save the human race. It’s their battle in the end. This theme is also witnessed with the alien in :The Caretaker” which is a Robot designed to destroy and the Mummy on “Mummy on the Orient Express” who stops killing once the Doctor tells him they surrender. They than salute one another and the undead soldier is finally allowed death, or the Teller finally allowed to live with it’s partner. Soldiers can fight for what’s right but so often they are broken tools of people like Missy or the Mummy’s creator. This is the horror of war and what it’s cost can often be on soldiers…not everyone is able to have a life after like Danny did.

The second issue is if fighting is always the right thing to do. Sometimes it is, in the episode “Flatline” the Boneless keep killing and attacking people, leading the Doctor to sending them back to their dimension. He tried everything and nothing worked. In “Deep Breath” he talks with the Half-Face Man and it’s left ambiguous if the Half-Face Man took his own life out of guilt and realized how killing was wrong because of how human he had become. Capaldi’s Doctor chooses not to fight unless it is necessary or to protect another. He was only willing to kill Missy so Clara wouldn’t have to, and when Brig made the choice for the Doctor he was grateful. One theme is that even if it is necessary, killing always has a cost. Danny is very PTSD and dealing with the trauma of what he had to do when he fought, and the last paragraph covered pretty thoroughly what happens when those in power use people to their own ends and as soldiers’ in their wars. I think the Doctor realizes this, which is why he won’t let Clara become as broken as he is.

We see this theme of lies and illusions in how the series kick’s off in “Deep Breath,” where 12 asks Clara, “Am I a good man?” The Doctor sees himself as a lie to a degree and wants to make sense of what he’s become, since his existence breaks the rule of regeneration in regards to Time Lords. We see it in how Clara lies to Danny and the Doctor lies to Clara. In most cases the lies involve withholding information and it taking a tole. We see lies and illusions played out in how every person meets Missy in Heaven at the end and soon learn that Heaven is not what it appears to be and is truly a Hell. This in turn is an illusion in order for Missy to get her friend the Doctor back. She has been just as hurt from the Time War as the Doctor and just wants companionship again with her childhood friend. It is here the Doctor breaks through the illusion that the Time War foisted upon him, that he is an officer who must use others. He rejects it and gives the power to Danny and admits he is just an “Idiot, with a Box, passing through.” Though he still holding onto lies and when Missy gives him the coordinates to Gallifrey he lies to Clara about having found them, just like Clara lies about Danny returning. It takes “Last Christmas” and dealing with the loss of Gallifrey and Danny for the two to reconnect and be true Doctor and Companion again. They aren’t whole until the Dream Crabs put them through the docket of illusion leading them to face the truths of what they’ve lost and what they mean to one another.

This was a great series and if you haven’t watched it yet I highly recommend it. It deals with the “So What?” and Capaldi’s Doctor is one of the best. He’s a call back to the old Doctor’s like Tom Baker where he isn’t attracted to people and truly alien in how he doesn’t see age, he just sees people. He also is cold and detached even if his hearts are in the right places. Much of his arc is learning to care both about himself and about those around him beyond a detached level where his goal is to save as many as possible. Capaldi brings depth and humor to the role and has a great magician look to his Doctor. Now that his arc is done I look forward to seeing how he and Clara change (though Clara could have left twice this season and it would have been perfect, she would have had the best companion exit in the new series) and I hope Missy comes back. She is one of the best enemies and versions of an old enemy..,,but she deserves her own post, which I’ll be waiting on writing, especially if she’s coming back. Once again, go and check out this series. If you are fan of Doctor Who, either Classic Who or New Who, you will probably love it the same way I did.

 

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 11 – “Dark Water” – The Missy Reveal

Doctor Who Dark Water

I’m just going to say it now, Michelle Gomez makes a great Missy, what I mean by that will be revealed in the assessment as it is nearly impossible to review this episode without giving spoilers as who Missy is, is the entire point of this episode really. The other relationships are side compared to her manipulations that she’s had set in motion since this series started.

This episode was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay.

SPOILERS

Clara calls Danny to confess all the things she’s lied about to confess her love for him, and he gets hit by a car. This kicks off the episode as Clara shows how far she is willing to go to get Danny back which leads the Doctor to use her and Danny’s psychic link to get them to the Nethersphere/Heaven. It is here they meet Missy and the story unfolds as they learn about 3Ws and their agenda in regards to the dead and some of what Missy has in store for her overall plan.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Clara and Danny – These two are secondary in the episode and really the lesser plot at this point so I will cover them first. These two have trust issues, especially Clara. There is one point in the Nethersphere where she is talking to Danny through a Skype-like contraption and we see how Danny doesn’t know her that well (he isn’t able to answer the question about Clara about something only he knows about her…this is partially because of Clara’s lack of sharing. Their relationship is a bit one sided at times), and her willingness to create a Paradox to bring Danny back to life even if means destroying the TARDIS and Doctor. It’s a very River Song “Wedding of River Song” thing to do. I thought it was great as it revealed their flaws and failure to see the big picture going on around them (A Cybermen is being revealed as they talk and Clara isn’t aware of it until it’s too late).

The Nethersphere – The idea behind the place was cool and when we see it in action (Danny talking to a child he killed during war) and the dead who are revealed when the Dark Water goes away that they are Cybermen…the dead chose to give up their trauma and embraced becoming Cybermen because living was too hard is what the episode implies. All their minds are in a Gallifreyan device called the Matrix Data Slice, which than downloads the memories of the modified dead into the Cybermen giving Missy an amazing army. This is the first time we’ve seen the Cybermen used as tools of a higher power, and I love it since it captures the tragedy which is made all the more tragic as the dead chose their fate.

The Doctor – The Doctor is much like Clara and Danny and when Clara shows she’s willing to betray and destroy the Doctor to bring Danny back he still helps her. He doesn’t trust her anymore but he clearly still loves her. This speaks depths in regards to the question of the Doctor being a good man. He clearly is and Capaldi owns his scenes. This comes to the head in the end when Missy makes out with him making him completely vulnerable as he doesn’t like being touched and becomes worse when Missy reveals her identity and the Doctor realizes he helped create this situation. What it means fully remains to be seen as he is powerless to warn the people as the Cybermen invade. We’ll know more of their relationship in the next episode.

Missy / Mistress / The Master – Michelle Gomez is wonderful and I love the implications of her kissing the Doctor. The Master has always felt affection for the Doctor and this confirms it. The kiss shows that their relationship did have an unspoken other dimension and it adds a lot to both their characters (the Doctor and the Master). We also see the just how brilliant the Master is for creating the Nethersphere and tricking the dead into becoming slaves by forcing them to face the pain they experienced in life. She’s brilliant and deadly and I hope she survives this series. Much of the after scenes make more sense now, like her hope the solar flare would destroy Earth…now all that’s left is why she chose Clara and what Clara’s connection is to the Mistress. The wonderfully deadly Time Lady. Also I love how this episode sets up the potential for a female Doctor further down the line.

The Cons: Nethersphere Human Minions – These guys are just there and don’t really do much but give exposition. When Missy kills one of them it doesn’t really establish anything except her cruelty, which we already knew from the implication of the Cybermen being the dead who chose slavery.

Slow in Parts – The episode does lag in parts, for example the Clara and Danny conversation is the same thing stated again and again. “Prove you’re Danny.” “I love you.” This cycle just goes on and on, a few of the scenes of this could have been cut out. Danny doesn’t know Clara and Clara doesn’t trust…just like the Doctor.

Can’t wait to see where this episode goes as the Master Arc from Series 3 is one of my all time favorite arcs in the New Doctor Who Series and the Missy Arc could end up being just as good if it’s handled right. It all depends on the next episode as I usually don’t count the Christmas Specials in the arc, just like Davies Specials they are more often than not their own thing that focus more on character stories…with sometimes some pretty great baddies. Moffat, please don’t mess up Missy. I thought she might be the Master, now is the time to fully explore what her relationship to the Doctor and Clara is and what she has in plan with her invasion and the Matrix Data Slice. “Death in Heaven” could still save things by being good, but a lot is at stake now as the Cliffhanger has raised my expectations for how Missy is handled as she and the Doctor are far more interesting than the Clara and Danny arc going on currently.

Side Note: I had hoped Missy might be Romana or the Rani but the Mistress being the Master is still very good if predictable reveal in my book and shows so much more potential for future exploration of what it means to be a Time Lord and the relationships between Time Lords. “The Doctor’s Wife” had left this open as an option (Time Lords changing Gender via mention of The Corsair) but it’s great to finally see it happen!

I’ll do a score of the arc together before I talk about the series as a whole at the end of the next episode (as well as giving “Death in Heaven” it’s own score as a single episode). But this episode was a favorite.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great and setting up some great potential for the Mistress.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 6 – “The Caretaker” – The Time War’s Mark

The Caretaker Doctor Who

“The Caretaker” ended up being a great episode. It started out a bit choppy but the moments of greatness outweighed the moments that didn’t work. This episode shows us the effect of the Time War and his role further on the Doctor and also gives us some great glimpses into Danny and Clara too. The episode was written by Stephen Moffat and Gareth Roberts and directed by Paul Murphy.

The premise of “The Caretaker” is that a Skovox Blitzer has been attracted to London due to special particles and that if it feels threatened it has enough fire power to destroy the entire Earth, leading the Doctor to go undercover as the Caretaker under his popular alias of John Smith of Coal Hill where Danny and Clara teach. It is here Clara’s double lives are at stake of being revealed and the Doctor’s prejudice against soldiers is fully expressed.

Per usual SPOILERS ahead

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Direction and Cinematography – There are some great shots that help with the time where the episode lags. Such as Clara’s reflection being filmed during her confession of her double life of life with Danny and life with the Doctor. Also a Wes Andersonish shot of the school was appreciated, however brief it was.

Courtney Woods – A rebellious kid who reminds the Doctor of why he fights for humanity. She believes him when he says that he’s an alien and isn’t putoff by the TARDIS. Ellis George does great for what little scenes she is in.

Skovox Blitzer – The soldier who is there to take out threats to it’s existence and follow the rules of it’s superiors. It is a great alien and one I hope we see again. Our introduction to it is it blowing up a police officer. The alien is like Garris from “Mass Effect” meets a giant robotic crab.

Coal Hill School – Coal Hill feels like a real school and Danny and Clara actually feel like teachers. It’s great seeing their interactions with the Doctor as the Caretaker and with one another professionally. I hope we get more drama here at the school as the series progresses. It really grounds the series which has never been done before in the new series as characters ended up switching universes (Rose and her family), retconning it happening (The Year that Never Was in regards to the Master arc) or always new jobs and environment ( In the case of Donna’s Life as well as Amy and Rory’s). The school adds a much needed base for the human element.

Clara Oswald – Clara is human, flawed and fantastic. She is tackling the dilemma of her double life in a way Rory and Amy never were and I think that adds a lot of depth to at times a very slow and tonally inconsistent episode. We see how her love for Danny and the Doctor come out and why she was attempting to protect them from one another when she didn’t have to. This episode is her learning to trust and it is done well as aspects of Danny and the Doctor are revealed that she and we hadn’t known before.

Danny Pink – Danny Pink has had a bad experience with officers because he was a soldier risking his life while the officer was safe. The Doctor acted like his officers and there is precedent that he is an officer both in his Children of Time (Rose, Donna, Martha and for the 11th Doctor Rory and Amy) and how he never fully accepted how he made them in to soldiers. Danny hates that the officers he worked with didn’t realize that, and I don’t think the Doctor does yet too since Danny tells Clara that if he pushes you too hard come to him for help. They have a grudging respect for each other at this point since they’ve both disrespected one another to each other’s faces multiple times in this episode. Though Danny respects Clara’s love for the adventure the Doctor offers too.

The Doctor – The Time War…it’s all about the Time War though it doesn’t state it out right. The Doctor commanded troops, he was one of the higher ranking Time Lords and though he was a soldier sometimes he had the privilege of his position which he still does to this day. He’s the thinker and planner who has his companions as the decoys and warriors. He doesn’t use a gun…he just uses others to shoot for him. I hope this addressed as the series progresses. It was dealt with at the end of Series 4 and “Dalek” and “Into the Dalek” but never fully. So much potential here…I’m glad Danny is a regular as I think he will be the one to shine that light once again on the Doctor as he did in this episode. Also he approves of Clara and Danny’s relationship and has a grudging respect for Danny for helping him stop Skovox.

The Ending – The Police Offer died is in heaven or paradise and this time it’s more foreboding as Missy has someone else speak for her and only glares when we see her. If you didn’t realize she was the villain this episode should make it very very apparent. Still good though as it has a haunting feel now added to paradise. The people are dead and may be trapped.

The Cons: The Tone – This episode didn’t know if it wanted to be a drama or a comedy at times which made it really hard to invest in initially. At times it is zany and the Doctor is up to antics…and other times there are character revealing heart to hearts. The extremes are very apparent and that brings the episode down.

Slow Start – The episode starts really slow which is ironic since it starts with Clara and the Doctor chained to posts about to be eaten. The Skovox takes too long to appear given how much of the main threat it is in the episode and how it the initial double life of Clara takes a rough beginning.

This is an episode I’d recommend. The great moments really shine and the bad moments aren’t enough to make me not recommend it. It is a great Clara, Doctor and Danny episode and one that gives us a lot of potential into future development of the Doctor and how he lived the Time War and is dealing with it in his current incarnation who remembers once more.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10.