The 12th Doctor – Doctor Who Specials – “Twice Upon a Time” – Reflecting, Critiquing and Honoring the Old to the New to Bring the 13th Doctor

For Steven Moffat’s last outing as showrunner, this is an episode that manages to both honor and critique the show’s past while capturing a great deal about what made Capaldi’s run so enjoyable, even if it was often Moffat’s writing that ruined the early episodes of his run. This is a lot better than the last Christmas Special but not as good as “A Christmas Carol,” which managed to keep the Christmas feel without losing the Doctor Who feel either. This one keeps the Christmas at a minimum and it is truly the episode’s strength. Characters drive story so often in Doctor Who and this episode remembers that.  For my non-spoiler thoughts, I enjoyed it, especially everything with Capaldi.

“Twice Upon a Time” was directed by Rachel Talalay and written by Steven Moffat.

The story involves the 12th Doctor stumbling upon his 1st incarnation as both of them debate whether they should regenerate as a mysterious threat known as Harmony forces them to confront, what it means to be the Doctor.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Sense of History – This is an episode that kicks off with the 1st Doctor’s final episode as a flashback and fills in the blank by having the 1st Doctor resist regeneration as well, which leads him running into 12 and a World War 1 captain pulled out of time, and revisiting Rusty, the good Dalek (From Capaldi’s “Into the Dalek,”) who hates Daleks and the Doctor and helps the Doctor learn who Harmony is. The sense of history is never lost as well as eventually the Captain is returned to the day he was pulled from by Harmony, the alien threat in this episode. The Captain is also significant in regards to history in relation to the Doctor, which I will go into later.

 Harmony – Harmony is a program created by future humans who record copies of people at their point of death in order to create copies of them that can exist forever. This is how the Doctor gets to adventure with Bill once more and say good-bye to Nardole. Nardole and Bill both died at their time of meeting the Doctor and there is power in that as he is dying too. I’m glad Moffat did this, even though there is a moment that cheapens the finality of death a little bit.

World War 1 and the Christmas Resolution – The Captain, who we learn is a Lethbridge-Stewart and we see how he and the Doctor are connected as the First Doctor promises to keep an eye on his family, leading to that family’s relationship with the Doctors through history. Capaldi also saves him as he leaves him a few hours ahead of his death, and in turn they experience the Christmas Truce during World War 1, which also gives more power to the Doctor being The Doctor of War as his whole goal is to save people and make miracles when so much of the universe is things not working and people not being saved. It was a great way to make it a Christmas Special without the kitch nature that inhabited so many other Moffat Christmas Specials.

Twelve’s Good-bye – Twelve ends accepting that the universe would be a much worse place without him, and before saying good-bye makes himself promise to remember what it means to be the Doctor. It is a powerful moment and easily one of the best regeneration in the series thus far.

Thirteen’s Introduction – The Doctor needs to stop regenerating in the TARDIS. When 12 becomes 13 the TARDIS is wrecked and throws out Whittaker’s Doctor before disappearing and exploding as she falls. Before she has a beautiful moment where she sees her face, and says “Brilliant,” and after that it all goes to crap. Can’t wait to see how she survives and gets the TARDIS back. Chibnall has a lot of setup to go off of to make a great series and I can’t wait to see 13 in action.

Okay: Clara – Harmony gives the Doctor back his memories of Clara and she gets on his case for forgetting him. I wanted to hate this, but I couldn’t…I just wish Donna could get her memories back too. I may not have been a fan of Clara as a companion, but she was in some solid episodes and she had a great good-byes that were ruined, but that is not her fault, that is Moffat’s fault.

The Cons: The First Doctor Versus the Era He Lived In – David Bradley is great as the First Doctor, my only issue is they play up the sexism from the era he was in when the First Doctor wasn’t like that, as far as the episodes I remember. I could be completely wrong and I’m glad Capaldi and Bill show how wrong the sexist mindset that was so prevalent in that era was, but it could have been done with the Captain Lethbridge-Stewart. I could be wrong as well, it has been a while since I watched the First Doctor but I don’t remember him ever acting that way in the episodes I watched (from treating all women as domestic helpers, assuming men as always right, etc.). I liked what Moffat was trying to do, I dislike his execution. His execution failed and just made the episode awkward as well as taking away from real exploration of lore from the First Series of Doctor Who, and who the Doctor’s First Incarnation was.

I’m going to miss Capaldi. He is my favorite of all the new Doctors as his arc felt complete. He goes from not caring about humanity, to finding reasons to care once more, to the experiencing of loss and from that not wanting to regenerate so the pain can just stop as he feels hopeless in changing things as there are always more threats…to choosing to the be the Doctor once more and letting go of his ego so he can regenerate into someone new. 11 never changed, 10 just go more marose, 9 had a very short arc of working through his PTSD from the Time War…but Capaldi got the full arc. I may write more about his era and the Moffat era as a whole later, but for now…if you like Capaldi or are excited for Jodie Whittaker, give this episode a chance. She has a great introduction sent off from a fantastic good-bye.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

 

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

HEAVEN SENT (By Steven Moffat)

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

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

SPOILERS ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 10 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 2, Episode 12 – “Death in Heaven” – Of Lies, Consequences and an Impressive Finale

Doctor Who Death in Heaven

This was a great episode. The episode had consequences which changed circumstances for everyone and an emotional depth to it, in any of the scenes that had named characters. Suffice, to say it has been a while I’ve been this impressed by a finale in the new series of Doctor Who.

“Death in Heaven,” like “Dark Water” was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay.

SPOILERS ahead

The episode picks up with the Cybermen in the middle of London before UNIT arrives on the scene causing them to each go to a different city. From here the story unfolds as the Doctor is made President of the Human Race and must work to figure out Missy’s plan with the Cybermen before it is too late.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: UNIT – It is great seeing UNIT back! Especially Osgood and Kate Stewart. It is here we learn that they had a plan put in place to make the Doctor the President of the Human Race since he was the best at facing alien threats. This was cool and showed how UNIT and Torchwood mistakes had been learned from of treating the Doctor like a prisoner or threat.

Kate Stewart – She is only in the first half of the episode but she’s there helping the Doctor figure things out before the Cybermen attack their plan where they are holding Missy. she falls but is saved by her father who was resurrected as a Cybermen along with the rest of the dead. Jemma Redgrave is fantastic.

Osgood – A small part which ends up being a sad part, as her brains draw the Doctor in and he promises her to be a companion for her bucket list. Missy, not liking this kills Osgood shortly after, having broken out of her restraints. RIP Osgood. This episode had consequences out the door. Ingrid Oliver really was a great character. In this episode she had a bow tie to replace the large scarf and tells the Doctor, “Bow ties are cool.”

The Cybermen – The Cybermen are tools of the Master and only function as tools, but they are horrifying. All the dead throughout time made slaves by her manipulations and used to force the Doctor to make a choice. Use them to conquer in order to save Earth or surrender. The Doctor in the end chooses neither when he realizes he isn’t a good man, he’s just an idiot passing through and throws the Cyber Control device to Danny who is a Cyberman with emotions who than uses it to have all the Cybermen explode, destroying the rain that would have turned the living into Cybermen. They were a great threat this episode and they only failed as a weapon because of the Master’s need to prove a point to the Doctor.

Danny Pink – Danny makes amends, he saves Clara as a Cyberman and after his sacrifice he sends in the child he accidentally killed during the war. His ending was perfect as he didn’t get happily ever after and used the Master Cyber Control device to help someone he’d killed and someone who had much longer to live. His good bye to Clara is touching as well as when he is asking her to turn off his emotion because the pain of being a Cyberman who is undead and being second to the Doctor is too much. He calls out the Doctor though on the Doctor refusing to make a choice…the Doctor is an officer still even though he denies it for being the man who runs and tries and helps.

Clara Oswald – We see her be super clever here and learn Missy is the one who kept them together because Clara’s the control freak and the Doctor resists it and Missy thought it’d be perfect for making the Doctor like her. Clara shows the depths of her rage after Danny’s sacrifice when she almost kills Missy before the Doctor takes the weapon. She says good bye to Danny and realizes that she wasn’t the best partner. It is sad and it ends with lying as the Doctor believes her and Danny are together and she allows him to live that illusion, just as he lies to her in turn.

Missy / The Master – Missy wants her friend back, conquering the world is boring and it takes a Good Man to conquer the world. She tells the Doctor about prisoners in Dalek Camps and other things and tells him the Cybermen army is his so they can save the Universe together. It is a brilliant mind game. We also learn she left Gallifrey during the 50th Anniversary since the Doctor’s had left a brief window open. She than teases Gallifrey still being around but Gallifrey is in fact gone or she was lying about it being back in it’s original location. This Master is the greatest threat, as she kills Osgood, Danny by putting him in the situation, a lot of UNIT and hurts the Doctor and Clara before Cyberman Brig kills her. I’m hoping she isn’t gone…this is probably my favorite version of the Master. She’s crazy, fun and dangerous and plays up the emotional connection to the Doctor better than many before. She wants to prove that he is like her and in the process have her childhood friend back. It is terrifying, beautiful and sad and really goes into the psychological makeup of what makes the Master the Master. Michelle Gomez truly owns this role.

The Doctor / The 12th Doctor – The Doctor is powerless for much of this episode and it is when he gives up power to Danny and the Brig (his companions) that he wins. I don’t think he realizes that part Missy’s point about him having an army was his companions, but I think he might have realized it too. After Missy’s death by the Brigadier he goes to the location that Missy mentions and finds nothing even as he is lying to Clara about finding it so visits will be less. It’s powerful and is illustrated when they are hugging and he explains why he doesn’t like hugs, “Hugs are a chance to hide your face.” Capaldi owns this role and I’m glad his run isn’t over. I just hope Missy can come back, as death has never stopped the Master before.

The Ending – Danny gets closure with the child he killed, Clara and the Doctor live a lie and pretend everything is alright but are finally about to hold and comfort each other, Missy is stopped and Gallifrey is gone or Missy lied, we learn that Missy was the mysterious woman who brought the Doctor and Clara together (and gave Clara the Doctor’s number), people died (named characters at that) and weren’t magicked back to life. I loved this finale. It had consequences and explored relationships deeply. This is the best Moffat final since Series 5, lets see if he can keep this up.

The Cons: 3W – 3W is kind of left on the wayside, we just learn the first Cybermen were probably rich who’d feared dying who had chosen to become Cybermen. How they’re used isn’t bad, but they’re gone because they aren’t really brought up again in any meaningful way.

Death of Missy – Not sure if it’s permanent or not (this is Doctor Who) but I want this Master back. I get the poetic justice in the Brig staying the Doctor’s hand from killing her and the Doctor being willing to kill her to save Clara’s soul…but his attachment to the Master? Why didn’t he go more into his own thoughts? That was what I’d have liked to see more. Missy spoke her thoughts far more than the Doctor in regards to their relationship. She is the Master, so she might be back though, death has never stopped the Master before.

Like I said before, this is my favorite finale of the Moffat years since Series 5 and I’d rate it on part or better than Davies’s Master Arc…I’ll have re-watch it though before I can say that for certain though. Regardless, it is worth watching for the companion drama, UNIT drama and of course Missy and the Master. It was these things that made this episode shine. I just hope the Christmas special doesn’t take away the consequences we experienced…Danny should stay dead as should Osgood, they are human and not Time Lords who have broken the laws of death before.

Final score for “Death in Heaven”: 9.8 – Solidly amazing.

Final Score for “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” and finale as a whole: 9.5, weaker but great start and an amazing and powerful finish.

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

Doctor Who Dark Water

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

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

SPOILERS

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

Here is the assessment of the episode:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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