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 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 1 – “The Pilot” – Horror Meets Wonder With a Great New Companion

   I’m worried about how the rest of the Series 10 and Capaldi’s run as 12 will go. Moffat and Gatiss ran “Sherlock” into the ground and there is enough time for him to do the same for “Doctor Who,” as for “Sherlock” it only took about 1 1/2 Seasons to do so. Right now he’s starting out strong though! I really enjoyed “The Pilot,” it captures all the beautiful adventure, horror and wonder that comes with the best of “Doctor Who” and sci. fi. time travel exploration. So, before I get into further depth, this one is worth checking out.

   The episode was directed by Lawrence Gough and written by Steven Moffat.

    The episode involves the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) lecturing at a college as a Professor until Bill (Pearl Mackie) a fish and chips cook is pulled into his life when he notices her at all of his lectures listening. She is soon thrown into the unknown though when her crush is taken over by a mysterious puddle, pulling her and the Doctor together as they try and stop the alien from taking away Bill.

The Pros: The World – The world is fantastic as we get to see the Doctor take up the role of professor, a role he clearly enjoys as both 1 and 10 have both done it at different times in the human world as have other incarnations in the extended universe of the Doctor. This love of knowledge and sharing it is part of what makes the series so inspiring and great and it is on display by having it all take place a college with a woman (Bill) who is not even a student sitting on lectures because of her desire to learn.

Nardole – Nardole is still with us after we picked him up at “The Husbands of River Song,” and through the last special too. Matt Lucas is great at being the awkward loaf who is fearful but can find courage (helps the Doctor trap some Daleks in the episode) and calls out the Doctor on his blind spots. He’s very much the Doctor’s assistant in this so I’m curious to see if his role will be explored further, I’m not quite sure why he’s sticking around.

Bill – Bill is an amazing companion (don’t mess this up Moffat!). She is down to Earth, has a desire to learn and doesn’t let lack of money stop her, she is alone in many ways and that loneliness ties to the Doctor in how they connect as their desire to learn and for connection is key. It is her reaching out to her crush that leads to the alien targeting her. She is strong and stands her ground too when the Doctor attempts to wipe her mind as she helps realize how messed up that is and that the adventure was her first happy memory in a long time.

The Doctor – The Doctor has gone from not just the protector of humanity but also helping them learn about time travel as the lecture we see him doing at the beginning is him teaching about the meaning of TARDIS. In this way he is helping humanity thrive and become the force they are in the future. His arc is realizing that his past mind wipes were him being selfish, leading to him not wiping Bill’s mind and choosing her to be his companion as she helps him see things differently and realize and correct his older bad habits.

Okay: The Antagonist – The antagonist is the weakest part. It is sentient oil puddle that is also a space ship as it takes Bill’s crush as the Pilot and tries to take Bill as the passenger. It can some how warp through time and track the TARDIS and what it actually is is never fully explained. I liked the play on Ring type horror it did with anything it mimicked being wet and dripping water but felt it needed to be explored more. It could have easily been tied to the Waters of Mars, which would have really made it a horror story.

  This is a strong start to Series 10 and I’m really hoping it stays that way as Gallifrey and Clara being ruined last season almost made me stop watching the show. Gallifrey needed a good story tied to it and Clara’s choice to die should have been respected. She had so many great good-byes that got canceled out. I don’t want Bill or the 12th Doctor to suffer the same fate. They deserve better and hopefully Moffat can end as strong as he started.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 Antagonist is the weakest part.

Sherlock – Series 4, Episode 2 – “The Lying Detective” – Character Development and Confession…This was Needed and Succeeded

the-lying-detective-1

“The Lying Detective” is up there with one of my favorite episodes in “Sherlock.” This is an episode that captures the best parts of what made so much of Series 2 work. What drives this story is the core relationship between John and Sherlock, especially as it relates to family aka Mycroft and Mary. This gives it power as there is an underpinning of vulnerability that pervades the entire episode.

The episode was directed by Nick Hurran and written by Steven Moffat and produced by Sue Vertue.

The story involves Sherlock regressing back into addiction as he seeks to take down a man he suspects of being a serial killer (Culverton Smith). John hasn’t seen him for weeks but finds himself pulled back into Sherlock’s game as the plot to take down Culverton unfolds.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Set-up – The episode starts out with Culverton confessing to his friends he’s a killer and wiping their memories of the incident. Immediately he is established as a powerful antagonist and we get Sherlock’s obsession with him.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is once again beautiful, it continues to be one of the strongest aspects of this show.

The Action – This is an action heavy episode and the tension stays high through everything. I honestly didn’t know what would happen at times and that made the narrative stronger.

The Soundtrack – David Arnold and Michael Price’s score is really on display this episode as we get the haunting terror of Culverton the drug fueled isolation of Sherlock and John’s loneliness. The music feeds the narrative and strengthens it.

The Characters – The characters have always been the best part of the show and thankfully Moffat manages to develop many of them this episode, rather than keeping them static.

Molly – Molly appears briefly and does a good job at balancing out John as she is the second Doctor who John requests before he’ll help Sherlock take down Culverton.

Culverton Smith – Toby Jones is so good at playing creeps. In this we see his obsession and safety in being a billionaire and tied to politicians and businesses. It takes Sherlock entering Hell for him to confess what he’s done though when he is caught he shows that he’s been holding all this in and still feels happy as he’ll be even more famous once him being a killer comes out. He’s a sick individual and it makes for an interesting character.

Mrs. Hudson – Mrs. Hudson helps bring John and Sherlock together as we see she has a nice car (her drug lord husband) and that she doesn’t take crap from anyone. This is a great Mrs. Hudson episode as we see how she notices things and knows Sherlock and Mycroft better than anyone. It was a nice twist and it added a lot of depth to her character.

Mycroft – Mycroft is a lizard for most of this episode when he isn’t looking after Sherlock and trying to be a good brother. We also see that he’s trying to protect his sister, which John first figures out in the episode. There is more to this reveal than anyone knows though as shown by the final reveal.

Sherlock – Sherlock goes into Hell to take down a killer and to seek out John again as we see that he really does act from emotion and isn’t detached from it. This instability is explored deeply in the episode as we see him question reality even as he is getting more connected to other aspects of reality. It’s tragic in many ways and I felt for him when he finally starts dealing with his addiction and John forgives him. Sherlock finally shows affection which we see he’s always wanted to some degree (whether from Irene or John).

John Watson – John is dealing with loss this episode as he sees Mary in his mind’s eye and talks to her. He is dealing with anger, denial and sadness and also shame and regret for the affair he had. After he confesses this to Sherlock mind Mary leaves and we see him begin to heal as it is also only from him arriving that he saves Sherlock from Culverton (a callback to the first episode of the series when he stops another killer).

Eurus – Eurus is the other Holmes and has embraced the mind fully as we see her as John’s therapist at the episode’s start. We don’t know her motivations yet but she helped take down Culverton and at the end of the episode is about to shoot John. There are Moriarity aspects to her and I really want to know her more as she is a villain with a lot of potential.

The Reveal – Eurus is Mycroft and Sherlock’s sister! This was cool as she’s John’s therapist and we see that she was playing everyone. We don’t know her motivation yet but the hints that she might not be all together there and Mycroft’s fear of her leave a lot to hope for. Moffat writing her helps mellow out the hype though. He’s set up a lot of badass female antagonists and failed to have them payoff.

Confession and Healing – A core part of this episode is confession and healing. Culverton’s confession to his friends is what leads to his demise as it gives Sherlock what he needs to take him down, John and Sherlock confessing to one another leads to healing with them both feeling the loss of Mary and helps reestablish their friendship and gives us the heart and theme of the episode.

Okay/Con: Everybody is Getting Together – Lady Smallwood gets together with Mycroft and it implies it could be serious someday, John wants Sherlock to get together with Irene when he learns that she texts him. This is cute in some ways but having everyone hook up had romantic comedy aspects to it that took me out of the episode.

The Cons: Pacing – There are some pacing issues, it starts out strong has great rising action but sort of teeters off when John sees the confession tape from Mary and when Eurus reveals herself to John to shoot him. If this had been a bit smoother the episode could have been perfect.

This was Moffat once again at the head of his game. Every major character gets development and Sherlock’s psychology is explored and isn’t justified. This is a story that wants to explore the darker parts of human nature and what humans are capable of, and it succeeds. It isn’t a perfect episode as the romances that get set-up through the episode feel a little off sometimes and it does have pacing issues, but that doesn’t take away from the core power of the narrative and character development that takes place. This was such a great episode that really captured the core relationships and mystery, which made this show so great in the first place.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Doctor Who Specials – “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” – The Doctor’s Story is Good but the Romance is Terrible

return-of-doctor-mysterio

     I got to say, I’m looking forward to someone taking over Moffat’s reigns for “Doctor Who.” Moffat at the end of the day is a safe and average showrunner but great at individual episodes when someone else is running the show. The best episodes in the reboot were Moffat episodes but some of the worst episodes happened after he took over and proceed to ruin the 11th Doctor in many ways, as well as Clara. I could write a whole blog post on the matter but will wait and do a Moffat retrospect after he finishes up this Season, which will be his last season with “Doctor Who.”

       Steven Moffat was the writer of “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” with the director being Ed Bazalgette.

    The story involves the Doctor working on a device when he runs into young Grant, a child waiting for Santa who ends up eating a rare item that turns him into a Super Hero. Years later the Doctor returns and helps Grant deal with his double life and the threat of Shoal of the Winter Harmony.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful, “Doctor Who” continues to look the best it ever has ever looked.

The Action – The action, when it is there is rather clever and I liked the threat of the Shoal of Winter Harmony and how they were camp but still managed to hold threat.

Shoal of the Winter Harmony – These are an alien species of living brains that body snatch. These guys were fun and a nice addition to the Whoniverse. They even manage to infiltrate UNIT at the end, which could work but given how horribly The Great Intelligence was handled, I’m hoping they aren’t the big bad for this season.

Nardole – Nardole is great and awkward and Matt Lucas plays him beautifully. He calls the Doctor out but that is mostly because he gets social cues worse than the Doctor. He is also the connection to River, which is why the Doctor keeps him around, even though it helps as last episode was saying good-bye. Again, everything with the Doctor is the strongest part of this episode.

The Doctor – The Doctor is the best part of this story. He’s taken to bringing snacks on outings and is doing his best to stop the Shoal while dealing with the loss of River Song. His arc is making peace with the loss and accepting new beginnings. It is really well done as he is not nearly as mopy as 11 was after Amy and Rory died. Capaldi truly owns this role.

Remembering River – The core of the episode is the Doctor missing River after “The Husbands of River Song,” as it is after that episode she dies at the Library. This was the core of the plot that made it good and I wish this had actually been explored more, not through the weak Grant and Lucy romance.

Okay: Lucy – Lucy is the reporter who figures out what is going on with Shoal of the Harmony Winter and also the Doctor. She isn’t bad but she feels phoned in. She empathizes with the Doctor losing River but Nordale does it so much better. She or Grant should have been the only character, them both being around weakened both their plots.

The Ghost/Grant – This character is meant to be Superman (the flying, super strong, etc.) and Spider-Man (the awkward nerd) and he does that well, he also isn’t super memorable either and his core desire being romance just wasn’t strong enough to get me invested in the character. His double life plot just feel tacky and the backstory with Lucy just felt contrived.

The Cons: The Romance – The romance is just awful, it is awkward, feels tacked on and doesn’t feel real at all. All the best bits this episode are with the Doctor and the rest is forgettable or okay (the two main characters).

  This was an okay episode. I enjoyed it for the story where the Doctor drove the narrative but the hackneyed romance really brought this down. This is an episode that I’d recommend if you are a fan of Capaldi as he does have some great moments…but he is literally the only reason to watch this episode. The Super Hero stuff feels out of place mostly due to the romance and even though I liked the villains the romance took away from their threat. Again, see this if you are fan of the show but outside that, this is just an okay episode.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Sherlock – Special – “The Abominable Bride” – Confusing at Times but a Powerful Message

Sherlock The Abominable Bride

      “The Abominable Bride” is an episode that is a bit unfocused but comes together at the end and never stops being fun. It more than makes up for the end of Season 3 and even the overall message of the internal mystery is powerful too and is timeless, which is something Moffat usually doesn’t cover in his episodes. I’ll get into more of the details later but this episode was a trip (in more than one way) and for non-spoiler thoughts, is well worth checking out.

      The episode was directed by Douglas Mackinnon and written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.

Spoilers ahead

       The episode takes place in Victorian England where Sherlock is seeking to solve the case of the Abominable Bride who killed herself but has come back from the dead and is hunted down her husband and other evil men. All is not as it appears to be though as even the story is meta.

The Pros: Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful per usual, which one thing that has been true of even the weakest episodes of “Sherlock.” There is great use of freezing the frame and using the London fog to cast mystery and shadow and with it an element of horror which lended strength to the narrative both main and meta. Suzie Lavelle did a great job.

Soundtrack – The music continues to be one of the strongest parts of this series and plays into the mystery, horror and self reflection that really defines this episode and the series at it’s best when it is at it’s strongest. David Arnold and Michael Price did a wonderful job.

Dialogue – The dialogue is snappy, sharp and natural and fit the characters beautifully. This was an episode that didn’t drag because the writing kept things moving, especially in how the different characters interacted.

Characters – Characters have always been the strongest part of the show and the Special is a shining example of this. Though there are some glorified cameos I won’t really mention since I don’t really feel the cameos got exploration.

Mary – Mary is fighting for equality in England and she is the one who discovers the organization that created the Abominable Bride. It is wonderful seeing her front and center and I hope she becomes part of John and Sherlock and that they become a trio. Amanda Abbington once again does a fantastic job.

Moriarty – Andrew Scott is back, though it is only in Sherlock’s mind palace as we learn part of his plan was to trap Sherlock inside his head as he really did die and wanted to bring Sherlock down with him, like he did in the story of the Reichenbach Fall. In the end he fails to account for Watson though and it is his downfall as within his mind Sherlock is able to realize that Moriarty is not alive and that all of this was a ploy to trap him so that his final attack on the world could go forward.

Mycroft – Mark Gatiss is my favorite Mycroft and in this we see the tender side of his relationship to Sherlock as he was there to pull Sherlock out of his addiction and cared for him. We also see a fat Mycroft in the past (and how he looks in the stories and novels) which is a treat. He never stops being Mycroft though and we see him team up with Mary to help and protect John and Sherlock. Gatiss truly owns this role and he gets great character development this episode.

Watson – Martin Freeman’s Watson gets some wonderful character development in this as in the past we see that Sherlock uses how Watson sees him in order to solve cases and build himself up and that Watson truly is smart and has learned a lot from Sherlock. He saves Sherlock from his mind Moriarty and helps him wake up as well as solving the Abominable Bride case with him and his wife Mary. He is a great character as always.

Sherlock – Benedict Cumberbatch really owns this role and is a natural Sherlock Holmes. I really liked seeing his Victorian self solving the case and them actually dealing with the dangers of his addiction as it takes him going under to solve the case of the Abominable Bride and realize that Moriarty is dead but he put things in place in case that ever did happen. His arc is learning to accept help and letting go of his addiction to needing a case or drugs to feel alive. It’s very well done and Sherlock actually grows over the course of the episode.

Equality and Justice – The suffragette movement is addressed and the fact that some of them are using the Abominable Bride for justice against evil men. It’s really cool as it uses the sexism of Victorian society to show how far we’ve come and how far there is to go.

Letting Go and No Longer Alone – Sherlock’s arc is letting go of Moriarty in his mind and accepting his death and accepting the love from his friends….that his brother, John and Mary are there for him and that is how he can defeat and has defeated whatever has come his way. No longer the superhuman, he is now human.

Okay/Pro: The Ending – We know now that Moriarty truly is dead but he put something in place for when he does die and now it is up to Sherlock and John to solve it. I liked them talking in the past, it was some of the best John and Sherlock moments…and Sherlock did get some great monologues. I’m doing it as okay since it took Sherlock overdosing to get there.

Okay: The Bride – The organization the Bride is a part of is wonderful, but the bride is a plot device and never fully grows beyond it. She isn’t a bad plot device but a plot device is not a character. Lestrade had the same problem.

Lestrade – Graves does a good job with what he’s given but he’s just kind of there to give Sherlock the plot to solve. I would have liked to see more with him as he’s never given the chance to fully be his own character.

    This was a favorite episode and clearly showed that Gatiss and Moffat are back in their game when it comes to this show. I was disappointed with Series 3, especially in it’s treatment of Mary in the finale and how the kill was handled, as well as the villain being one note…but this got back on track. Sherlock has always been about the characters and this episode showed once more why we keep coming back to this show and what drew us to the stories of Sherlock Holmes in the first place.

Final Score: 9.4 / 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 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 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