“Sherlock” Pilot – Series 1, Episode 1 – “A Study in Pink” – The Thrill of the Hunt and Dangerous Detachment

a study in pink sherlock

   “Sherlock” has become far greater than the show it initially come from as it has not only boosted Cumberbatch’s career it also brought about a resurgant interest in the character and stories of “Sherlock Holmes.” This is also the show that put Steven Moffat as a writer and director on the map and you can see his ideas in this show rub off him being the showrunner of “Doctor Who.”

    “A Study in Pink” was directed by Paul McGuigan and written by Steven Moffat.

     The story involves Dr. Watson’s return from Afghanistan and his attempts to get acclimated to life again as he is pulled into a mystery from a possible flatmate Sherlock Holmes in which a string of similar suicides are tied to something far more sinister taking place.

The Pros: Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful! There is a dark tone over everything and it captures the isolation that both Watson and Sherlock feel as they are both outsiders in different ways where the thing that connects them is their thrill of the chase and the mystery in life’s game.

The Soundtrack – David Arnold and Michael Price did a fantastic job on this soundtrack! It captures the methodic feel of Holmes as well as the thrill that Watson and Holmes take in the hunt.

The Mystery – The mystery is fascinating as we have supposed suicides but as we learn more that it is based on a 50-50 chance of murder dying as well. From here it is how well a dying man does mind games on his victims and how others react to the bodies left behind. The clue that makes finding the murder possible is a lady pink not having her pink suitcase present which lead to the discovery that she planted the phone on the murder allowing Sherlock and Watson to find the murder.

The Cabbie – The Cabbie is a great threat as he sees himself as carrying for his children’s future as he lost his wife and is terminally ill. To this end he gets sponsorship from Moriarty and is willing to risk his own life each time as he knows each death means his children get more. His story is tragic and shows how desperation can change people.

Mycroft Holmes – Mark Gatiss is how I envision Mycroft to be, a brilliant, over-controlling man who at the end of the day wants to do his duty and protect his brother. Gatiss shows this in Mycroft perfectly and we get a fake out initially where he is presented as possibly being Moriarty but later we see that clearly is not the case.

Dr. Watson – Watson is a veteran from the war and his arc is finding the thrill in the chase again as the lack of stimulation makes him feel isolated in his return to England. He does not have friends which is one reason Sherlock is able to attach to him and vise versa, they are both people outside what is normally considered good and it makes them compelling to watch as they grow to like one another. Martin Freeman is great in the role.

Sherlock – Sherlock drives the story and he is a dick. We see him completely oblivious to people’s feelings towards him unless it is hate and he is constantly berating the police force for their stupidity. His arc is coming to treat others with more respect and having greater social awareness, Watson functions as his external conscience in this way as he is there to shoot the cabbie when Sherlock is about to play the game where he has a 50-50 chance of taking the pill that will kill him. Benedict Cumberbatch is fantastic!

Okay: Ms. Hudson – She is a kind old lady with a string of unstable relationships. She is the mother figure to them and is there to remind them to be outside themselves as she is always present at 221B Baker Street.

Lestrade – Lestrade is the well meaning leader of the police who is empathetic and in over his head. I wanted to see more of the character as usually in Sherlock adaptations he is the faceless antagonist there to make Sherlock look good. This time he feels like an actual character just doing the best he can. Rupert Graves is good in what little he is able to do in the plot.

The Cons: Talking at Women – Whether it is Ms. Hudson, Mycroft’s assistant or others most of the women are talked at and are there to spit exposition at. This was annoying as they deserved to be fleshed out more and Sherlock, though he is a dick was usually always courteous in the books as he had to hear the person to learn.

Faceless Minor Characters – There are a few people on the police force who are antagonistic for the sake of being antagonistic and it struck me as petty and only there to make Sherlock look better by comparison. They serve no purpose but to be in the way to solving the case.

When the Police Became Stupid – There is one point where they are tracking the phone that we know the killer has and the police just stop looking for it and leave…this is after they came to Sherlock’s flat to get the evidence of the suitcase. This was plot stupidity as they should have followed up on finding the phone as they would have found the killer. There was no reason for this except to make Watson and Sherlock the heroes without any outside help.

“Sherlock” is a favorite show though as I have watched it more the problems in Moffat’s writing become more apparent…and I would rate “Hannibal” above “Sherlock” at this point, and not only because “Hannibal” had dignity enough to end. When you are dealing with human characters the story can’t be continuously rebooted as it is with “Doctor Who” and though I’m excited to watch more “Sherlock,” Season 3 was troubling in a lot of ways that I’ll get into when I review this show as a whole.

    For now, I recommend this episode as it is a great introduction to this show and Martin Freeman as Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes are two very amazing interpretations that are worth coming back too.

Final Score: 9  / 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 – Doctor Who Specials – “Last Christmas” – Letting Go of Dreams

DoctorWho_LastChristmas_DVD

    Besides “Waters of Mars” and “A Christmas Carol,” this is by far my favorite of the Doctor Who Specials and definitely the most character heavy of the Christmas Specials which is what gave it so much power. It wasn’t about the stories it took inspiration from, it was about the characters who inhabited the story, which is what made it so brilliant.

    “Last Christmas” was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Paul Wilmshurst.

SPOILERS ahead.

       The premise of the episode is a base under siege story. It begins with the Doctor picking up Clara from her home and taking her to the North Pole. It is there they work with the survivors of the base against the Dream Crabs who are killing 4 of the people on the base. When Santa comes to the rescue we soon learn that all is not as it appears to be and the Dream Crabs are more powerful than first realized.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise reminds me of “Inception” meets “Alien” or “John Carpenters The Thing” as the Dream Crabs have a creepy slimy design and so much of who they are is what you don’t see since by seeing and thinking about them is how they get power. They are a great enemy who I hope we see again. They raise the stakes and keep us guessing about what is real during the story, which makes the reveal of Clara telling the Doctor Danny is dead and the Doctor telling Clara he didn’t find Gallifrey all the more powerful. The base is haunting too, which makes the dream sequences all the more creepy.

The Humor -The best joke in the series is the Professor says the premise reminds him of the film “Alien.” The Doctor is horrified, “There’s a horror film called “Alien!” No wonder everyone keeps invading you.” Santa and the Elves relationship is great too as he has to put limits on how they praise and talk about him…at one point even giving a warning to stop.

The Survivors – Each of the survivors is living the life of who they wished they were. They are all scientists because of the shared dream and the movies one of them watched before the Dream Crab got her. One of them wakes up and finds she was in a wheel chair and younger than she was in the dream, the other was a teenager who was a woman in the dream and the final person who held them in her dream was alone and her mind had sought out others. It’s powerful and we see Clara needing the Doctor and Dream Danny to help get out of the Dream within a Dream as she wants to be with Danny so much. All of them are human and scarred in different ways. Michael Troughton, son of the 2nd Doctor also appeared in this episode as a professor, he isn’t given much to do but does a good job.

Dream Danny – Dream Danny is great in that he gives Clara the chance to grieve and have one last Christmas with the man she loves. It’s a great scene because it isn’t real and Danny isn’t coming back, it is there to help Clara heal and let go…which is what lends it power.

Clara – Clara is wonderful in this episode. She realizes they are still in the dream after they manage to wake up from one of the dreams and we realize how much she loves the Doctor. It is powerful in how she grieves for Danny and in how she helps the survivors escape the Dream Crabs. She sees the bigger picture and still functions as the Doctor’s conscience to some degree. At one point we get her good-bye where she is an old woman, until the Doctor is given another chance playing with the twist on what is real or not. I wish she had said good-bye. Her story as an old woman was awesome! She traveled and taught but Danny was her one love besides the Doctor. I really liked that. Well, I guess we’ll see if her last good-bye can compare to the last 2, which have been amazing.

Santa Claus – Nick Frost does a fantastic job as Santa, and his sarcastic elves actually end up adding some great humor. From hating being called Elves or other people being called humans…to other sarcastic quips. Santa is one who knows he is a dream and helps the others get out of the dream the Dream Crabs have them captured in because it is who he is.

The Doctor – Capaldi is amazing and I’m really glad he’s sticking around for at least 2 more seasons. He is the Doctor who speaks harsh truths. He recognizes some traumas never go away and that the person may never be okay, and he is able to connect with Santa since they are both immortals who are not quite human. We see how afraid he is of hurting Clara too and in the first ending doesn’t return to her for over 60 years. He’s afraid of disappointing her that he didn’t find Gallifrey and fears hurting her. Capaldi adds so much depth and sadness to the role, as well as excitement like when they make their escape from the Dream Crabs in Santa’s Sleigh which helps them to wake up. He is one of my favorite Doctors for sure, I just hope his next two seasons can keep up this quality and that we can avoid “Robot of Sherwood” and “The Forest of Night” type stories…given the rest of the season has explored him in great ways and been at least good if not great. This episode captured 12’s coldness, passion, fear of hurting others, empathy and showed just how much he cared about Clara, even if he was unable to let himself care about others for fear of losing them. This Doctor has learned and I can’t wait to see where else that growth takes him.

The Message – Even things like Santa that aren’t real can inspire us. It is in the dream that Santa saves the day and his existence is left up in the air at the end. He’s not overpowering but still is there as a support and the one thing binding all our characters together. This is the power of belief, and when that belief is positive it can in fact make a difference in the lives it touches…much like Santa Claus…or even the fairy tale like Doctor.

Okay: Clara’s Good-bye – Clara almost got her second Good-bye but the Doctor getting a second chance took away from what could have been the best of the companion exits. This could still work, but twice now a great chance for Clara to leave on great terms has been passed up to keep her around. That’s why this is okay and not a pro.

       I highly recommend this episode. Clara doesn’t have Danny come back and gets to say good-bye to him and chooses to live. This episode had consequences and almost the best companion exit of the series. I wish the Doctor had said good-bye to Clara when she was an old woman so he’d be forced to change and learn without her. She’s been a great addition this series but this is the second time she was given a great exit that was taken away. First with her and the Doctor lying to one another, and second with her as an old woman who had lived a full life. The Doctor got his second chance with her, which is great, but eventually he too will have to say good-bye. Major props to Nick Frost as well for playing a very human Santa Claus who was stern, real and compassionate. I really liked his character.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. One of the best of the Doctor Who Specials. Merry Christmas all!

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.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 4 – “Listen” – The Power of Fear

Listen

“Fear doesn’t have to make you cruel and cowardly. Fear can make you kind.” – The Doctor

“Listen,” is a great episode, I’m just going to say that now. It has some of the best Moffat writing and really shows the potential and promise for the rest of the season. Speaking of which, Steven Moffat was the writer of this episode and Douglas Mackinnin directed. They did fantastic.

The story shows us the Doctor’s curiosity as it begins with the Doctor wondering if there is someone or something there under the bed and just out of sight as he’s read about the dream throughout time and experienced it for himself. This also happens when Clara is going on her first date with Danny Pink, and the story unfolds from there.

SPOILERS

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Tone – The tone is one of reflecting and fear. The Doctor is thinking about fear and trying to discover if there is a creature it is tied too. This leads to his usual recklenessness (Clara tapping into the Psychic link to the TARDIS to find her first memory of it) and his actions on the last planet in the Universe.

The Cinematography – The cinematography captures the epic scale of what the episode covers and shows us the personal and universalness of the emotion of fear. Mackinnon did a great job directing.

Danny Pink – Danny is in this episode briefly at the end where he and Clara make up, and during the date where there is romantic tension, but where they both aren’t very socially aware. Fear has paralyzed them rather than forcing them to action. This is sorted by the end as they both learn kindness from their fears of failing each other. We also meet Danny as a child as Clara has a link to him from the date and she and the Doctor help him face the mysterious creature under the covers and letting it leave the room. It’s a great scene and we learn Danny was an orphan.

Clara – We see her awkwardness here in her first date with Danny, her connecting with the their descendant who is also a time traveler who gives her the soldier without a gun that she gave to Danny as a child and that she later gives to the Doctor as a child. She is active in this and reminds the Doctor that fear is important, as his lack of fear and curiosity almost gets him killed on the last planet in the Universe. This is another great Clara episode as she is connected to the Doctor but still her own person, she isn’t the Doctor’s McGuffin like in “Name of the Doctor.”

The Doctor – I’m saying the Doctor as a whole cause though Capaldi is amazing, this story is bigger than him. We get a glimpse into his childhood as he is afraid of the dark and his own fears and demons that haunt him so he chooses to sleep in a barn. The young Doctor is always in shadow, but he has long hair like the 1st Doctor. It is similar to when we saw the young Master, and just as if not more powerful as he chooses later to return to the barn as the War Doctor to make his big choice. We see his curiosity as we visit a young Danny Pink and his ancestor who it implies is related to Clara. The Doctor is the soldier so brave, he fights without a gun. He faces his fears armed only with his mind and in that succeeds.

The Message – Like the quote above, fear can make us kind as we realize what it is that is making us vulnerable and afraid. Fear can make us fight for the ones we love and fear can make us superheroes and make us run and fight faster and harder than we would (as expressed by the Doctor to a young Danny).

The Mystery – Something was under Danny’s bed, so there is a creature or creatures most likely still out there. Not knowing in this case serves the story, like in Series 4 and “Midnight” where we never find out what creature was haunting the train and possessing people and the Doctor.

This is perfect Moffat. He does the tone and mystery and making you scared of what you don’t see and having a bigger purpose. He turns associations of fear on it’s head and show how fear can be a positive. We also get amazing Clara, Doctor and Danny development. I highly recommend this episode.

10 / 10. Moffat at his best and in his element.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 2 – “Into the Dalek” – Of Soldiers and the Soul of the Doctor

Into the Dalek

 

“Into the Dalek” feels the like the sequel to “Dalek,” one of my favorite episodes back in Series 1 where a Dalek was changed by Rose’s DNA and the Doctor is forced to confront his PTSD from the Time War and his Dalek prejudice. I’ll get into more details in the assessment, suffice to say I was impressed though with this episode.

The episode was written by Steven Moffat and Phil Ford, and directed by Ben Wheatley.

The story involves the Doctor and Clara going inside a Dalek in order to help it, since it is the only good Dalek in the Universe. From here the story unfolds as more of Clara’s life at school is revealed and the story of the rebels fight against the Daleks and the Doctor’s relationship to his past and the Daleks.

WARNING – Spoilers ahead 

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The New Intro – Lots of clocks and time…the music also fits the theme of the show during the introductory credits. Also introducing us to Journey Blue (our face in the Resistance against the Daleks) by the Doctor saving her after she loses her brother and takes him to the injured Dalek is a great hook.

Danny Pink – I’m glad this guy is going to be a reoccurring character and possibly a new companion. The man is a soldier who is dealing with PSTD from the war he fought in and is Clara’s colleague. He loves reading and dislikes how everyone judges him before getting to know him. He has an awkward relationship with Clara as she brings up his past and jokes about him crying after killing people. Samuel Anderson brings a lot of depth to this role and I can’t wait to see more.

The Rebels – Whether it’s Uncle, Journey Blue or Gretchen, none of the named resistance get wasted. Uncle is there to help Journey through helping heal the Dalek (Rusty) and fighting the enemy Daleks when they board the ship. Gretchen sacrafices herself to help the Rusty find his soul through Clara and the Doctor’s help and Journey Blue defends and fights for them all the way, as well as making the choice to trust the Doctor. They are a great group of characters.

Inside Rusty – From the anti-bodies that are like tiny Dalek eye sockets, to the mixture of metal and organic…the inside of the Dalek is done well and really creatively. It’s a shame “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” didn’t receive this much effort and creative thought.

Rusty – Rusty is the Dalek who Clara, Gretchen, Journey Blue and the Doctor are shrunk to go inside of in order to help it heal. He is the Dalek who found beauty in life and with it an extreme hatred for the Daleks. After he is healed he represses his memories and summons the Daleks to aid him until Clara, Gretchen, The Doctor and Journey help it get the memories it repressed back. The Doctor than tries to get it beyond hatred of it’s own kind but cannot find anything but hate for the Daleks in the Doctor’s mind so embraces it to defend the rebels before going back to continue the hunt against the Daleks.

Missy – Appears again in “Heaven: after Gretchen sacrifices herself. I’m curious where this is going, so far she’s collecting characters…for what purpose remains to be seen.

Clara – Get’s fleshed out as a person…we see her relationship to her colleagues and students and why she is a teacher. She helps teach the Doctor to look beyond his ego and his limited scope of physical healing and is the one who gives the Doctor the idea of trying to change Rusty back to good through his memories and to make him truly good. She’s honest with the Doctor and more than a plot device, I love it. Why couldn’t we have got this Clara last season? Jenna Coleman deserved this great level of writing much earlier.

The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor – The 12th Doctor is once again fantastic. We see how his ego and prejudice blind him to the fact that Rusty (the name he gives the Dalek) beauty and he scoffed at it…and when he does get over his assumption it is too late as he has held hatred for all Daleks for so long that Rusty once more latches on to that and becomes the War Doctor of old. He is now a weapon against his people living in self hatred…much like the Tenth Doctor, the War Doctor and the Ninth Doctor to different degrees. It is tragic and fits the theme of the season. Because of this the Doctor doesn’t want soldiers with him, he realized he still carries the war still so close and doesn’t want to have to kill again. Capaldi shows the layers of this, and still having a sense of humor along the way.

Okay: The Daleks – The Daleks are there as a force of nature, but there is nothing to show them as unique, you can’t even tell command positions…they are all just golden. Still an awesome threat in this episode but rank is part of what made the Daleks unique. There wasn’t enough, “I OBEY.”

Con: The Doctor’s Pep Talk to Rusty – It was a great pep talk but how it was directed was kind of awkward. The Doctor is staring right at us, which was meant to be dramatic, but after a time kind of comes off as funny.

Boyfriend – Once again annoying. Stop telling us that Clara has a crush on Danny and that it might be mutual and let it unfold on it’s own. Good God, The Tenth Doctor and Rose had more subtlety.

This episode is worth watching for sure. One of the better Dalek Episodes and a good exploration of the Doctor and Clara’s characters. I’m hoping we see more of the Daleks and Rusty and that Missy isn’t just dropped. Stop having the myseterious woman appear unless she actually gets fleshed out. Madam Kovarian didn’t get any fleshing out and could have been an amazing antagonist because of the mysterious set-up. Moffat you need more than mystery, please deliver this season. This was an amazing episode though and one of my favorites.

Final Score is 9.6 / 10

 

 

12 Days of Doctors – The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 1 – “Deep Breath” – Finding the Doctor

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We end 12 Days of Doctors with “Deep Breath” the first adventure of the 12th Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. So, how did it hold up? I’ll go into that in the review, but the short version…I was inspired and impressed. It’s nice to see Moffat back in form after the terriblish “Time of the Doctor.”

Speaking of which, this episode was written by Steven Moffat who is still the current showrunner, much like Davies was through the 9th and 10th Doctor. Ben Wheatley directed the episode and Nikki Wilson produced it.

This will be a SPOILER review, so warning. It is hard to talk about the Doctor and characters without giving away what happens.

The story begins with the TARDIS being swallowed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex and accidentally transporting it to Victorian England where the story takes place. The 12th Doctor has just went through being given new regenerations and is not all there, and Clara his companion doesn’t know what to make of him. From here the story unfolds as Vastra and her Paternoster Gang (Strax and Jenny) try to solve why people have been exploding all over town after the Tyrannasaurus Rex is exploded too, all while trying to help the new Doctor find his bearing and stop the crimes.

Deep Breath

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor – Peter Capaldi is fantastic in this role. His Doctor has the manic and egotistical without being hurtful and cruel. You see his heart shine through on multiple occasions, such as mourning the Tyrannosaurus Rex that was killed and his connecting with Clara over the course of the episode. He’s the Doctor who was aware he was young and is also aware that he’s cheated. “I’ve made mistakes, it’s time I start correcting them.” This sums up the 12th Doctor in a nutshell and he is brilliant. Peter Capaldi owns this role and is well deserving of the mantel of the Doctor. Also, he loves dinosaurs.

Clara – Clara is someone who for much of this series has existed as a meme and some of the worst of Steven Moffat’s writing. She’s “The Impossible Girl” whose destiny it is to save the Doctor. That isn’t really a character, or at least not a human one…that is the idea of a character. We finally get to see a Clara that isn’t all whimsical and actually feels like a human being and companion! At one point she crosses into a room where she feels overwhelmed and where Clockwork Droids are around her…you see her as a teacher (which wasn’t established until “Day of the Doctor” really) and her being overwhelmed. We also see her questioning what her relationship is to the Doctor and what it means…and she does great! I can genuinely say I like Clara after this episode, when before there wasn’t much to like or dislike.

Paternoster Gang

The Paternoster Gang – I love this group. Mostly because Vastra and Jenny are such a great couple. They were actually there to show what loving someone who isn’t human is like since Clara was dealing with the fact that Eleven might have felt for her in that way (which the 12th Doctor apologizes for). Vastra is also there in an advising role and she is fantastic! She is one of my all time favorite characters in “Doctor Who” and her story has been handled much better than how Harknesses was butchered in “Torchwood.” All of them have roles, except for Strax who is a good fighter but mostly comic relief, honestly he isn’t needed. At one point we even see them ready to take Clara onto the Team after the Doctor has disappeared. It is quite cool and they have a great character arc. They grow into accepting Clara and helping her accept the new Doctor. The companionship and marriage between Vastra and Jenny is contrasted between the friendship and companionship between The Doctor and Clara. They have a great standoff against the Clockwork Droids too near the end.

The Half-Face Man – Is the leader of the Clock Work Droids (think the episode “Girl in the Fire Place” also written by Moffat) who are trying to fix their ship and themselves and reach Paradise. They do this buy capturing humans and taking their organs, they also do this to the Tyrannosaurus Rex to help repair their ship. He is a great baddy is creepy as he uses his restaraunt as a front and is human, he speaks as an individual and is compelling enough that your left wondering if the Doctor convinced him to take his life since he knew what he was doing was wrong to reach Paradise. I like that. We later see him speaking to a mysterious Mary Poppins lady in “Paradise” who calls herself the Doctor’s girlfriend. It is cool and continues the mysterious creepiness of the episode. I liked him as a bad guy, he was a robot doing everything to fulfill his orders to repair the ship but was seeking paradise because of the humanity he’d implanted into himself. It was very well done.

Okay: The Music – The music is alright, not nearly as memorable as “The Eleventh Hour” soundtrack though. It was more neutral in regards to this new series.

The 11th Doctor Calls Clara – I honestly didn’t know what to think of this. How would Eleven know he’d become Twelve? Did he remember “Day of the Doctor?” This part was confusing, but touching…but because of the confusing bit, can’t really call it a pro.

Con: Clara and the Boyfriend – This point was brought up way too much, from Clara saying that Vastra is jealous of her for having the gall to think she liked the Doctor as lover (When Vastra is questioning her on why she is being so standoffish to the Doctor), to the 12th Doctor saying “Is your boyfriend calling?” When she gets a call from the Eleventh Doctor at Trenzalore….it was annoying. We get it, you don’t need to bring it up all the freaking time. She wasn’t interested in the 11th Doctor and isn’t interested in anyone currently.

I highly recommend this episode. Definitely in the Top 3 First Doctor Adventures (which I’ll write my list rating them all together later). It is fun, the enemy is interesting, the Paternoster Gang is always fantastic, even in episodes that aren’t great and Clara is finally a good companion…Also Capaldi owns this role. It is worth it just to see his unique and fantastic take on the Doctor.

Final Score this episode is 9.3 / 10. Here is to hoping that the rest of Series 8 can hold up as well as this episode did. The 12th Doctor and Clara deserve a great season.

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12 Days of Doctors – The 11th Doctor – Series 5, Episode 1 – “The Eleventh Hour” – The Time Traveler

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We continue 12 Days of Doctors with “The Eleventh Hour” the first episode in Series 5 and the introduction of Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor as well as his main companion for this season, Amy Pond. The episode was written by Steven Moffat, who became the showrunner after this point (for better and for worse) and was directed by Adam Smith.

The story of “The Eleventh Hour,” is that the Doctor’s TARDIS is nearly destroyed after his regeneration so he needs to get it fixed and healed up, so he arrives at the home of Amelia Pond where his TARDIS crashes and she helps him heal. They than go to her room where the Crack in Time is and the Atraxi send out a warning that Prisoner Zero has escaped. The Doctor than jumps forward to fix his TARDIS, but jumps forward too far and Amy is no longer a little girl. Together they must stop Prisoner Zero from causing the Atraxi from destroying the Earth as well as re-establishing that he is the same Doctor she met as child and their current relationship.

Doctor and Amy

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The 11th Doctor / The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith is the Peter Pan Doctor, he is the Doctor who will whisk you away from reality and takes joy in the little things, and also the one who is openly pretty full of himself and confident, as well as oblivious. It is thanks to Amy Pond that he survives his regeneration when he is trying to find his footing and how Prisoner Zero is defeated. He has eccentricities and also has some of the Tenth Doctor’s savvy, though he is much more of the child-like Doctor than David Tennant’s as everything is extreme with him, and he is earnest, even when he lies…which he does a lot. Matt Smith definitely deserves his place among the Doctors and is one of the most joyful to watch.

Amelia Pond / Amy Pond – We see Amy when she is a little girl, alone in her house with a haunting crack in her wall, and grown up when she’s a kiss a gram with a boyfriend. After watching this episode, I think some of the criticism against her character isn’t as deserved. She is Independent, to the point that she takes action when her boyfriend Rory does not, she risks the adventure at the end with the Doctor and she holds her own against Prisoner Zero…her boogeyman from childhood beyond the mysterious crack throughout the episode. The Doctor is only able to defeat Prisoner Zero because of Amy facing her fears making her an active agent with a lot of agency in this episode. Also, as a small thing…she’s the one pulling the Doctor and telling him to run, which is a nice subverting of the usual Doctor/Companion relationship. Karen Gillian is fantastic.

Rory – We only see him briefly, but he helps fight against Prisoner Zero with the evacuating of the hospital and he is the one who helps the Doctor figure out Prisoner Zero is masking itself from the Atraxi by tapping into people’s dreams who are in a coma. You see how powerless he feels for a lot of it too, as Amy doesn’t admit they are a couple to the Doctor. He still does quite well though and respects Amy.

Prisoner Zero – What an awesome baddie, this enemy who committed unknown crimes is the haunting space eel thing that can shape shift into multiple people, but can’t match the voices to the bodies. It is a good threat and wants to let the world burn rather than be caught again, so it’s motivation makes sense. It also gives the Doctor the warning that “Silence Will Fall,” which is a major plot point over Eleven’s Arc. The fact that it takes the Doctor and Amy together to defeat it along with the Atraxi is a testament to it’s power. Also it has the Moffat playing with senses deal as it’s true form can only be seen from the corner of your eye.

The Atraxi – Giant Space Crystal’s with large eyes…unless that is what their ships are…these guys are good Galactic Police as they cannot see beyond their own people until the Doctor reminds them that they can’t bully other planets or the Earth in their hunt for criminals or simply just because. He shows them the planet is defended.

The Doctor Revealed – The best reveal of the Doctor as a Time Lord happens in this, both as him visiting Amy as a child and when she is grown and his unawareness of how much time has passed, and at the end when the Atraxi scanning screen reveals how all the Numbered Doctors from 1-10 have defended the Earth. We see their images, ending on a big picture of Ten before Eleven walks through and tells them, “Basically, run.”

The cinematography – Is the best it’s ever been. This is a beautiful episode and it captures the mystery and subtext of scenes very well, as well as the threats of the Atraxi and Prisoner Zero.

The Music – This is some of Murray Gold’s best work, from Amy’s scene, to the Doctor Triumphant and the music inbetween. Definitely one of my favorite composers.

I highly recommend this episode. It keeps the fairy tale theme that is referenced in the episode, but unlike the fairy tale theme…the princess doesn’t need to be saved. The Doctor and Amy work together, and Rory too defeat the threats that appear and they are treated like fully fleshed out characters. Prisoner Zero is a great threat as are the Atraxi in their obliviousness and Matt Smith as the Peter Pan Doctor is a pleasure in all the joy he takes out of things. Definitely the best episode thus far…I’m curious how “Deep Breath” and the 12th Doctor are going to compare now…we shall see. Until then, bow ties are cool.

10 / 10. Good enemy, great Doctor, companions are partners against the threat, great music and cinematography, and establishes the Doctor as a Time Lord, that there were Doctor’s who came before, and his role as defender of the Earth.

11th Doctor