Star Trek: Voyager – Season 2, Episode 23 – “The Thaw” – Facing Fear

The Thaw (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

     “The Thaw” is an example of quality early “Voyager.” This episode does a lot with less and manages to be both creepy and unsettling. For any person who is afraid of clowns, this is not an episode I’d recommend. As far as vibes, quite a bit of this episode feels like “Twin Peaks” and that only strengthens the overall narrative and stakes. This is an episode where a fantastic antagonist, drives the action of the story. Before I get into spoilers, I definitely recommend this episode to any “Voyager” fans.

The episode was directed by Marvin V. Rush and teleplay by Joe Menosky and story by Richard Gadas.

The story involves the crew following a distress signal and attempting to rescue 3 aliens caught in Stasis. They soon find themselves trapped with them as they face off against the A.I. created by the minds of the aliens and feeds off their fears.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise is really neat as the idea of alien minds running a computer and from creating the threat that must be faced immediately has stakes. All the Clown that is fear needs is one mind and he can continue living forever and he is far more willing to kill than Voyager. The presentation of fear as being an ongoing carnival run by a clown and his minions is also sufficiently spooky.

The Aliens – The aliens we meet don’t have a name but they are the last of their race as their planet is desolate. All signs point to them being the last of their species making their plight all the more sad. For years all they’ve known is the terror of the clown and I enjoyed their interactions with one another. The biggest issue I have is also tied to them too. This species wasn’t even given a name.

Harry Kim – Harry Kim is active in this episode and is hostile to the clown. He gets punished for it having to relive his fear of being old and sick but he forever fights on. He is willing to die to defeat the clown and we get see just how brave the ensign is as he is the one who has to stay with the Clown when Torres is left out. I enjoyed learning about his past as it was visiting the sick with his mom as a child that made him fearful of it in the first place.

The Doctor – Robert Picardo is masterful in this episode. As a hologram the Clown can’t read his mind and this is used to a fantastic degree. The Doctor shuts down the Clown’s to control the situation and at one point serves as a distraction when Janeway tries to shut down the system. It doesn’t work but he continues to be the negotiator and remains the only being unphased by the Clown and his antics.

Captain Janeway – Captain Janeway is the one who outsmarts the Clown in the end as she comes up with the plan to connect her brain to the A.I. but send in a hologram in her place. It is here that it is revealed she has no fear and that her philosophy as relates to fear is revealed. She tells him he wanted to be defeated as in the end fear is there to be stopped and go away. It was well done and I love how she knows the embodiment of fear is afraid to die as the episode goes back. Kate Mulgrew gives such a fantastic heir of cold confidence, that works really well against the Clown.

The Clown – Michael McKean is brilliant as the A.I. created by the minds in stasis connected to the computer. He is fun, threatening and creepy. Creepy Clowns are popular in horror and his Clown is a great example of why this works. He has a guillotine he uses to execute people and by the time the crew discovers the survivors he had already killed 2 of 5 aliens who had died from fright. His final defeat is rewarding too as he trades the hostages for a chance to gain control over Captain Janeway. It is really well handled and how he negotiates for his survival makes him a great threat.

This is an episode that I’d highly recommend to any “Voyager” fan. The use of tension, horror and the strange work wonders here and McKean’s performance is compelling enough that he can play off any character from the crew. The only con I can really see against it is the fact that the aliens don’t have a name. If they’d been fleshed out a bit more we’d have a better idea of how the tech. came around in the first place, which in turn could give more elements to the Clown. Regardless, this is an episode I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 A favorite “Voyager” episode.

The 3rd Doctor – Season 8, Episode 5 – “The Dæmons” – A Great and Ancient Power

      “The Dæmons” is an amazing 3rd Doctor story. This a story that goes into the lore that makes up the show, gives us a great standoff against a classic foe and has something important to say about the nature of power. This is a story that has five 24 minute parts but it feels like much less. The flow and tension of the story is beautifully handled and there are fantastic rising action with great antagonists and some wonderful exploration of our heroes. This story is quality “Classic Doctor Who,” and one I definitely recommend.

“The Dæmons” was directed by Christopher Barry and written by “Guy Leopold” the pseudonym for Barry Letts and Robert Sloman.

The story involves the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) attempting to stop a cult that seeks to awaken an ancient power beneath an English Church, while attempting to connect with U.N.I.T. for aid as the Doctor comes to face an old foe.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Tension and Story Structure – “The Dæmons” is a 5 part story that does a great job at establishing the threat, building up the standoff and having stakes and growth throughout the entire episode. This episode is great. The Doctor needs to be saved early on by Jo and U.N.I.T. The Brigadier needs to arrive with reinforcements to help against the Cult and get past the heat wall and the Cult’s actions and infiltration have to be dealt with by our local heroes, Jo and the Doctor. The action builds beautifully and the payoff is fantastic and fits with the theme of power that is weaved through the episode.

The Master and his Cult – The Master and his Cult are such fun villains. The Cult controls the local village and has people in all levels of power. The Master for example is the local leader of the church and we see cult members pop up in local government and around U.N.I.T. This keeps the tension high as the Master is winning through most of the episodes and it isn’t until Brigadier with the full force of U.N.I.T. and Jo’s sacrifice against Azal that he finally finds all his plans turn to ash and himself captured by U.N.I.T.

Azal – Azal is a powerful alien and last of species the Dæmons a powerful alien species who have been experimenting on humanity through history. It is from this that we get a force that doesn’t even care about the Time Lords beyond how he can use them to control or use Earth. He doesn’t show up that often but when he does you get why he is the big bad of the episode.

Brigadier and U.N.I.T. – Brigadier is fantastic and him coming to help against the Cult is a major plot point. For much of the episode we follow soldiers under his control as they seek to get him to the scene of the action. When he finally arrives it is a great show as we see U.N.I.T. in action against a gargoyle and and the Master’s cult. I love how Brigadier hates being under the Doctor’s control but listens anyway. It gives a great dynamic as he is the only one who understands he needs to follow what the Doctor is doing, but doesn’t have to like it.

Jo Grant – Jo is very much the Watson to the Doctor’s Sherlock. He even references this point at one point. This is a relationship where she is learning through the entire episode and her pure goodness is what saves the day in the end. Because she isn’t detached like the Doctor she is able to care about others on a way the Doctor won’t let himself do. We never see the Doctor sacrifice himself through the series in the way Jo does here. Unthinking she jumps against a killing blow that Azal sets against the Doctor, which in turn saves the day.

The Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee is such a great actor, and one of my favorite Doctors. This gave him a story worthy of his talents as we got to see him investigate, be vulnerable and own his role as the protagonist facing an old foe and forces more powerful than him. At one point he references Sherlock Holmes and he is perfect in that role as his Doctor has many aspects of his character. Pertwee’s Doctor is detached from people even as he desires to help them. This episode is powerful because it is an episode where he comes to better understand empathy and love and it is quite beautiful.

True Power – The main drive for many this episode is power. The Master wants it destroy the world, the Doctor doesn’t want it and Azal wants to bestow it to destroy his enemies. In the end the one who saves the day is Jo. She willingly sacrifices herself which reverses the power and saves all of their lives, causing Azal’s destruction and the capture of the Master by U.N.I.T. It is cliche but I still appreciate how love was the true power all along. It was Jo’s love of the Doctor that defeated the last of a powerful alien species set upon destruction.

Okay:

The Witch – The witch is an okay character. She’s introduced early and she does save a U.N.I.T. Captain from a cultist, but she also doesn’t do much beyond that. She along for the Doctor’s story once she shows up and I wish we’d had more of her facing off against the cult and the church. This was a character full of potential, who was still acted well but got forgotten by the end.

This is a great episode and an episode that shows why Jon Perwee is one of my favorite Doctors. In this we get his detachment, investigative skills, his fighting ability and all his caring. In the end this episode has him grow in his caring and shows just how wonderful Jo is as a companion. She is his Watson to his Sherlock. Seeing Brigadier and the Master using their minds and forces to the fullest also makes for a intriguing face-off that payoffs in a well earned victory for our heroes. For any fan of “Classic Doctor Who,” this is one that I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. A great episode of the Pertwee Era.

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The 4th Doctor – Season 12, Episode 5 – “Revenge of the Cybermen” – Vogans and the Cybermen

       It has been a while since I’ve reviewed an episode of “Doctor Who.” I have two bigger “Doctor Who” posts coming up with a reflection on the Capaldi Era and my thoughts of Series 11, with Jodie Whitaker as the 13th Doctor. I hope to review her episodes individually at some point too once I get back into the swing of things with my “Doctor Who” reviews. Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor is one of my 4 favorite Doctors. The others being Capaldi’s 12, Tennant’s 10 and Pertwee’s 3. Each of them captures the alien nature of the Time Lord while still having that genuine love of adventure, fun and humanity. They are the balance and this episode is a good example of that for the 4th Doctor.

The story was written by Gerry Davis and Robert Holmes and directed by Michael E. Briant.

The story follows the Doctor as he and his companions Sarah Jane Smith and Michael Sullivan find themselves on Space Station Nerva, separated from the TARDIS, which will eventually catch up to them in time. They find the station full of dead bodies and under quarantine from a myseterious plague. From here they unfold the mystery as factions on and off the station seek to commit genocide upon their enemies.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Plague Mystery – The plague mystery is great as it automatically creates stakes in the episode. Our introduction to their arrival on the Nerva Station is the Doctor and his companions finding the dead and this adds to the feeling of uneasiness that pervades the episode. You can understand why the humans are distrustful of the Doctor and his companions and as the mystery of the plague being Cybermen killing people is revealed as they wish to take control of the Station in order to take on their enemies, the Vogans who live on a planet of gold, a mineral that is one of their greatest weaknesses.

The Vogans – The Vogans are an interesting people. You can see that they’ve cut themselves off from the wider galaxy and because of it you have people who are willing to go to any ends to protect that secrecy. This isolation and radicalization is the arc that they deal with as the Cybermen’s arrival on their planet and near extermination is only stopped by outsiders (the humans on the Station and the Doctor and his companions) and as their arc ends we see them open to changing from the people they were before. I like their design as they look like regal Dwarves as most are bearded and they have strong ridges on their foreheads. This fit their look as an underground people living in secret and they didn’t feel like the make-up department was barely trying. Effort was put into creating this race and I like what we learned about them in the process.

The Cybermen – This is the first time the Cybermen were back as main villains since “The Invasion” where the 2nd Doctor faced them in 1968. Knowing that history and how iconic they’ve become as one of the Doctor’s main villain their reappearance alone was really cool. In this they don’t upgrade others, just exterminate them. We see this as it is them who are killing the people on the Station with their Cybermats (a metallic snake like creature that bites people, killing them). Their whole deal is self defense in their minds as getting rid of the Vogans and their planet of gold will make them the prominent force in the region.  They are winning through most of the episode and their invasion of Vogan goes as plan until the Doctor and the human survivors begin using the gold against the Cybermen as well as the Doctor destroying the Cyber-Leader on the Station and keeping it from slamming into Voga.

Sarah Jane Smith -Sarah Jane Smith is one of my favorite classic companions. Here she gets captured a few times but she always manages to get free (usually always on her own) and is easily one of the Doctor’s most proactive companions who isn’t a Time Lord. In this we get glimpses of just how much the Doctor and Sarah care about one another too as at one point they are trapped together and not only have to free themselves but stop the Cybermen and the Vogan rocket that is going for the Station. Besides the Doctor and the human survivors from the Station who work with the Doctor she is the closest thing this episode has to a main protagonist.

The Doctor – Tom Baker once again shows why he is one of my favorite Doctors. Here we see him figure out that the plague is Cybermen at play and with the help of Sarah Jane Smith, saves the Vogans and stops the Cybermen. He is his usual aloof self taking control of situations and his times of vulnerability really show too. When he is captured he can think his way out but he still depends on others. In this we see his humanity and that he isn’t some super hero always one step ahead. I love Tom Baker and this is a good episode to showcase why he is so memorable as the Doctor, especially since he is facing such a classic foe in the Cybermen.

Okay:

Harry Sullivan – The reason I’m putting him as okay is nothing he did really stood out this episode. I know he helped the Doctor and humans but I’d have a hard time describing any one thing he did. Sarah Jane Smith was the one who was far active this episode. Harry is also a companion I’m pretty nuetral towards. I never hated him as a companion but I was never really that much of a fan either. This episode is a good example of why. He’ll always do the right thing but he rarely questions the things around him and most of what I remember him doing in other episodes is being the muscle. I could also be selling him short but he didn’t stand out to me at all this episode and wasn’t needed in the story.

The Humans on the Station – There is the evil human who tries to kill the Doctor, who is also a professor working for a faction of Vogans who want to lure the Cybermen to the station to destroy them with the rocket and is doing it all for gold. He does change sides but only due to survival. There is the commander who stays good the entire time and is the one who redirects the Vogan missile to destroy the Cyber-Ship rather than the Station and there is one other survivor killed earlier on by the professor. The two of them are not bad characters but they don’t really grow fully beyond the stock characters they are written as.

The Ending – The ending is alright. The Doctor and Sarah save the day and stop the Station from crashing into Voga. The Voga elder stops the militant Voga from destroying the Station with the missle and the human survivors and Voga have now made contact before the Doctor and his companions make their exit on the TARDIS which has finally caught up to them in time (last episode they traveled using a Time Ring so the TARDIS had to catch up to where they had traveled to, which in this case is Space Station Nerva).

This is an episode I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of Classic “Doctor Who” and those who can look past budget and love a good story. There are flaws, the Vogans should have been using gold to fight the Cybermen and them overlooking this is never explained, I guess they didn’t know Cybermen were vulnerable to gold? I loved watching classic Cybermen in action and the Doctor and his companions solving the mystery of what was going on gave the story a nice hook before we got into the action of the war between the Vogans and Cybermen that the humans were caught in the middle of.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10. Nearly great. Harry Sullivan needed more to do and I would have liked the humans on the Station to be explored better in their motivations.

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 9 – “Empress of Mars” – An Amazing Exploration of What it Means to be a Soldier

   The Ice Warriors are one of my favorite aliens in “Doctor Who.” These are a species who are amazing warriors with a code of ethics that makes them complicated. They are driven by honor and I love seeing how that plays out in their interactions with humanity…be it in Classic Doctor Who or “Cold War,” their first time returning in the new series, which was an episode also written by Mark Gatiss. Non-spoiler thoughts, I really enjoyed this episode. Mark Gatiss is great at writing these guys and I can’t wait to see more of them in the future as so far I have yet to see a bad Ice Warrior episode.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Mark Gatiss.

The story involves a legion of Victorian British on Mars who are transporter there after they help Friday (an Ice Warrior they discovered and helped heal) who was alone on Earth. All as not as it appears to be as they discover the Tomb of the Ice Empress. Trouble begins to unfold as fear and greed create conflict between humanity and the Ice Warriors.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of this story as we have Friday who is a warrior who was a prisoner of war in way and made friends with his enemies, you have the Empress caught in the old ways wanting to restore an empire that no longer exists, you have Catchlove who is blinded by pride and personal honor and Godsacre a man who was hung for cowardice who is ready to lay down his life to protect his men and in turn saves them because the Ice Queen sees the honor in his act and makes his men part of her Empire. It is a powerful scene and shows just how complicated conflicts based around honor can become.

First Contact – First Contact is shown in two different ways. The Ice Empress kills one of the soldiers who awakens her as he is still jewels from her tomb and over the course of the series it involves holding back her anger as well as the fear from some of the soldiers who Catchlove is leading given how outmatched they are by the Ice Warriors. We also see peaceful first contact too when the Ice Warrior beacon is awakened at the end  and the alien Alpha Centauri welcomes them to the Universe (setting up the group they will be a part of Classic Doctor Who later in their timeline).

A Conflict of Honor – The driving issue is one of honor and understanding as both Catchlove and the Empress want territory for their respective powers and live for the fight and domination, while the Doctor, Friday and Godsacre have been hurt too much by what honor has done…Friday was last of his people until the Empress was awakened, the Doctor was the last of the Time Lords at one point and Godsacre was so terrified at what he had to do in war that he ran. It is those who have lost and who realize the horror who are willing to submit their honor and in turn find a higher form of honor in the process. Catchlove is killed and it is Godsacre’s submission along with Friday’s protecting of those he can (the Doctor, Bill, the soldiers) that lead peace and a union between the two species. There will always be fights but there is no reason that personal and greater honor can be met rather than it leading to the destruction of all.

The Cons: The Ending Scene – Missy appears at the end after the TARDIS pulls Nardole away and there is this awkward almost sexual scene where the Doctor says she has to go back into the Vault. It is just strange and breaks the tone of the entire episode.

I really liked this episode. It was on par with “Oxygen” from this season but not as good as “Extremis” but I still consider it a favorite episode and hope that Gatiss can write more episodes like this. Like “Cold War” he is in his element when he is writing about conflicts of honor between soldiers and finding resolution and hope amidst fear. This episode is a shining example of the writing he is capable of on this this show and I look forward to more adventures like this in the future.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 8 – “The Lie of the Land” – Great Idea that Chokes a Bit at the End

“The Lie of the Land” is an episode that could have been great. If we’d spent more time with the Monks as occupiers and seen more of what they were doing that was beneficial it could have caused more conflict…or if there had been more setup on how there defeat could occur. Both these issues were not explored as well as they could have been which created a really rushed episode that in the end failed to be great, even if it was enjoyable.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Toby Whithouse.

The premise involves the Monks now control the world and everyone believes they have always controlled it. The Doctor is putting out propaganda videos that the Monks see as subversive and Bill is searching for the Doctor as she holds onto her sanity through her only connection left, the one to the memory of her Mother.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of the Monks ruling through mind control is actually pretty neat as it makes those who rebel not knowing who to trust (which the episode does do some stuff with). I liked Monk occupied Earth as it felt fearful and threatening and well off…and that was a good draw.

The Occupation – The occupation is full of Monk propaganda as they insert themselves throughout all human history and advancement. Those more prone to follow authority are also the greatest threat as the Monks themselves are usually the ones who never kill, it is their human followers. This adds a level of threat we haven’t really had in a Doctor Who invasion as often times it is the alien threat, rather than us as the threat.

The Monks – From their subversive occupation to mind controlling the human population through the power of a single act of consent…the Monks are truly an amazing threat and I’d like to see them in the future. They were a good invention and I got the idea from this episode that what they desire most is power and control and having that through the galaxy.

Missy – Missy comes up to help the Doctor and Bill and lets the Doctor know that the only way to stop the occupation for good is to kill the one who caused it, aka Bill. How she says it is without malice, just a fact and she blames the Doctor’s sentimentally for causing problems in the long run…though to contrast this she is recounting sorrow as she remembers the names and faces of all she has killed. The Master is growing and changing.

Bill and the Doctor – Bill and the Doctor are the leaders of the rebellion as we see each of them have gone about fighting in different ways. Bill by holding onto the truth and the Doctor by slowly recruiting and deprogramming others. I love their dynamic as both feel they can’t trust one another and first and through reveals find trust again. I wanted more with these two in the episode.

The Cons: Defeating the Monks – The Monks are defeated by Bill remembering her mother and using it break the propaganda Monk at the center of the Pyramid, which is the headquarters of the Monks. The Doctor takes responsibility for it claiming to have left Bill pictures of her Mother…we never see him actually do this. This peeved me off as it stole from Bill’s moment and we never saw the Doctor do it. This is what kept the episode from being great.

“The Monks Trilogy,” was mixed. The first episode is one of the best episodes of “Doctor Who,” while the second is one of the most annoying and disappointing. This one is mostly good but also has some of the problems of the second episode, which makes this Trilogy hard to recommend. Overall I enjoyed the Trilogy but you don’t need to watch the second one. The first and third are strong enough episodes on their own that you’ll at least get decent stories that reveal an intriguing enemy that I hope we see again in the future.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Solidly good.

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 5 – “Oxygen” – A Heavy Handed Enjoyable Space Thriller

   “Oxygen” is a flawed and amazing episode that is heavy handed with it’s message but is powerful in how it tells it’s story. This is one of my favorite episodes of the new series, even with all of the flaws. It changes things in a way that looks like it may last and we get to see more of the negative in humanity which we largely only got with the 9th and 10th Doctor. Suffice to say, before I get into spoilers…I recommend this episode.

  The episode was directed by Charles Palmer and directed by Jamie Mathieson.

   The story involves the Doctor, Bill and Nardole becoming trapped on a mining space station where they have limited oxygen and are being hunted by A.I. suits as they rush to save the survivors and themselves.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise -The idea of a space station run off oxygen workers by is so wonderfully dsytopian I can’t help but appreciate it. It also gives tension and consequence immediately as the limited oxygen creates a ticking clock.

The Tension – The station expels all excess oxygen added to the station, which forces our heroes to get the suits where they only have a certain amount of breaths, on top of this the suits are controlling the dead who died from lack of oxygen and the survivors are fearful and angry. If any one of these goes over the edge, everything is over for our heroes.

The Miners – The miners are great, we get to see the politics and relationships between them and how they are survivors. They are the characters ready to do anything to get off the station which adds another level of tension to our main characters predicament.

The Doctor, Nardole and Bill – The dynamic between these 3 is wonderful. Nardole is the responsible worry wort holding the Doctor to his promise that he made Nardole make of keeping an eye of the Vault, Bill is the new adventurer who doesn’t have the Doctor’s recklessness the Doctor is the wizard, manipulating and planning his way through every situation even when it looks like he’s lost his mind and lost everything.

Consequences – The Doctor saves Bill but goes blind in the process from the vacuum of space. This is still true at the end of the episode and we see how powerless he feels as so much of what he does it tied to his ability to read what something by seeing it. I hope we have him this way for a while as even TARDIS tech could not heal his eyes.

Okay/Con – Execution of the Message – The message of the episode is that capitalism is bad and eventually people will be exploited for the very oxygen they breathe. I put this as okay because “Doctor Who” has always been a message show, the problem was this wasn’t done with enough “show” there was a good amount of “tell” even though we were witnessing the very premise and didn’t need to be told it. I won’t put it as a complete con but it was the weakest part of the episode.

  This is a flawed and amazing episode that is worth checking out. The tension is strong throughout the entire episode, Nardole and Bill clash with the Doctor while the Doctor has moments where even he loses hope. We also have minor characters we care about and perfect tension through the entire episode. This is an episode that I highly recommend. Can’t wait to see how the consequences of the Doctor’s blindness unfold.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 4 – “Knock Knock” – Boring Side Characters in a Better Story

  “Knock Knock” is the worst episode this season thus far. We are given a whole bunch of side characters who give nothing to the film, a horror story that doesn’t really go anywhere and the Doctor as the biggest jerk he’s been thus far in Series 10. Before I go more in depth on these points, this episode isn’t worth your time and is skippable.

   The episode was directed by Bill Anderson and written by Mike Bartlett.

   The story involves Bill looking for a new place to live with a bunch of flatmates. When they meet the mysterious Landlord they sign the contract to live in an old castleesque house. All is not as it appears to be though as her flatmates begin disappearing and the Doctor arrives to help solve the mystery.

SPOILERS

The Pros: The Reveal – The reveal is that the Landlord is keeping his mom alive with the bugs who feed off the energy of people and help sustain her life. She is a part of the house and is wood. After she finds out the cost of her life she ends the life of herself and her son causing the house to collapse. This basic plot was interesting but it only felt real at the end…

The Landlord – The Landlord is creepy and David Suchet gives a lot of character to the role. He’s welcoming and threatening and he is easily the most compelling character in the episode. It’s a shame more wasn’t done with him.

Okay: The Doctor and Bill – The Doctor and Bill fight all the time. Bill is embarrassed of the Doctor since she wants to become friends with her flatmates and the Doctor isn’t listening to Bill because he wants adventure and to protect her. Neither was a pro this episode. The drama felt like drama for it’s own sake and not story.

The Cons: The Flatmates – I couldn’t tell you what any of them like. They aren’t really characters just plot contrivance and when all of them get taken by the house I found it hard to care. They distracted from the main story and there was no reason that we are given outside of Bill to care about any of them.

The Writing – The writing is cliche and atrocious. The Doctor tries to act all cool, Bill acts jealous and the kids don’t really function as characters just ideas of characters…so the tension is gone in the entire piece in what could have been a great horror episode.

   This is the worst episode of the series so far and I must emphasize again that it is skippable. You’ll get more time with the Doctor and the Vault later or just watch the Vault scenes on youtube. The story is a slog and even great characters like Bill and the Doctor cease to be interesting…The reveal and the Landlord are not reason enough to see this episode.

Final Score: 4  / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 3 – “Thin Ice” – Bland Villain and Monster Bring Down Good Character Moments

   “Thin Ice” is the first mediocre episode this series. This is an episode that has great character moments with Bill and the Doctor but the support characters, villain and the creature are so boring and unfleshed out that it brings down the entire peace. It isn’t a bad episode, as the characters stuff was strong enough to keep me engaged, but it isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination.

    The episode was directed by Bill Anderson and written by Sarah Dollard.

   The story involves the TARDIS transporting the Doctor and Bill to the Thames Frost Fair of 1814. It is here they must unravel the mystery of the creature underneath the Thames as Bill is confronted with a choice that will define her and humanity.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros; The Doctor and Bill’s Relationship – This is an episode where Bill debates with the Doctor his role. She asks if he’s killed and it takes him a long time to say that only when it is one of the last options available…and in it we see the Doctor as a soldier and veteran, while for Bill this is all so new to her as she is faced with these choices for the first time and better understands the danger in the adventure.

The Doctor – The Doctor is great in this in how he expresses that he does what he does to help and safeguard life because he is called to it…by his companion, the TARDIS, or the people they are helping. I saw it as partially him pushing responsibility off himself, but it also helped illustrate how he’s been learning. So much of 10’s trauma was because he got involved and didn’t listen. I think 12 has learned from the past in that way…now lets just see if the writers will keep it consistent.

Bill – Bill is faced with the darkness in humanity in this one…from there hanging out with pickpocketing children, to a racist landowner who is controlling the monster for money. In the end she does what she can to save as many people as possible and trick the villain…and from here we see how the Doctor and the TARDIS make the companions more like them.

Humanity’s Choice – Save the creature and risk human lives…or keep things the way they are and live the guilt of enslaving another being. This was the core dilemma at the end of the episode that turns Bill more into the Doctor as she chooses the second choice and larger moral implications that come with it. All life matters…be it alien or human.

The Cons: The Villain – The villain is a racist landowner exploiting the creature for resources as it has been in his family for generations. He is so bland and uninteresting and easily one of the worst villains to come out of Doctor Who. There was no motivation beyond greed.

The Supporting Cast – There are a bunch of child actors and none of them can act. This usually isn’t smart to do in any film medium and Doctor Who isn’t known for it’s great writing…and young actors usually don’t have the charisma to carry a scene the way an older more experienced actor could have…to make up for the pitfalls in the writing and dialogue.

The Monster – The monster is a giant fish that sounds like a a whale that we never get to fully see. It eats people, so we know it is dangerous…and apparently it’s a native to Earth, but that is all we know. It is there to be rescued and that is it.

   This is a film that is only worth your time if you are a major fan of the show and a completionist. There are way too many 2 Dimensional characters in this episode and even the core concept of the companion being the stand in for humanity could have been explored a lot better. There are some great dialogue and character moments between Bill and the Doctor, but this is a time where that wasn’t enough to bring the episode to good or great.

Final Score: 7 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 2 – “Smile” – Psychological Horror Meets Classic “Doctor Who” Themes

   “Smile” continues the great writing the Series started out with, but this time giving a more “Twilight Zone” feel combined with Classic “Doctor Who” ideas of new life and the resolution of conflict. It is fantastic and my non-spoiler thoughts are that the only thing that bring it down are the references to modern day like Emojis and selfies, that did take me out of the story when they happened.

    The episode was directed by Lawrence Gough and written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

    The story involves the Doctor taking Bill to one of the first human colonies, that when they arrive at is completely empty except for Robots who control the facility. From here the mystery unfolds surrounds the complex and the robots known as the Vardy.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of robots that kill you if you aren’t happy is fascinating as well as the fact that they can be tricked by a smile. It felt very “Twilight Zone” and “Black Mirror” esque, which I appreciated.

The Vardy – The Vardy are natives to the planet the colonists inhabit and are sentient machines. Their goal is to help humanity how humanity believes to best but also to be respected as when they are turned on they go full defense mode too. It takes a factory reset done by the Doctor to leave their future and how they interpret their relationship to humanity to be in the future.

Bill – Bill is very much the tourist in this as her request to the Doctor is to go to the future and to somewhere happy. This brings her to one of the first human colonies and her realizing that she enjoys the mystery and adventure like the Doctor. She also discovers she likes helping people but that things are more complicated than they appear to be as she is on neither the Vardy’s or humanity’s side in the conflict, so in turn can’t condemn the Doctor, she just realizes what his role is.

The Doctor – The Doctor is the one who is always seeking help and also doesn’t want to be tied down to one location. He is on Earth guarding the Vault, and that is why Nardole is there to hold the Doctor to that promise…which the Doctor abandons to travel with Bill. Both of these actions reveal the childishness and also the maturity and heroism of the Doctor. He is complicated and as we discover at the end of the episode, he can’t solve everything and something there isn’t an answer…he can do what he can to save lives but after he leaves it is up to the people left behind.

The Doctor and the TARDIS’s Role – The sign on the TARDIS says “Advice and Assistance Obtainable Immediately” and part of the reason why it is a police box is because the Doctor is sent where he is needed. This is something we get early on as he describes to Bill that the travel to locations is like a dance between himself and the TARDIS. This is also why he was on Earth as he is protecting a mysterious “Vault,” which more than likely is for humanity’s protection.

Okay: The Colonists – We don’t get to know any of the colonists as they are only reacting to the Vardy. This was a shame as we know humanity was escaping from Earth where they nearly destroyed themselves. That could have been explored if we’d been given a colonist for Bill and the Doctor to play off of.

The Cons: Modern Lingo and References – From the Vardy being called emoji-bots and Bill taking selfies…these things weren’t needed and took me out of the episode. We get what they look like and we get that Bill is a tourist in the future…but it could have been done better.

       The idea of this episode if it had been explored more fully (as in gone full “Black Mirror”) could have turned this into something akin to “Blink” or “Listen.” Because it didn’t it manages to stay solidly good though as so much of the future is still left up in the air. The Vardy have been rebooted and have no memory of what they did, but they still destroyed the colonists under the simple command of making them happy. The Doctor accepts this though and the fact that there isn’t a happy ending boosts the episode immensely.

Final Score: 8.5/ 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.