Doctor Who The Magician’s Apprentice Review

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The good bit at the start

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to bother reviewing this episode of Doctor Who. Mainly because I couldn’t actually work out how I felt about it. Was it good? Was it bad? Was it mediocre? I still don’t know.

Bits of it were good. Some bits were actually very good. But there were other bits. Entertaining bits, to be sure. But the episode felt like someone had taken lots of bits, lots of scenes and stuck them together and said “here’s an episode”.

The problem is that this is part one of a two-part story and I suspect part two might be the part that has the actual, you know, story. Part one therefore is just a teaser. A teaser expanded to 45 minutes.

Spoilers follow.

The episode gets off to a terrific start. There is a war going on somewhere. It might be World War 1 except the biplanes are firing laser beams. A young boy runs into a minefield, except these mines are hand mines, i.e. hands that reach out and grab you by the leg and pull you into the ground. The Doctor appears and promises to help the boy escape. He asks the boy’s name…

“Davros,” says the boy.

Now, that’s just a brilliant opening!

And then it sort of goes downhill a bit.

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Guff

There’s some guff about the Doctor going missing and no one can find him and there’s this snake dude looking for him. Apparently it’s the Doctor’s last day alive. (Hang on, didn’t they do that in season six with the Eleventh Doctor getting shot in Utah?)

Clara is back to being badly-written smug-Clara and she is helping UNIT investigate why all the aircraft in Earth’s skies are frozen in place. As it turns out it’s actually for no reason, it’s just an excuse for Missy to turn up and be “zany” and “cool”.

Ah Missy. Apparently everyone just loves Missy! Oh look she’s just disintegrated some UNIT security men for a laugh! Yes audience, laugh along with that crazy, zany Missy, isn’t she hilarious!

Well I just sit and imagine the gravitas of Roger Delgado’s Master. And I shrug. It’s just not the same character at all.

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The brilliant Roger Delgado as the Master. Who isn’t appearing in this episode.

Then there’s some stuff with the Doctor in 1138 (AD or BC, I can’t remember) having a party on a tank and playing an electric guitar. Just because. Nothing to do with the plot. Just because.

Eventually the plot returns from its long walk and the snake guy takes the Doctor, Clara and Missy to meet Davros who apparently is dying. And the Doctor is ashamed.

And this is interesting because I wonder, is the Doctor ashamed that he didn’t try to save kid Davros and therefore created the evil megalomaniac somehow? Or is he ashamed that he did save Davros? So I am getting all engaged in the central moral dilemma of the episode.

We are never shown explicitly what happened in the minefield other than the strong suggestion that the Doctor abandoned kid Davros after learning his name. So this is interesting stuff. Plus they use a clip of Tom Baker from Genesis of the Daleks where he gives the famous speech about having the right to change history. (This is either a nice nod to the classic show dealing with the same moral dilemma or it’s hammering it home for a lazy modern audience. I can’t decide which.)

It turns out they have been taken to the Dalek world of Skaro. And we get to see lots of Daleks in a big room with some classic series Daleks mixed in. So that’s nice. And then the Daleks kill Missy, Clara and destroy the Tardis. Apparently.

Oh dear. So that’s Clara dead then?

Except you can be sure part two will hit the BIG GIANT RESET BUTTON (see any episode of Star Trek Voyager for details). So there is no sense of jeopardy. You know Clara and Missy and the Tardis will be back.

And hang on, wasn’t Davros destroyed in that David Tennant story from 2008 or whenever it was? How is he back? And where’s he been since?

I hope part two is brilliant and it makes me reassess part one. I do feel like I’m reviewing only half of the story. I mean I wouldn’t want to watch half of a movie and then review it saying “that was rubbish because there was no ending.”

But at the same time this is episodic television so each episode does need to stand on its own. And this episode was a bit of a mess. An entertaining mess, but still a mess. I do suspect that a one-part story has been stretched out to make two parts.

So as I said at the start I don’t know how I feel about this episode. Other than it had good bits and other bits and they were stuck together to last 45 minutes.

Doctor Who – Last Christmas review

Some thoughts on yesterday’s Christmas special episode of Doctor Who, Last Christmas.

As always spoilers.

The episode opens with Clara being wakened up by noises on the roof. She investigates and finds Santa Claus and some comedy elves larking around with a crashed sleigh. The Doctor appears and tells Clara to come with him in the Tardis.

I’ve kind of shortened my description of that sequence down as much as I could. I thought this episode was going to be excruciating with comedy Santa and comedy elves. I had low expectations for the episode at this point.

The Tardis arrives at a scientific research base in the Arctic. Some personnel are lying in the medical area with facehuggers on their faces. A girl called Shona is trying to get through the lab without thinking of the facehuggers. The Doctor and Clara appear. The facehuggers attack everyone. Santa turns up to save the day.

More comedy Santa stuff ensues. My hopes for the episode plummet.

And then it gets interesting. You see the facehuggers are actually “dream crabs” and they basically suck your brains out but give you the anaesthetic of a nice dream as they do so. One of them gets Clara who has the fantasy of a perfect Christmas with the deceased Danny Pink. The Doctor’s attempts to get her to wake up are nicely manifested by blackboards appearing in her house telling her she is dying.

The Doctor enters her dream and tells her that she knows it’s not real. Dream Danny also tells Clara she needs to wake up.

Back on the base the Doctor remembers that they were all attacked by the crabs in the medical bay but have no memory of escaping. He gets the four base personnel to each read the first word on a given page of the base manual. They all read different words. This was a brilliant little bit of the episode. So they are all dreaming.

He gets them all to wake up. Then as he and Clara are leaving the base the Doctor realises there are four manuals for four personnel but there are the other crew lying in the medical bay. He runs back in. It’s all still a dream. The crew aren’t even scientists. They are all just random dreamers who were attacked by the crab thing. Ah, it’s inception! Brilliant.

Santa returns (but it’s ok as it’s just dream Santa) who will take them all back home in his sleigh. As each person wakes up they disappear from the sleigh.

A word about Shona. She wakes up in her flat with her Christmas “to do” list. It contains some movies to watch, namely Alien, The Thing From Another World and Miracle on 34th Street. Brilliant. Her dream was influencing what they others experience. How very Philip K Dick.

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Eventually the Doctor disappears and it’s just Clara and Santa and Clara doesn’t want to wake up.

The Doctor wakes up on some volcanic planet or other and runs into the Tardis to get to Clara. He appears at her houses and runs in. He does the sonic screwdriver thing to get the last crab off her face. And Clara is old! It’s 62 years later. She and the Doctor never traveled together again and never saw each other again. Bloody hell, it was the most heartbreaking thing. Damn, I’ve something in my eye… Is that how Clara leaves? Bloody hell…

Then Santa appears again. The Doctor wakes up again. Another dream within a dream. He rushes back again and wakes up Clara. And she’s young Clara again. Bloody Moffat…

So even with the awful Santa comedy stuff I give this episode 10 out of 10. Because the Santa comedy stuff actually works in the context of Shona’s list of movies to watch. This is a very well constructed little tale. Yes, it has unavoidable Alien influences, but they just reference the movie Alien and get on with it. Yes it’s Inception, and I’m ok with that. A Christmas Day episode of a kids science fiction show doing Inception! What’s not to like?

A final word on Shona as played by Faye Marsay. Looking at the forums she was a bit of a crowd-pleaser and lots of folk would like to see her return. Count me along them.

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Doctor Who – Death in Heaven review

Death in Heaven is the final episode of season 8 and completes the story started in the previous episode Dark Water.

I did find the episode to be slightly messy but there was some good stuff in it. Spoilers follow.

The previous episode ended with a few Cybermen marching out of St Pauls Cathedral and the revelation that Missy is apparently the newest incarnation of the Master. This episode picks up the action at that point with the appearance of some UNIT agents led by Kate Stewart and accompanied by the Osgood girl who was in The Day of the Doctor.

The Cybermen blast off and Missy is captured by UNIT. She and the Doctor are taken to the UNIT airplane base which seems to have been added to the story as a location because it can provide a dramatic crash later. However it does allow for some funny lines about Gerry Anderson TV shows when the Doctor inquires after the Valiant cloud base from a previous Master story where John Simm became prime minister and turned the Tenth Doctor into Dobby from Harry Potter.

(Sorry I brought that up. I had hoped to have forgotten that episode but it just came flooding back. Sigh.)

Also on the plane is a portrait of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Kate Stewart tells the Doctor her father had always wanted the Doctor to salute him. THIS IS FORSHADOWING.

Oh, and the Doctor has been made World President.

The Cybermen attack the plane. Missy manages to kill Osgood and escape. The Doctor and Kate are thrown out of the plane. The Doctor manages to freefall into his Tardis as if he is in a Roger Moore Bond movie (specifically Moonraker). It all is reminiscent of the Russel T Davis era.

Cyber-rain is falling across the globe and turning the dead into Cyber(dead)men who are coming out of graves and stuff. Danny Pink is now a Cyber(dead)man and he wants Clara to deactivate his emotion chip. This all takes place in a graveyard for DRAMATIC EFFECT.

The Doctor arrives at the graveyard. Missy arrives at the graveyard. Missy gives the Doctor her Cyber(dead)men Controller Bracelet so he can use his Cyber(dead)men army and go and conquer Daleks and so on. He refuses and gives the bracelet to CyberDanny who orders the Cyber(dead)men to go and self-destruct in the Cyber-rain clouds thus SAVING EARTH with one line of dialog.

Missy tells the doctor that Gallifrey is back at the coordinates where it originally was. Clara wants to kill Missy and the doctor says he will do it to save Clara from killing someone. Missy teleports away just as he presses the disintegrate button.

Another Cyber(dead)man appears and points at Kate Stewart who lies unharmed on the ground. The Doctor salutes the Cyber(dead)man. Across the land TV viewers suddenly blub: ”OMG! The Brigadier! The Cyber-Brig! BLUB!”

Except I didn’t for I discovered my heart is made of stone.

So far so “meh”, but there is a good epilogue coming up.

Oh wait, there’s more “meh” before the epilogue.

Clara wakes up one night and says Danny’s name. She goes out of her bedroom and there is a magical CGI effect from which Danny’s voice emanates. Apparently the Missy bracelet will let one dead person return from the dead. But Danny has given his place to a boy he apparently killed in the wars.

Now, that’s all very noble and everything but from a story telling point of view IT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL. We have to accept a magic bracelet that can return you from the dead. (This might well be the Doctor Who equivalent of Khan’s Magic Blood as seen in Star Trek Into Darkness.)

So now we finally get to the neat epilogue.

The Doctor meets Clara in a cafe. He sees the bracelet and wrongly assumes Danny returned from the dead and that he and Clara will live happy every after. Clara does not contradict the Doctor and lets him infer that that is what happened.

In turn the Doctor tells Clara he found Gallifrey at the coordinates Missy supplied. As he tells her this we see what really happened. The Doctor arrives at the coordinates and opens the Tardis doors. No Gallifrey. With a fair amount of despair and rage he punches the Tardis console in full on Capaldi mode. All the while his voiceover is telling Clara untruths about finding Gallifrey and how he’s going back there. So they are both lying to each other and parting when they need each other the most.

The doctor leaves.

Credits role.

And then there’s a “hilarious” preview of the Christmas special with Santa Claus knocking on the door of the Tardis. Oh. joy.

Overall I found the final two-parter to be a bit muddled and not quite at the standard of some of the earlier episodes in the season. I know I’m in a minority with that. Still, the season did present standout episode like Deep Breath, Listen, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline so I won’t complain too hard.

All being well Capaldi will survive his encounter with Santa and return for season 9.

Doctor Who – grumpy “Dark Water” review

There now follows a review of the Doctor Who episode “Dark Water”, being the first part of a two-part series finale…

Spoilers follow.

To be honest I was left a little underwhelmed by Dark Water. It did feel like a lot of set up where not much actually happened. This is in stark contrast to the responses I have read on the Doctor Who forum I follow where reaction has been extremely positive. Some individuals there are saying things like it’s the best episode since the show returned in 2005. Comments like that make me feel like I was watching a different episode.

The episode does start with the shock death of Clara’s boyfriend Danny Pink. Well, I wasn’t expecting that and it was a brave twist. Clara of course wants to get the Doctor to save Danny and knows he’ll refuse, so she steals his Tardis keys and threatens to throw them into a volcano if he refuses. He does refuse and she does carry out her threat. Suffice it to say that the Doctor has anticipated her key hostage taking and no keys were harmed. He agrees to try and help her. Clara is shocked as she has betrayed him. The Doctor has a nice line that goes something like “do you think betraying me would make me care any less?”

The Tardis brings them to a big mausoleum type place where skeletons sit in tanks of water. They meet Missy who has being popping up occasionally in the earlier episodes of the season. Some science bod explains that apparently the consciousness of the dead stay in the body after death. Meanwhile Danny Pink is in the “afterlife” which turns out to be a Matrix type of deal. There’s lots of talking for the rest of the episode until the two big “shock” reveals…

1 – The water tanks actually contain Cybermen.

2 – Missy = Mistress = Master.

Neither of these are actually shocks though. The Cybermen were shown in the “next time” trailer last week and I would have been surprised if Missy turned out to be anyone else.

My problem with the episode was about how little actually happened. Also in the end I’m just not emotionally invested in the Clara/Danny relationship and when he died I just sort of mentally shrugged.

Also nothing makes any sense. The mausoleum place turns out to be inside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, mainly so they can replicate the shot of the Cybermen marching in front of St. Paul’s from the 1968 Patrick Troughton story The Invasion.

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But when is it? 2014? The whole point of the very science-fictiony and futuristic mausoleum is that it’s there for people visit the dead, but there are no visitors there, and the dead turn out to be Cybermen. Are all the dead of Earth turned into Cybermen? And are they all in St. Paul’s? Hopefully there are some actual answers next week.

The stuff with the “afterlife” Matrix was very flat and I don’t think it added very much to the story. It turns out that the brain patterns of the newly dead are being uploaded into the Matrix so they can be convinced to delete their emotions and then downloaded back into the Cybermen bodies.

I think.

It’s all very over-complicated. Whatever happened to a good old-fashioned cyber-conversion process?

There was one little bit I did like. At one point the Doctor says something like “I’m missing something very obvious here.” Just then the doors swing closed behind him to reveal a pair of logos that together look like the trademark Cybermen “teardrop” eyes. It’s a fun reveal.

So I’m very much in the minority here. Everyone else seems to love this episode and that makes me feel like I’m missing the party with my “oh, it’s all right I suppose” attitude.

Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night review

Oh dear. What was it I said last week about this being a consistently impressive run of episodes?

Let’s get the plot summary over with.

Everyone wakes up and the world is covered by trees. There are kids and one of them can hear the trees. It turns out the trees are protecting the Earth from a big solar flare. They do protect the Earth as advertised and then they turn into fairy dust and go away.

And the Doctor may as well not have been in the episode. He didn’t do anything other than talk to the trees through the girl but they could have cut that scene as the voice filter used made the dialog incomprehensible.

Oh, and there was a missing girl sub-plot and it turns out the girl was hiding in a bush for a year.

And that’s about it.

It gives me no pleasure to say that the episode is clearly the worst of the season but it is extremely weak, slight and twee. The problem is that it is not really a Doctor Who story.

Anything good about it? There’s a nice bit where Clara gets the Doctor back to his Tardis under the misapprehension he’s going to save them all from the imminent end of Earth but then tells the doctor to leave without her as she doesn’t want to be the last of her kind.

Nice idea to have a tree-covered London but it didn’t really convince. You’re talking about scenes set in the centre of one of the most densely populated cities on Earth and we never see more than a handful of people.

I’ll put it another way. At some point in the future when I come to watch the eighth season through from start to end I’ll just save myself the bother and skip this one.

Doctor Who – Flatline review

Well, this season of Doctor Who just gets better and better. Last week’s excellent Mummy on the Orient Express is followed by the equally excellent – if not more excellent – Flatline. As usual, expect spoilers below.

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The Doctor promises to get Clara back home for some Danny date malarkey however the Tardis deposits them on some Bristol-flavoured railway sidings. There is a small complication in that the Tardis is, well, small. The insides are still normal sized but the door has shrunk. The doctor and Clara are able to climb out. The Doctor tells Clara to go off and investigate while he tries to fix the Tardis. He gives Clara a nano-tech earpiece so he can see what she sees.

Later Clara returns and finds the Tardis shrunk even more so it’s now exactly toy Tardis sized. (I bet the get them in the shops for Christmas). The Doctor is able to reach out of the tiny door and give Clara his sonic screwdriver. Clara takes the Tardis along in her bag.

Clara goes off and meets some community service guys painting over graffiti in an underpass. One young graffiti artist called Rigsy tells Clara about people who went missing and she takes him along to investigate. They go to one flat with an interesting desert mural on the wall. Rigsy explains that the missing person disappeared from a locked room and perhaps their body is somehow still there like in a locked room mystery in detective fiction. The Doctor thinks the “fluorescent pudding brain” might be onto something.

In another house they are in the next room when a police-woman is sucked into the carpet. The doctor sees a diagram of the human nervous system on the wall and realises the mural in the other flat was of human skin. The doctor explains that creatures from a two-dimensional universe are trying to makes sense of our three-dimensional one and they are sampling humans. Their manipulation of the dimensions is having an effect on the Tardis which is losing power. Clara and Rigsy have a narrow escape from the same flattening fate. These scenes are some of the most wonderfully creepy ones Doctor Who has ever done and are very gripping.

Back at the underpass Clara glimpses some murals of human figures, all of which went missing. The Doctor realises that they are camouflaged images of the aliens who sampled the humans. Clara and the others are forced to run and hide in a railway building. The doctor tells Clara she has to take charge. And she does. When the grumpy supervisor of the guys on community service asks who she is she says: “I’ll tell you who I am. I’m the one chance you’ve got of staying alive. That’s who I am.” “Very good,” observes the Doctor.

The aliens chase the survivors deeper into railway tunnels gradually picking them off. And each time it is, I will repeat the phrase, genuinely creepy. It’s a lot more creepy than a lot of big-budget movies manage to do. The creatures are now taking on three dimensional form like flickering copies of their victims. They are also able to flatten or restore door handles.

At one point Clara drops the Tardis and it lands on a railway line. She can’t get to it so she tells the doctor to move it in the style of the Addams family. We then get the delicious sight of the Doctor’s hand reaching out to physically move the toy Tardis off the line.

When Clara is reunited with the Tardis it is in”siege mode” and looks like a little blue Pandorica. The Doctor does not have enough power to restore the Tardis to working order and Clara hits on a clever idea. She gets Rigsy to paint a picture of a flattened door. When the creatures try to unflatten the picture all their energy goes into the Tardis allowing the doctor to restore it to normal size.

He exits and confronts the creatures who he now calls “the Boneless”. “You are monsters!” he tells them. “That is the role you seem determined to play. So it seems I must play mine. The man that stops the monsters.” He expels them back to their own universe.

Later back outside Clara is trying to get the Doctor to praise her for her taking on the roll he normally does and to say she was a “good Doctor”. “You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it,” he retorts.

Well, this episode was both exceptional and good. The two-dimensional creatures were inspired and extremely well realised and led to many a creepy demise. I may have to rank them right up there with the Weeping Angels in regards to genuinely creepy monsters introduced in the modern version of the show.

There are just three episodes left of this season but I think I am safe in saying that this season is the most consistently good since the show returned in 2005.

Doctor Who – Mummy on the Orient Express review

As always beware of spoilers below…

So, remember last week when Clara stamped her foot and told the Doctor to leave and never to come back? Well, I for one thought that was pretty final. “Oh, the show will never be the same again.”

I thought.

So the next episode starts and guess what, Clara is with the Doctor again! Supposedly it’s for a final trip, a last hurrah, to say goodbye, but they are obviously on good terms. Oh, fickleness, thy name is Clara!

Anyway, the Doctor has taken Clara to the Orient Express, only this is some future Orient Express where the train is in space. However the passengers and crew have made the effort to dress like it’s the early part of the twentieth century.

And they have a singer singing period jazz songs. Only she’s singing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” in a jazz style. Seriously. And it works! I love that detail, that in the far future whoever is picking the songs just goes “yep, twentieth century, that’s close enough.” And well done to the BBC for clearing the rights.

Incidentally the BBC has put out a video of the whole song as sung by Foxes. The video also includes clips from episodes throughout the eighth season so beware of spoilers…

But on to the actual story. A mummy is appearing to selected passengers and crew, and only to those individuals, and then killing them. No one else can see the mummy and an interesting wrinkle is that exactly 66 seconds pass between the first sight of the creature to the person dying. The Doctor and Clara are trapped onboard by the train’s computer and must find out what is behind the mummy and stop it before everyone dies.

A nice detail is that a little countdown timer appears on the screen whenever someone sees the mummy. And whenever someone is ‘next’ the Doctor has to convince them to pass on as much information as possible in their last few seconds in the hope that it might help the next victim. It’s a chilling situation to be in and the Doctor acts very coldly about it.

The Doctor works out who is next, a passenger called Maisie who Clara is with. He tells Clara to bring Maisie to him and if necessary to lie about the Doctor being able to save her. So much to her disgust Clara lies for the Doctor.

But fortunately the Doctor has a plan. He is able to switch places with Maisie so he’s next and he realises that the mummy is a solder from an ancient war kept alive with technology. The Doctor says he surrenders and the mummy stops, salutes and disintegrates.

But they’re not out of the woods yet. The computer decides to kill everyone anyway and shuts off the life support. The Doctor works on a solution as everyone else collapses due to lack of oxygen.

And when Clara wakes up the Tardis is on a rocky beach with a futuristic city in the distance. The Doctor is writing something in the sand with a stick. It’s a wonderfully conposed scene made even more special by the fact that the viewer has no context on how the Tardis got there or even where it is.

The Doctor explains to Clara how he rescued the others and they go on to discuss impossible choices and pretending to be heartless. It’s a great scene for Capaldi who impresses. Along with the visuals the music is fitting as well. In fact I do believe that it’s one of my favourite moments from this season.

And it looks so stunning here are some screen captures. I’m not normally one for screen captures but I’ll make an exception this time…

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Back on the Tardis Clara has a change of heart and decides to stay with the Doctor. She calls it a “wobble”. Yes, telling someone to leave and never to come back is now just a wobble. Nice one, Clara.

I really liked this episode. I’d rank it in my top three of the season so far alongside with Deep Breath and Listen.

Doctor Who – Kill the Moon Review

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As usual spoilers can be found below.

Somehow events conspire so that the Doctor and Clara take Coal Hill schoolgirl Courtney on a trip to the Moon in 2049. The Tardis materialises on board a shuttle that then makes a crash landing on the lunar surface. On board the shuttle are three astronauts and 100 nuclear bombs.

The Doctor realises that the Moon’s gravity is too high, therefore the Moon must have gained mass. He is correct. The higher gravity is causing serious problems back on Earth and the astronauts have been sent to “kill” whatever is causing the problem.

We learn that mankind has more or less abandoned space travel by 2049. This mission was only possible because the last space shuttle had been taken out of a museum. Incidentally the visual effects do show an actual NASA-style space shuttle with a fairly effective crash-landing sequence. Also the makers have shelled out cash on some new spacesuits for the shuttle astronauts while the Doctor and his chums wear the usual red spacesuits that I think were first seen in The Satan Pit back in the David Tennant days.

And before I go on I do have to remark on the fairly impressive depection of the lunar surface. For a show made on a BBC budget it was very well done.

Eventually the Doctor realises that the Moon is not a planetoid but an egg (really), and whatever giant life form is inside is about to hatch. Clara is unconcerned. Surely, she reasons, the Doctor knows that the moon is still there in the future. But the Doctor is not so sure. He says sometimes there are grey areas, “eye-blinks” that stop him seeing what happens. He doesn’t know what is going to happen now. So there is a dilemma: should they kill this unique creature to guarantee Earth’s survival.

And then the doctor leaves Clara to make the decision.

Yes, he just leaves. This is where your mileage may vary. Surely the Doctor would stay to solve the problem as he always does? Or is letting Clara/the human race make the decision without his hand-holding the right think to do?

Clara is convinced that the creature should live. She sends a message to Earth telling people to choose by either turning their lights on for the creature to live or turing them off for the creature to die. She watches Earth through binoculars and the lights gradually go off. It’s a very effective sequence and it reminded me of a novel written by Stephen Baxter and Arthur C Clarke where an AI needed humanity to make a decision and says it will monitor the discussions on the internet to calculate what consensus mankind reaches.

Also this dilemma is very reminiscent of the second episode featuring Matt Smith, The Beast Below. There Starship UK was using a captured space whale as an engine and the citizens had to vote on keeping it captive. (Actually at one point I thought the creature might have turned out to be a space whale which would have been a nice nod to continuity, although it would have then reminded viewers of recycling of plots…)

So humanity makes it’s decision and Clara promptly, er, ignores it, stopping the nuclear bombs from going off. Just then the Tardis returns and the Doctor takes the survivors to Earth to see the creature hatch. The moon-eggshell dissipates and the creature departs, but not before laying a new moon-egg to sort out all that pesky continuity malarkey.

But the episode is not over yet. Along comes the most dramatic character-driven scene of the series so far. Clara lays into the Doctor big time. She’s furious that he would leave her there to make the decision on her own. The Doctor maintains it was a decision for humanity but that cuts no ice with Clara who tells him to leave and not to come back. Brilliant bit of acting from Jenna Coleman.

The episode is not without some problems. Chief among them is the small matter of the moon just gaining mass. Ok, there’s a creature inside growing, but how is it gaining mass? Is it eating? Eating what? This is such a basic plot point that they only way the writers can address it is to totally ignore it. I appreciate that you don’t watch Doctor Who for scientific accuracy but there should be at least some attempt to address such problems, even if it is just by adding a line to say the creature has a wormhole for a stomach that is sucking in matter from Jupiter. Or something.

(Speaking of wormholes, Stargate SG-1 always made an effort to put a bit of real science into how the Stargates worked. They did a good episode with time dilation one time… But I digress…)

Also, the moon is an egg? There’s a line of dialog that an earlier expedition of Mexican astronauts were looking for minerals but didn’t find any. Well, what about the rocks that the Apollo astronauts brought back? Sometimes it’s as if Doctor Who just exists in it’s own continuity separate from our own and I guess this is the case here.

And the central plot point of the episode: the Doctor leaving Clara by herself to make the decision. As I said, your milage will vary as it if this in character for the Doctor or not. But the gods of the script decided it was what he would do to advance their story so it happened.

In summary if you can ignore the lack of science and accept the Moon is an egg and the Doctor behaving out of character then it’s a fine episode that shows off an impressive Jenna Coleman playing an impressive Clara. The scene where she tells the Doctor to go is a real shock and the dramatic highlight of the series so far. Jenna totally sells it.

Doctor Who – The Caretaker Review

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The Caretaker is on the face of it a rerun of The Lodger, the Matt Smith episode that put the Eleventh Doctor in a domestic flat-sharing situation in order to solve an alien-related matter, much comedy ensues, etc. This time around its Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor who is pretending to be the school caretaker at Coal Hill School where Clara teaches.

Yes, there is indeed comedy to be derived from this situation. However I think this episode turned into something a bit different. Actually it was in the same way that I expected Listen to be a rerun of Blink and was surprised at that episode.

The episode beings with a montage showing Clara juggling her adventures with the Doctor and spending time with boyfriend Danny Pink. She is endeavouring to spend more time with Danny when she is introduced to the new school caretaker, which of course is the Doctor. He has detected a dangerous alien war machine in the area and has picked the school as a convenient place to dispose of it after hours.

However the alien war machine is frankly just a bit of a McGuffin for the real story. As it turns out this episode is a character piece and at the heart of it is the Doctor’s prejudice of and dislike towards soldiers, no doubt at least partly motivated by his incarnation of the “War Doctor”. Upon being introduced to former soldier turned teacher Danny the Doctor pigeonholes Danny as a PE teacher and he refueses to process the information that Danny actually teaches maths.

Meanwhile the doctor is trying to work out who Clara’s teacher boyfriend is. He obviously discounts Danny automatically and he focuses on a young dashing bow-tie wearing fellow with floppy hair. He approves.

Eventually after fighting the McGuffin alien Clara and the doctor are forced to reveal that they travel in time and space. A shocked Danny thinks Clara is an alien and he asked if the doctor is her “space dad”. But Danny clearly hits a nerve when he recognises something of an “officer” in the doctor. Ultimately Danny tells Cara that the Doctor wants to know if Danny is “good enough” for her.

There’s lots of other fun stuff in this episode. For example the caretaker has a building with red doors that look not unlike the Tardis doors. The Doctor also befriends “disruptive influence” Courtney but she’s not cut out to travel in time in space apparently.

An entertaining episode that takes is half-way through the season and a big improvement over last week’s Time Heist.

Doctor Who – Time Heist

This week’s episode of Doctor Who turned out to be a fairly run of the mill bit of business. It wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination but it it did have a distinct “in between” feel about it. Some spoilers follow.

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The Doctor and Clara are called to a meeting by a mysterious figure who wants them to rob a bank. The next thing you know they and two others – a shape-shifter and a computer augmented hacker – have had their memory wiped. The reasoning for this is quite a nice idea; The bank in question is the most secure in the universe because the people running it can detect the guilt of everyone who walks inside. So the only way to get in is not to actually know what your plan to rob it actually is, hence the mind-wipe.

Incidentally (or actually crucially) the means of detecting guilt is a creature called the Teller, which is realised with some very nifty animatronics. It scans ones memories for guilt and then turns their brains to “soup”. Ew.

Eventually we discover the not very surprising fact that the whole time heist was organised by the Doctor himself and the aim of it is to rescue the Teller and his captive mate and return them to their own world. Just like in last years Hide in fact. Aw.

So not a bad episode, just one that could have slotted into any previous Doctor’s run of episodes whereas Deep Breath and Listen could only be Capaldi episodes.

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