Tag Archives: doctor who

Who Review: Face the Raven

Doctor Who "FaceTheRaven" picture by Stuart ManningThe Doctor and Clara are surprised when Rigsy–“Local Knowledge” from last season’s story “Flatline”–calls the TARDIS emergency line. He’s got a tattoo on the back of his neck, but he doesn’t know where it came from. Indeed, he doesn’t remember anything about the events of the previous night. But this tattoo is no ordinary tattoo–it’s counting down minutes. And, as the Doctor discovers, they are the number of minutes Rigsy has left to live. Together the three explore the hidden streets of London for the people who gave him the tattoo, and stumble upon a strange world of secret aliens trying to live in peace, ruled by a long-time acquaintance. It seems a crime has been committed, and Rigsy stands accused. He must either prove himself innocent, or “face the raven.” Time’s running out, and, unknown to the Doctor, the stakes are higher than he could imagine…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

After last week’s questionable offering from Mark Gatiss, we get back to form with, I think, a much more solid story. The idea that an ancient city like London might have hidden streets, like hidden closets or rooms in an old house, is very appealing. There’s so much you can do with that, like, for example, have a street where all kinds of otherwise hostile aliens co-exist under a peace agreement. Outbreaks of lawlessness are punished by death, and the countdown to death is marked on the accused’s neck. Sentence is carried out by “the raven”–a shade that can hunt a people down wherever they might be, so there’s no escaping justice. Of course, this is a fallible, Draconian justice, where guilt is determined more by crowd opinion than by evidence (do we have a bit of social commentary here?), and even stealing medical supplies for one’s spouse is punishable by death.

It was nice to have Rigsy back. He was one of the more popular characters from last season, and, given his involvement with the events in “Flatline,” I suppose he was a natural choice for a comeback. Of course, if Moff would bring back Rigsy, one imagines he has plans to bring back Shona from “Last Christmas”–she was also a fan favorite, and considered by many to be companion material. Who knows…?

Speaking of new companions, I suppose that spot is now vacant since this episode saw Clara’s departure. Russell T. Davies managed to avoid killing off companions, but Moff seems a little less willing to give the Doctor’s companions a nice send-off. Amy and Rory were both sucked back in time by Weeping Angels (“The Angels Take Manhattan”), and Clara unwittingly seals her own doom by taking Rigsy’s tattoo. Her final scene with the Doctor was very emotional, and I’m sure there were few dry eyes as Clara accepted her fate, and chose not to run but to face the raven. I have to say, while it was good and powerful, I thought it a bit drawn out. I found myself thinking back to Adric’s demise in “Earthshock.” There was something very simple and understated about it that made it, I think, at least as powerful. His last goodbye to his friends as they left him to solve the logic puzzle that would give him control over the ship–the Doctor knowing the odds were slim he would survive. The shot of Adric gripping his brother’s belt, after the dying Cyberman shoots the control panel, ending any hope Adric had of getting out alive. The shot of the ship crashing into the Earth, the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan watching helplessly from the safety of the TARDIS. The silent credit role at the end over Adric’s broken badge. That, to me, was as gut-wrenching as Clara’s speech, the Doctor’s protestations, and Clara’s slo-mo death fall and silent scream. But it was a bold end to the impossible girl’s time on Who, and, as always, brilliantly performed. The little tribute to Clara after the credits was also a nice touch.

So I was wrong about last week’s story having anything to do with Clara’s exit, which is a shame. That really does relegate “Sleep No More” to being this season’s “Love and Monsters.” Sorry, Mark! :)

It appears this was all a grand plot to capture the Doctor. Someone needs him, someone who could not have asked the Doctor directly because he would have refused. And now the Doctor has been transported away, and I can’t help thinking Missy’s involved in this somehow. I guess we’ll find out next time.

There are my thoughts–what did you think?

Who Review: Sleep No More

DoctorWho_SleepNoMoreA rescue team on Le Verrier Space Station stumble upon the Doctor and Clara wandering the passageways. There doesn’t appear to be anyone else on board, so together they explore, trying to find out what happened to the crew. They soon find themselves being chased by a monster that crumbles into sand when they trap its arm in a door. On closer inspection the Doctor determines that it’s organic. Then they find the Morpheus machines, designed to mess with people’s brains so they get the benefits of a month’s worth of sleep in five minutes, enabling them to stay awake with no ill effect. The Doctor hypothesizes that the monsters are a by-product of the machines, a thought that is especially discomforting after Clara is dragged into one of them. But it also appears there are more monsters, and they are carnivorous, and restless…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

This was an odd episode. First, it appears to be a single-parter–the first of the season. Second, there was no title sequence. It was also the first Doctor Who story made in what’s known as “found footage” style. That is, the whole story is told by means of a recording that was made at the time but discovered after the fact. Kind of like the movies “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity.” One could argue that the New Series 2 story “Love and Monsters” was actually the first Who episode to take on the “home documentary” look, but that story wasn’t strictly speaking “found footage” since it was Elton’s recording, and he was still around to show it.

I’m not really sure what to think of this episode. It was an interesting idea, and I don’t object to them trying something different. But did it work as a story? Coming from Mark Gatiss, who has written a few episodes of Who and who, most notably, is Moff’s “Sherlock” partner in crime, one might expect something exceptional. But I’ve found Mark’s Who contributions to be inconsistent. “The Unquiet Dead” was excellent, and both “Cold War” and “The Crimson Horror” were good. But “Victory of the Daleks” wasn’t that season’s best, neither was “Robot of Sherwood.”

The mood of this story was suitably creepy, with plenty of tension, but the pacing seemed slow to me. And the only characters that appeared to serve any purpose (aside from the Doctor and Clara) were Rassmussen and Nagata, the leader of the rescue team. None of the others stood out–they were just there to be scared and get into trouble. Is that unfair? I suppose the test of this would be to ask: if the episode had only consisted of the Doctor, Clara, Rassmussen, and Nagata, would the events and the outcome have been significantly different?

And then there was the ending where Rassmussen dismisses the notion that the effects of the Morpheus machine only applied to those who had been in the machine, saying anyone who watched the video would be affected. Of course, this is meant to spook us as Rassmussen dissolves into dust. Very “Tales of the Unexpected.” :) Now, the fact Rassmussen doesn’t deny that those who have been in the Morpheus machine will eventually turn to monsters might not bode well for Clara. Is this the way Clara will exit the show, suddenly turning into a pile of dust in the middle of episode 10? I guess we’ll see…

What did you think?

PS: The pictures I’ve been using for the past couple of seasons are poster designs created for each episode by Stuart Manning. Sorry for not giving credit before!

Who Review: The Zygon Inversion

DoctorWho_TheZygonInversionZygon-Clara’s attempts to blow up the aircraft carrying The Doctor and Osgood are temporarily foiled when the real Clara wakes up in her Zygon pod. She manages to buy time for The Doctor and Osgood to parachute out before Zygon-Clara’s missile finds its target. Zygon-Clara, who, it turns out, is the commander of the rebel Zygons, resumes her quest to end the ceasefire and instigate war between the Zygons and humans. But now she has an ace up her sleeve. With the realization that there’s a two-way link between her and real Clara, she can mine Clara’s memories to find the location of the Osgood box, and transmit the signal that will put an end to the peace…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

The second part of this season’s two-part Zygon story started with the kind of cliffhanger you know can’t be all that it seems. After all, if the Doctor gets blown up, that’s the end of the show. Surely the Doctor must survive, so the excitement is in seeing how he survives. And this time it’s a close call with a parachute jump from the plane. Of course, the Doctor has a Union Jack parachute–a James Bond reference, perhaps? (See the end of the pre-titles sequence in “The Spy Who Loved Me.”)

The crux of this episode is the Osgood box, and negotiating peace with the rebel Zygons. Of course Kate Stewart survived her Zygon attack by shooting her assailant with “five rounds, rapid”–a reference to one of the Brigadier’s famous lines from the 1971 story, “The Daemons.” Kate is on hand to represent the human race when it comes to peace talks, though Kate is far more willing to destroy the Zygons than the Doctor would prefer.

The Doctor’s impassioned speech to the Zygon commander, recalling “The Day of the Doctor,” and the terrible decision he almost made (and actually did make before he went back an un-made it… wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…). Capaldi is on form, pleading for the sake of both humans and Zygons, for thoughtfulness. What would a Zygon victory look like? What would a world populated with only Zygons be like? Who would make music? Who would make the instruments to play? And how would the Zygons protect themselves against the next rebellion? And the next? And the next? “Break the cycle!” he implores. Which they do. The Zygon commander stands down, and the Doctor causes everyone to forget about the rebellion. Everyone except the Zygon commander. He wants her to remember, so she won’t let it happen again. And, in what I see as a gesture of her best intentions, she takes the form of Osgood–so there are two Osgoods to keep the peace once more.

This was a good story, though it doesn’t leave much room to bring back the Zygons–at least not on Earth. Writing, acting, effects–all top-notch as usual. The Doctor’s speech does make some good points about the futility of war, and how often war is undertaken with no thought to what life will be like after. However, even though I hate war, I have to admit that while I wish it was that simple, it isn’t always. Sometimes, war is necessary to stop obstinate, evil people (e.g., Hitler), and in what is (from a Christian worldview) a fallen world, there will always be a need to use force from time to time. But the Doctor’s point of view is well-taken.

I think we’re coming up on the end of Clara’s time. If you recall, at the end, Clara says to the Doctor (and I’m paraphrasing a little), “You really thought I was dead?” To which he responds, “Worst month of my life.” “Month?” says Clara. “More like five minutes”–or something like that. Then, in the trailer for next week’s story, we see this Morpheus machine that can let people go a whole month without sleep…

So, what did you think?

Who Review: The Zygon Invasion

DoctorWho_TheZygonInvasionAfter the peace treaty forged in “The Day of the Doctor” (the 50th Anniversary Special), the Zygons were allowed to live on Earth, taking on human form, and co-existing with the humans. But after a while, a faction of Zygons became dissatisfied with this arrangement. It wasn’t enough to co-exist; they wanted to take over. And now the time has come for that plan to play out, starting with the capture of the embodiment of that peace itself: Osgood. And with Zygons located all over the planet, is there anywhere safe? Does UNIT have the resources to fight? And does the Doctor stand to lose everything…?

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

Back to a more traditional two-parter with a cliffhanger. Like many other fans, I was pleased to see Osgood return. Bringing characters back from the dead is always risky, given the often lame explanations for why they didn’t die, or how they “recovered.” This one worked, since she was a Zygon double. But not simply a double: a hybrid. I had to chuckle at the conversation she had with the Doctor about the fact he used to wear question marks on his shirts. This costume choice has long been a sore point among fans, since it took the underlying mysterious element of his character and shoved it in your face. So, it wasn’t a complete surprise it was handled with humor and cheek.

Sonic sunglasses sonic sunglasses sonic sunglasses… grumble grumble… okay–I’ve got that out of my system. :)

The story itself–at least so far–was good, and makes an important point about trust. As the Doctor pointed out, while Zygons had gone rogue, it was a faction, not the whole. Granted, a faction of rogue Zygons can do a lot of harm, but the response needs to be measured to protect the innocent as much as possible. I’m sure there was an intentional parallel to our real-life situation, where often a response to a threat is necessary, but it’s too easy to go in with all guns blazing, painting an entire people group with the same brush for the sake of a “simple” solution.

I don’t know whether it was the story, or the direction, but it felt a bit like watching an episode of “The X-Files.” Again, not necessarily a complaint, but maybe more an observation on the style of story-telling this production team seems to enjoy.

Lastly, I was a bit uncomfortable with the Doctor’s acceptance of the “President of the World” title, and his using that title to procure an aircraft, just because he likes to “ponce around” in planes. The whole guitar/rock star bit is wearing thin for me. Yes, the Doctor has a fun, playful, even childish side to him. And maybe this kind of behavior can fit with the Doctor. I can’t say I like it though. I’m used to a bit more humility from the Time Lord (aside from the occasional, “Don’t kill me, I’m a genius!” type of comment).

But all in all, another good episode, I think. Performances, direction, effects, writing, all top-notch. Hopefully the next part will be at least as good!

What did you think?

Who Review: The Woman Who Lived

DoctorWho_TheWomanWhoLivedTracking down a dangerous amulet, the Doctor finds himself in seventeenth century England. He disrupts the attempted robbery of a carriage by a highwayman known as “The Nightmare.” To his surprise, this highwayman turns out to be Ashildr. But this is not the same Ashildr that he left in the Viking village. Immortality has changed her, and not for the better. And it seems her desire for danger and excitement has teamed her up with some questionable company…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

While this is the sequel to last week’s episode, “The Girl Who Died,” it transpires that these two stories are really two stand-alone episodes connected by a common character. “The Girl Who Died” explains why Ashildr is still alive 800 years later, and gives some character context, but you don’t need to have seen it to follow this story. The producers appear to have understood this since we didn’t get a “Previously…” recap at the beginning, making this an unusual two-parter. But that’s good. Not every multi-part story has to follow the formula.

Eighteen-year-old Maisie Williams (of “Game of Thrones” fame) puts in a great performance as the young-but-old Ashildr, now going by “Me,” because that’s the only name she ever remembers. Also notable is the fact that this is one of the few Doctor Who stories written by a woman (Catherine Tregenna, who has previously written episodes of Torchwood, Eastenders, and Casualty). Historically, Doctor Who has been fairly cutting edge in the fact that women have played a key role in its life (Verity Lambert, the first producer, to name just one). However, there haven’t been many female writers. In the classic era, Barbara Clegg wrote the Fifth Doctor story “Enlightenment,” and Rona Munro, wrote the last Seventh Doctor story, “Survival.” In the New Series era, we’ve had Helen Raynor, who wrote the Season Three Dalek two-parter, and… I can’t think of any others until now! But Catherine isn’t the only woman writing for Who this season. Sarah Dollard, an Australian writer working in the UK, has written Episode 10, “Face the Raven.”

Speaking of writing, the fact that this and the previous episode work as stand-alones is underscored by the fact that they were written by two different people. Usually, a two-part story is penned by the same person.

Enough of the interesting factoids! What about the story? I thought it was good. A different pace from last week, with a lot more introspection and soul-searching, and less action. I don’t recall much CGI work aside from the brief alien shoot-out near the end. That’s not a bad thing, but it does show that the focus of this story was on what it means to watch loved ones die, and how that affects someone who, as a result, chooses to live alone. Ashildr has become hardened, desperate to see time pass quickly, and losing sight of the value of friends, even the value of life itself. While this is told in terms of Ashildr’s experience, it clearly reflects on the Doctor, as we see in the hug he gives Clara at the end. If I didn’t know Clara would be leaving soon, I would be very VERY suspicious.

Ashildr’s new friend, Leandro, is a leonine creature (i.e., he’s a anthropomorphic lion). The last time I recall leonine aliens in Doctor Who was in the Fourth Doctor story, “Warrior’s Gate” (Romana’s last story). I don’t think they are the same race, however. The “Warrior’s Gate” aliens were Tharils, while Leandro says he’s from Delta Leonis.

The only minor quibble I have with this episode (aside from the return of the sonic sunglasses–NOOO!!) was Ashildr’s sudden realization that she actually does care about people. And perhaps it’s not so much that she suddenly showed concern for the townsfolk under fire from the aliens, but that she told us, “Oh my! I do care!” The old writing adage, “Show, don’t tell” really ought to have kicked in here. In the heat of the moment, we should have seen Ashildr trying to help people find cover, pleading with the Doctor to do something, etc. And then, when it’s all over, and she’s relieved and celebrating, the Doctor draws her attention to the fact that she cares more than she thought. That would have been much better than having Ashildr announce her change of heart to everyone.

But it’s a minor quibble. Otherwise, the BBC have delivered yet another cracking episode of Who. If this standard maintains, Season Nine will go down in the annals as one of the classics.

Next week–the Zygons return!

That’s what I thought. What did you think?

Who Review: The Girl Who Died

DoctorWho_TheGirlWhoDiedThe first of a two-part story which finds the Doctor and Clara in a Viking village. The Doctor tries to gain the respect of the villagers by pretending to be the god Odin. But things start to go awry when a face appears in the clouds claiming to be the real Odin. This Odin sends down hulking robots that snatch away the village warriors, along with Clara and Ashildr, a young girl. At first the warriors believe they’ve been taken to Valhalla, but soon sense something’s not right. Their fears are confirmed when they are executed for their adrenaline and testosterone, leaving Clara and Ashildr. Clara persuades the leader to let them return to the village in peace. But Ashildr’s anger gets the better of her, and she challenges the aliens to a battle. The alien leader agrees. The Doctor and Clara have twenty-four hours to muster an army out of farmers and fishermen that can fend off the most brutal soldiers in the galaxy. Not even the Doctor is convinced he can succeed…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

This story introduces us to new aliens: The Mire–that’s the name of the blocky robot fighting machines that threaten the lives of all in the village, including the Doctor and Clara. I thought it was a good story, even though the basic plot is not a new one (primitive people taking on hi-tech monsters, people using duct tape and string to take down alien machines). Of particular interest were the character arcs. The Doctor comes into the village with confidence, only to be left questioning whether he can win. Clara has to help restore his confidence. Cowering Ashildr stands up to the aliens, then feels guilt at sentencing her village to death. She becomes the key to their success, even at great cost to herself. Clara’s arc continues as more and more she does what the Doctor would do. The Doctor is more than just her hobby; he is her sensei, and she is his disciple–a role she resisted all last season, and which she now appears to have fully embraced.

Did my heart leap when the alien leader broke the Doctor’s sonic sunglasses? Did it just! Will the Twelfth Doctor get a sonic screwdriver of his own, now? Come on, Moff, you’ve had your fun. You’ve flexed your show-runner muscles. Now, let’s have the sonic back. :)

A couple of things that I didn’t like about this episode. First, unless my ears deceived me, didn’t the Doctor say that the way the villagers can know the face in the sky isn’t really Odin is because “gods don’t show up”? I hope I’m wrong, because millions of Christians throughout the world are getting ready to celebrate one of the most significant events in human history, when God most certainly showed up in a manger in Bethlehem! You might not believe this, Mr. Moff, but tread carefully, please. This Doctor is beginning to come across as the most outspokenly secular in the show’s 52-year history. That probably reflect Moff’s world, and indeed (sadly) the majority report of the UK. But it’s unnecessary. This story didn’t need that comment.

Also, the whole “the Doctor speaks baby” thing was cute and funny in “Closing Time” (New Series 6), but here I found it way too sentimental. What exactly was the story point of the Doctor being able to understand the baby? Sure, the “fire in the water” gave him the idea with the eels, but did he have to tune in to baby cries to think of that? At best, this was an attempt to tug on the viewers’ heartstrings; at worst, it was story-padding because it was running short. Either way, I didn’t think it was necessary.

Full marks, however, for the explanation why the Twelfth Doctor chose his face, and how that ties into the resolution of the story–bringing Ashildr back to life, despite all he said about not changing history. And then the cliffhanger: Ashildr is not only immortal, she’s now a hybrid, part human, part Mire!

I’m looking forward to next week. How about you? What did you think of this episode?

Who Review: Before the Flood

DoctorWho_BeforeTheFloodIn the second part of this two-part story, the Doctor has traveled back in time to try to solve the mystery of the flood, and the souls of the dead transmitting messages across time. The Doctor, Bennett, and O’Donnell end up at a Scottish Army base in 1980, the village discovered by the underwater base in the future. The spaceship has just arrived, carrying the body of a warrior called The Fisher King. It seems the spaceship is a hearse. But this Fisher King is far from dead, as the undertaker, Prentis, soon discovers. Meanwhile, the ghost Doctor has a message for the crew of the underwater base. It’s a list of names–the names of those currently in the base, in the order in which they die. And Clara’s next…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

Overall this was a good story, and a good resolution to last week’s episode. The idea of going back in time with the sole purpose of changing history has been done before, even though the Doctor himself often says he’s not supposed to do this. We’ve already referenced “Genesis of the Daleks” with the first two-parter. In that story, the Time Lords commission the Fourth Doctor to go back in time and destroy the Daleks at their inception. The Doctor and Romana get caught in a time loop in “Meglos,” and then you have Rose wreaking havoc on the world by saving her father’s life in “Father’s Day.” In this story, writer Toby Whithouse riffs on what’s called the “Bootstrap Paradox.” In this paradox, a time traveler goes back in time and ends up creating something that already exists in his present-day. The example the Doctor gives is of a time traveler who loves Beethoven and goes back to meet his hero, only to discover Beethoven never existed. So the time traveler publishes Beethoven’s music in the 18th century, attributes it to Beethoven, and hence creates the Beethoven whose music he loves. The question is: who actually composed “Beethoven’s” music?

In this story, the Doctor creates his own “ghost” image to relay a message from the past to Clara in the present-day. But the Doctor only knew what message to give the “ghost” because Clara told him what the “ghost” said. So who actually created the “ghost’s” message?

Thankfully, the whole plot didn’t hang on this (as far as I could tell), since that’s a pretty heavy idea to hang a family show on (remember the Charged Vacuum Emboitment from “Full Circle” and “Logopolis”?). I liked the idea that reading the writing on the ship wall turned people into potential carriers of the signal. Once those words got “inside” a person, that person could be killed and used to transmit the message, which the Fisher King intended to use to bring an armada to conquer the Earth. The fact that Lunn never read the message made him immune to the ghosts.

Another good twist was the fact that the present-day Doctor didn’t know that he had created his own “ghost” hologram, so for at least half the show, he was convinced he would die. This added greatly to the tension and drama.

I do have a few quibbles. The biggest is the “prolog” where the Doctor appears to break the “Fourth Wall” to explain the Boostrap Paradox. Couldn’t they have worked that in to the first episode, and find a place for the Doctor to explain it to Clara, or have Clara and the Doctor discuss it? I think it would have worked better as a piece of seemingly throw-away conversation. The Doctor shouldn’t be addressing the audience, though. Maybe we’re supposed to think he was talking to himself. But he wasn’t. And Capaldi didn’t play it like that. No more of that, please.

One way to test whether a monster costume works is to use it in an outdoor scene in broad daylight. It was daring of them to take the Fisher King into that environment, unfortunately I don’t think the costume stood up well. He looked like someone doing cosplay at a Star Trek convention in a really good costume. Something about it didn’t make me think, “woah, that’s an alien.”

Finally, and this is probably the biggest quibble: enough with the sonic sunglasses! Bring back the sonic screwdriver!! It’s always been the Doctor, the TARDIS, and the sonic screwdriver–well, at least ever since “Fury from the Deep” in 1968, and consistently since the Third Doctor in the 70s. Has the merchandise budget become so tight that they’re looking at recycling cheap sunglasses and calling them “sonic”? Give Peter his own screwdriver, people! There must be something going on with this in terms of this season’s story arc. Moff should know better.

What did you think of this episode, and this story?

Who Review: Under the Lake

DoctorWho_UnderTheLakeThe year is 2119, and a team in an underwater mining facility comes across a vessel in what appears to be a submerged town. Inside the vessel they find markings scratched on the walls, but there doesn’t appear to be anyone there. Anyone, that is, except for two ghostly figures who attack them, killing one of the team. To their horror, that team member has become one of the ghostly people.

A few days later, the Doctor and Clara materialize on the base, but it’s deserted. There are signs of human activity only hours before, but it seems they took supplies and ran away. The Doctor discovers the markings, and then the ghosts, which then turn on him and Clara…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

This is the first of the second two-parter of a season that Steven Moffat promises us will be filled with cliff-hangers. I grew up on Classic Who, so no complaints from me on that front! In this episode we see Clara all gung-ho for monsters and adventure, which is really what you want from a companion. But given last season’s double-life, it’s nice to see she’s thrown her lot in with the Doctor totally.

The production team certainly wanted to turn the creep element up this time, and I wonder if the later viewing time in the UK reflected that. The ghostly people are particularly eerie. My 11-year-old didn’t much care for their “soulless eyes.” Lots of atmosphere and suspense, which makes for good Who, so top marks there.

One of the notable features of this story is the fact that one of the main characters is deaf, and is accompanied by someone who signs for her. The more cynical people might roll their eyes and mumble about Doctor Who trying to tick all the politically correct boxes. But I’ll be among those who applaud this move. Why not have a deaf person on the team? We see deaf people with active roles in society, so why should it be a surprise that we have a deaf scientist on the crew? I did have a minor quibble with the Doctor referring to her as the smartest person in the room when he isn’t there; this comes across to me as pandering, as if to say, “Okay, we’ve included a deaf person, now let’s be super, super nice to her to show her how much we value deaf people.” It was unnecessary. However, on reflection, perhaps such attention was necessary in light of the fact so few deaf people appear in dramas like this. If deaf actors/characters were commonplace, we’d think nothing of it.

We had some nice touches of humor, especially in the form of flash cards Clara has made for the Doctor to help him respond appropriately to tense, awkward, and emotional situations. Sensitivity to human emotions isn’t one of the Doctor’s strong characteristics, and even less so with this incarnation. The scene where Clara tempers the Doctor’s enthusiasm about one of the crew members being killed and turned into a ghost by having him read from one of the cards was a nice insight into both the Doctor, and their relationship. Clara knows the Doctor well enough help him with this deficiency, and the Doctor trusts her enough to allow her to help him.

In the end the Doctor discovers these “ghosts” are the souls of the dead being used to boost a signal to a planet somewhere, each new soul providing an extra boost to the signal. An interesting concept, especially for Doctor Who, especially for New Who which has, until last season, avoided messing with supernatural concepts. I mean, the last “ghost” story we had was “Hide” in Season 7, and that spook turned out to be an astronaut trapped in a pocket universe. To be fair I’m going to reserve further comment until after next week. Let’s see how this concept plays out.

That cliffhanger, though. The Doctor… those eyes… That was good!

The first two-parter set a high standard for this season, and I think this episode continues the trend. I enjoyed it and look forward to next week’s resolution.

What did you think?

Fish Fingers and Custard… Nearly!

Five years ago, Doctor Who’s fifth season opened with a story in which the newly-regenerated Doctor tried a variety of foods offered to him by the young Amelia Pond. He discovered his latest persona hated yogurt, beans, bacon, bread and butter… Then he found custard and fish fingers:

This has become a classic scene of modern Who. Scores of Whovians raided their refrigerators for fish fingers (fish sticks in the U.S.) and custard so they could try this new Time Lord delicacy. All well and good if you’re not vegetarian… which I am. For five years I’ve had to wonder what fish fingers and custard tastes like.

Then I discovered this:

At last I could find out what all the fuss was about.

For the custard, I looked to my oldest child who has learned how to make custard from scratch, which is most pleasing to her custard-loving father. I will go as far as to say, my daughter’s custard is the best on the planet. “Better than Bird’s” I call it (my British readers should understand).

So here it is–the closest thing a vegetarian can get to fish fingers and custard:


What did I think? To be honest, even when I was a meat-eater I never liked fish. I used to eat fish fingers when I was a child because there was very little actual fish content, so most of what you tasted was the breading and whatever else was in it. One time, my Mum bought fish fingers that were 80% real cod. Never again. I hated them. Way too fishy. But for the sake of that Eleventh Doctor experience, I was willing to give this a try. And it wasn’t too bad. If I really liked fish, I’d probably enjoy it a lot more. But I was surprised at how well the sweetness of the custard blends with that fish flavor.

Have you ever tried fish fingers/fish sticks and custard? What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Who Review: The Witch’s Familiar

DoctorWho-TheWitchsFamiliarContinuing from last week’s episode, the Doctor finds himself face-to-face with a dying Davros. The Doctor is usually quite savvy to his evil opponent’s evil intents, but could it be that as his life comes to an end, Davros is softening? Could it be that all he wants is to make his peace with the Time Lord? Meanwhile, what happened to Clara and Missy? Are they really dead, victims of the Daleks? Or is there some Missy mischief going on…?

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

This was again, I think, a strong opening story. I expected the second part to begin with a cliff-hanger resolution (as one does if one is used to Classic Who). Instead, Moffat decided to resolve the Clara-Missy death shocker. The explanation sort-of works, and it does neatly answer the question of how Missy survived “Death in Heaven.” I was left wondering how on earth she would have had time to calibrate both vortex manipulators to use the energy from the Daleks’ weapons. She would have had plenty of opportunity to calibrate them for the Cybermen’s guns… but, oh well. I can accept it’s a generally good idea, and it keeps Clara alive a little longer (see my comments last week).

In this episode, we learn that Skaro has a sewer system that is their “graveyard”–only these Dalek mutations aren’t dead. They are the discarded remains of Daleks, left to rot, except they never do. Which means, given the opportunity to lash out, they take it. Such as when a Dalek’s armor casing is compromised, or they get a sudden blast of Time Lord regeneration energy. No complaints from me about this. There’s nothing I recall from Classic Who that contradicts this idea and it serves multiple ends: it gives a bit more depth to the character of the Daleks (they dispose of their “dead” and these remains have anger issues), it provides a neat resolution to the story, and it gives us something to consider in anticipation of the next Dalek encounter–re-energized angry Dalek goo!

Last week I complained about the idea of Missy being the Doctor’s “best friend,” and I was afraid for a while we were going down the same path with Davros. From the get-go I was not taken in, and would have been very annoyed with Moff if Davros had been sincere. At first I found it hard to believe when the Doctor said he wasn’t fooled, but I suppose if I wasn’t fooled, why would the Doctor have been? Maybe he just played innocent a lot better than I would have. And as for Missy, the Doctor’s “best friend”–doesn’t the fact she was goading the Doctor to kill Clara when she was disguised as a Dalek, making the Doctor believe it really was a Dalek, tell you enough? Missy is all about Missy. Her “friendship” with the Doctor, like everything else in her life, is just a means to her own selfish and evil ends. Kids, your best friend would never do this. If you have a best friend who would have you kill one of your other friends just because they don’t like them, or they want you all for themselves, that’s not someone you want to be friends with. Steven Moffat may disagree, and if so, just don’t be his friend. :)

Speaking of Clara the Dalek, that had to be a piece of deliberate irony. The first season we met Clara, she was a Dalek (Season 7a’s “Asylum of the Daleks”). Now, in her last season, she’s a Dalek again.

Finally, did you notice how the story came back to that “Genesis of the Daleks” dilemma: “Have I the right?”–should the Doctor destroy the Daleks at the point of their inception, and change the course of history? This story ends where it began, and where the cliff-hanger left us: the Doctor and young Davros. The Doctor could have shot Davros before he had the chance to become an evil genius. In “Genesis”, the Doctor’s dilemma was resolved by circumstances outside his control. The battle was already won, so he didn’t need to worry about destroying the Dalek mutations. Here, the Doctor makes the conscious choice to show mercy on Davros and help him survive the hand mines, even though he knows what will become of him.

Once again, a great episode of Who, a good conclusion to the opening two-parter, superb performances by all involved, and the appetite is appropriately whetted for what’s to come!

What did you think?