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Attention Whovians! Let’s all calm down about a female Doctor

Well, something happened in the Whoniverse recently. No, I’m not talking about the Christmas Special trailer (which looks awesome, although I am worried that Bill’s return will be another Hell Bent). In fact, I’m referring to this-

Yes, we have a female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. What do I think? I’m fine with the Doctor being a woman and it’ll be interesting to see Chris Chibnall’s vision of the show. However, this isn’t what this post is about. This is going to be about the fandom and how we all need to calm down.

Read the rest of this entry

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Thirteenth Doctor: Should the Doctor be female?

EDIT 17th of July 2017

Yup, called it. So, let’s remember all cast our minds back to February where this innocent blog post was just frantic speculation.

 

Yeah, it’s time to talk about that elephant in the room.

vastra

Well, Peter Capaldi has left the TARDIS, after what only seems like a few days. While there’s a time and place to discuss the Twelfth Doctor (when he leaves this Christmas I’ll be doing a massive post on my views on his era as a whole, which will be interesting considering he followed my favourite Doctor), right now the question on everyone’s lips is: Who is the Thirteenth Doctor?

This then leads into the largest talking point: after 53 years of white males, is it time for a woman?

Now, speaking as a male Whovian who has grown up with three Doctors, experienced all of them and loves this show, I can safely say that I, personally, would not mind a female Doctor, BUT at the same time I don’t particularly care either way. As long as the character remains the same lovable Time Lord, the Doctor can be male or female, black or white. For me, it matters about the writing and whether or not I’ll like the Thirteenth (I don’t know who I’d cast, but as a Benedict Cumberbatch fan the thought of him as the Doctor is glorious. Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson would also be fantastic).

So, there are two main talking points here. First, let’s look at whether the Doctor can change gender in the context of the show and second, whether it’ll be good for the show.

  1. CAN the Doctor be a woman?

missy

In the context of the show, yes. The show has slowly been building towards the idea of a female Doctor for years since Steven Moffat took over. In fact, one of Matt Smith’s first lines after regeneration was “I’m a girl!”. In the brilliant story The Doctor’s Wife, the Doctor’s friend the Corsair was established to have changed gender and in the Night of the Doctor, Paul McGann was given the choice “Man or woman”. Even Hell Bent, which I usually avoid talking about for fear of hitting something in anger, set this up with the General regenerating from a white man into a black woman.

And of course, there’s Missy. She is the main point of argument that people use when saying that a female Doctor would work. Missy is my favourite Master, but that’s got nothing to do with her gender. I love her for reasons I’ll dive into when she returns in Series 10. Her inclusion in the series has been warmly received by most fans and this once again shows that it’s not about the character’s gender, it’s about the writing. The Master is a character that is 45 years old and predominantly male (he was designed to be Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock) but Missy shows that a male character can be changed into a female and still be the same character. Before Missy, I wasn’t sure about a female Doctor, but I’m now firmly supportive of one.

2. SHOULD the Doctor be a woman?

By this, I mean is it right for the show to do it now? Once again, I say, why not?

The Doctor isn’t like Sherlock Holmes or James Bond, The Doctor’s an alien whose species, as mentioned above, has no set gender. Yes, James Bond has changed actor, but Bond is a very masculine character defined by male sterotypes and tropes. Sherlock has gone through countless iterations but the character is still a male figure. The Doctor, on the other hand, is a time travelling alien with a magic police box who travels through time and space fighting monsters. He may be a male, but nothing about the character is specifically male. His humanity, his sense of justice, his humour, his code of conduct has nothing to do with his gender. As long as a female incarnation sticks with those ideals, go for it.

But will it be good for the show? Now, contrary to what the tabloids are saying the show is not dying. Peter Capaldi may not have been as loved by the public as David Tennant or Matt Smith (I really hope the BBC haven’t done what they did to Colin Baker on Capaldi), but the show is watched by millions worldwide and is critically adored. However, it has slipped past the public consciousness in recent times. Could a female Doctor be so discussed and so shocking that people will be interested in the show and check it out? Journey’s End received over 13 million viewers because people couldn’t stop talking about the surprise regeneration. A female Doctor could bring in a new audience and interest, and provided she’s good could keep that audience.

As for whether it’s right, of course it is. Pop culture is gradually shifting to be more equal. The Force Awakens, one of the biggest movies of the decade, has a female lead, as does Rogue One. There’s a Wonder Woman movie this year and a Captain Marvel movie in two years. There was an all female Ghostbusters (although that was pretty controversial to put it mildly). Female heroes are popping up more and more, so while it’s not necessary, a female Doctor would keep with modern pop culture.

Another criticism against a female Doctor is the fact that the boys watching will lose their role model. Well, I grew up watching The Sarah Jane Adventures and didn’t feel alienated, so I fail to see how having a different gender will make a portion of the audience completely lose faith in the show. Besides, lots of girls watch the show. Wouldn’t you say it’s time they had a role model they could be in the playground? I don’t think they want to be stuck playing the companion all the time. Speaking of companions, having a female Doctor doesn’t mean we have to lose Bill. All we need is a male companion to balance things out (I can’t be the only one who prefers multiple companions). Then, when Bill leaves we can have the traditional dynamic of male/female, just reversed.

So overall, this debate needs to be looked at fairly on both sides. I can see why someone would be against it, but for me I can’t see why it would ruin the show. I hope I’ve addressed both why a female Doctor can work and why it may/almost certainly will happen. Again, I’m not asking for one as a necessity. However, I have a strong hunch that we will have a female, or at least someone who isn’t a white male, for the Thirteenth Doctor and I feel like this needs addressing.

 

The Doctor Falls: One of my new favourite stories ever

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I have loved Series 10 of Doctor Who but as always, the quality of the series would always depend on the strength on how it was wrapped up in the finale. Just look at last series, where a mostly strong run of episodes was let down by the incredibly disappointing and lacklustre Hell Bent, making the entire series feel pointless in hindsight. Here however, we have the exact opposite happen, as Steven Moffat has learnt from his mistakes in the past and created a truly brilliant finale that has taken a place in my favourite stories list.

Let’s talk set up first because obviously this is a two parter. World Enough and Time (no idea what that title means but oh well) was a great set up with pitch perfect pacing and an incredibly macabre tone throughout. As a huge Cyberman fan I loved seeing the New Series utilise the body horror aspect, with the emotional inhibitors not preventing the pain of conversion, merely preventing it. The time dilation also added a huge amount of tension to the episode, as every second the Doctor, Nardole and Missy spent at the top of the ship meant the closer Bill got to full conversion, which of course eventually happened. Like most part ones, it was mainly set up for The Doctor Falls, but it was fantastic nonetheless. Missy was brilliant as always (I love her sonic umbrella) and seeing John Simm return was glorious. I figured out that Razor was the Master by about his second scene, but that didn’t stop the reveal being executed perfectly. If the BBC hadn’t let the news be leaked beforehand, then I reckon the Master’s reveal would go down as one of the finest twists in the show.

Part two was where the main meat of the story comes into play, as the Masters are forced to work with the Doctor due to the Cybermen turning on them. It was a simple story and what I loved about it was that the universe wasn’t under threat: it was just one floor of a spaceship. This didn’t stop the story from feeling truly epic in scope however. This story really capitalises on who the Doctor really is, as his phenomenal speech to the Masters shows. He doesn’t travel the universe to win or to fight villains- he travels the universe and helps people because it’s right. I see this speech as Peter Capaldi’s defining moment, and John Simm’s reaction is hilarious.

The best finales in New Who- The Big Bang, Last of the Time Lords, Death in Heaven and this- not only tell a great story but make the entire series connect together thematically and making every story feel like part of a bigger picture. The Doctor Falls is no exception, as the themes of the series are explored in full. The idea of the value of individual lives from Oxygen is brought back, the idea of time dilation and the Doctor’s willingness to throw his life away from others from The Eaters of Light are expanded upon and the Monk trilogy is linked with Bill’s resistance to Cyber conversion. There’s also been Missy’s redemption arc which started in Extremis and of course the resolution to Bill’s story from The Pilot. This story just made re watching Series 10 so much better.

I’ll admit I’ve never enjoyed the Twelfth Doctor as much as the Tenth or Eleventh Doctors, despite still being great (mainly due to Clara hogging up two thirds of his era) even though Series 10 has made me love him more and more thanks to companions who weren’t irritating, but for this two parter, Peter Capaldi was quite possibly the best Doctor ever. Seriously, I wish this would have been the regeneration story, but we’ll have to wait and see whether the Christmas Special is a worthy send off for the Twelfth Doctor. I’m curious as to why he refuses to regenerate, but we’ll have to wait till Christmas. I’m so happy the cause of regeneration for him was a Cyberman, as I’ve wanted them to actually kill a Doctor. His arc in this episode is superb as he will do whatever it takes to defeat the Cybermen, even if it means his death. I cannot wait to see how this incarnation leaves. I have a feeling the Christmas special will be standalone but linked to this story in the same way Waters of Mars and Day of the Doctor were linked to the regeneration stories of Ten and Eleven.

Another one of the best aspects of the story was how Missy’s arc was handled. She’s been my favourite Master since Death in Heaven (although Roger Delgado will always be the best Master) and she got a superb send off. I love how the arc of the series has evolved from what’s in the vault to the question of whether Missy will truly change. Her scenes in Lie of the Land were the highlight of that episode and she’s a highlight here, with her final scene of self sacrifice and redemption being masterful (pun totally intended). I love how in Series 8 she tried to turn the Doctor onto her side, whilst throughout this series the Doctor is trying to turn her onto his side. It just show that even between all the fighting, they ultimately care for each other deeply. I adore the conversation the Doctor has with Bill in World Enough and Time about how he and the Master were friends, as it shows Steven Moffat understands the incredibly deep relationship the two characters have. Her arc this series was beautiful and wonderfully done, as she stands with the Doctor at the end and kills her previous self before dying herself. It’s a perfect end for the character and the fact that the Doctor may never know she turned good is utterly devastating yet appropriate.

Now onto John Simm. I’ve read some reviews that have said he was underused, but I disagree. He serves many purposes in the story such as being the catalyst of the Cyberman plot as well as to serve as a contrast to Missy. Moffat understands the Tennant era Master stories and from those stories it’s pretty obvious that the Master is without redemption. In Last of the Time Lords he chooses to die rather than be forgiven and in the End of Time he fights Rassilon out of revenge, not redemption. In The Doctor Falls, his only motive is to return to his TARDIS due to his plan failing. He doesn’t care about the Doctor’s struggle and his death and offscreen regeneration into who we assume is Missy is appropriate for this incarnation. In one last moment of evil, he essentially kills himself due to his refusal to turn good. I love the Tennant Master stories but this is definitely the best story to feature John Simm’s Master, and his Delgado-esque beard and rubbish disguise in the first part are brilliant Classic Series references. His presence in this also adds to one of the themes of the story- much like how the Doctor and Bill do not wish to live if they couldn’t be themselves, the Master would rather die than see himself changed.

This series has had not one but two awesome companions, and they both got great send offs here (well, Nardole got a send off. I’ve heard Bill is coming back in some form for the Christmas special). One of the surprise highlights of the series has been Nardole. I’ve always loved companions who are different from the norm and Nardole was certainly that. He was able to give many incredibly dark stories some humour and levity. His mini-arc in this story is subtly done but great, as he ends his travels with the Doctor to act as a protector, much like he’s done throughout the series. I wish his backstory was expanded upon, but there’s always Big Finish. Who would of thought that the bumbling fool from Husbands of River Song could end up blowing up Cybermen with a rifle and some computer hacking?

As awesome as Nardole was throughout the series, he wasn’t the main companion. Bill has become my second favourite New Series companion after Donna and I feel like this story was a good ending for her. I would have liked another series with her but Donna didn’t get another series so it’s fine. I was concerned that Bill’s Cyber conversion would be ignored but it was a major part of The Doctor Falls, utilising the psychological aspects of the Cybermen. I’m once again going to defend a controversial aspect of the episode and say that I really liked Bill’s departure. It didn’t undo her conversion and I feel like it wrapped up her arc well. It is similar to Clara’s, but to me Clara’s departure in Hell Bent was pointless as she already had a perfectly good ending in Face the Raven that was the perfect end to her character arc. Bringing her back just felt unnecessary. In contrast, Bill’s arc all series is all about her eagerness to explore the universe. What happened to her wasn’t her fault and no one, not even Adric, deserved a Cyber conversion without any sort of reward at the end. Killing Bill off would have been going against her character and the spirit of the show, as her death wouldn’t have been a heroic sacrifice like Adric’s or Clara’s. Now, she’s allowed to travel the universe with a new perspective thanks to her travels with the Doctor. That said, what kind of an alien race has the resources to make immortal, intelligent all-powerful oil? If the oil from the spaceship is that powerful, how powerful must the aliens themselves be? Sequel, Chibnall, sequel! It also helps that The Doctor Falls didn’t spend the majority of its run time saying goodbye to a companion who had already left three times and instead actually told a story.

On top of all the character development and themes, this story doesn’t forget to just be awesome. Three types of Cybermen (I would have liked to see the Eeeexcellent Cybermen from the 80’s but it doesn’t matter), two Masters and even a surprise First Doctor cameo! The scene where the Doctor blows up the Cybermen is nothing short of breathtaking. Not only is it symbolic of the Doctor’s final stand and packed with continuity references, but it’s just plain awesome to watch. The scene of the Cybermen flying up from the bottom of the ship is all kinds of cool and the soundtrack throughout the episode is glorious. As much as I like Death in Heaven, the Cybermen were ultimately superfluous to the story, whereas they were the main enemy here. This story was in the end a base under siege and wasn’t over complicated or convoluted- just a simple story.

In conclusion, World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls has easily earned a place in my top ten Doctor Who stories of all time. The pitfalls of the era have been forgiven due to this absolutely magnificent story that felt epic but at the same time restrained. Everything I’ve wanted in the Capaldi era from the beginning was present here, and as much as I’ve loved a lot of his era, no story (not even Heaven Sent, which was let down by what followed) was as amazing as the best of David Tennant and Matt Smith until now. This story is up there with The God Complex, Waters of Mars, Kinda and Inferno as the show hitting on all cylinders and with everything working. I cannot wait for Christmas and cannot wait to write up my Top 10 Peter Capaldi episodes afterwards.

The Eaters of Light review

Well, I’ve finished my exams and have no school for twelve glorious weeks. While I could spend that time going out enjoying the sun, I’m going to spend my time reviewing Doctor Who because of course I am. I’ve missed a few episodes so I’ll sum up my thoughts in brief: Extremis was excellent, Pyramid at the End of the Long Title was pretty good, Lie of the Land was disappointing (especially given the build up) and Empress of Mars was an absolute blast with the greatest cameo ever.

So how does The Eaters of Light stack up with the high quality of the series? In short, I thought it was excellent, and it’s one of my favourites this year along with Oxygen and Thin Ice. With the finale this week, it would have been easy for this episode to be bad and have the finale make up for it (also known as the In the Forest of the Night/Fear Her/Sleep No More effect) but fortunately there’s enough in this episode to make it stand out.

I love historical stories and this is one of the best in recent memory. Like Thin Ice, the story is focused more on the history and the setting rather than the sci fi, and weaves the sci fi to make it support the history rather than have the history support the sci fi, as is often the case. Both historical stories this year are reminiscent of Vincent and the Doctor, one of my favourite stories, in this way.

That’s not to say the sci fi is bad. I would complain that the monster is underused, but after a whole series of misunderstood creatures and underwhelming threats, to have a monster simply want to eat everyone is quite refreshing. The Eater of Light is probably the best designed monster since the Teller and whilst the budget restraints prevented the monster from appearing too much, it appeared enough to be a satisfying threat. In a series lacking in strong monsters, we finally have one. It reminded me of something from Merlin, which is always good as that show was awesome.

I don’t care how old I am, I want this monster as a toy. I still have my toy Werewolf and Pyroville, and I think I have a Prisoner Zero lying around somewhere.

The monster wasn’t the main focus though, which was once again on character. I love the Doctor and Nardole team up and wish they had more solo stories together, and having them together in this one served as a good contrast to last week, which was severely lacking Nardole. He’s become one of my favourite companions, and I can’t believe I would say that when I first heard the news that he was returning. I would like an episode dealing with his past though, which should hopefully happen next series.

The parallels to Rona Munro’s previous story, the excellent Survival (which I also watched last night and gets better every time I watch it) are clear with Bill. Like Ace in that story, Bill has to lead a team of scared young people to fight off an impossible threat, showing how the Doctor has influenced her. It’s important that the two leads are seperated before the finale so we can get the best out of both characters.

How refreshing is it to actually have a TARDIS materialisation scene?

Another similarity to Survival is the excellent pacing. With the exception of Oxygen all the other stories have had pacing issues but The Eaters of Light was perfectly paced, with a strong, satisfying resolution. Whilst the epilogue with Missy did feel completely seperate from the rest of the episode, I felt it was necessary to build hype for this week’s bonkers finale. I actually feel like Missy could be a good, Turlough-esque companion for a few episodes.

Honestly, there’s not really much to discuss here. This was just an incredibly atmospheric and fun standalone story which gave the Twelfth Doctor one last bit of adventure before the guaranteed seriousness of the finale. I loved the fantastical tone of the story, which reminded me of Torchwood’s Small Worlds and as I mentioned, Merlin. When Doctor Who tackles fantasy it can sometimes fall flat but this series has had a really good understanding of fantasy, as this episode and Knock Knock are both more about unexplained, slightly supernatural occurrences rather than science. It works as long as the atmosphere is right.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the Doctor/Nardole dynamic really reminds of the Second Doctor and Jamie. I love their constant snarks at each other and how the Doctor constantly insults Nardole.

If I had to criticise, it’s that the stuff about the crows was just… odd. That was In the Forest of the Night levels of fantasy there and that is not good. As I mentioned, I would have liked to have seen the monster more and have a bit more tense moments with it. The modern day pre-credits was also unnecessary and too similar to last week’s. Which leads me onto a bit of a tangent, but here goes-

Am I the only one who feels like the second half of the series has been paced weirdly? Oxygen and Extremis had built up such a strong sense of hype but the other two Monk episodes failed to escalate the tension, killing the flow. We then got two standalones with similar plots (two warring sides working together, Bill falling down a hole, a Classic Who feel, caves). If I was structuring the series, I would have had Episode 6 deal with the Doctor’s blindness and reveal Missy in the vault, then this episode with the epilogue removed making it a complete standalone, a standalone Episode 8 focusing on Nardole, Empress of Mars with this episode’s epilogue and then Extremis could have served as a Turn Left-esque story where the Mondasian Cybermen are practising an invasion of Earth via a simulation, which would lead straight into the finale. I would have saved the other Monk episodes for another series with the same writer on all parts and Lie of the Land being stretched into two parts.

But back to The Eaters of Light. Overall, this is another very strong episode in what’s shaping up to be the strongest series since Series 5 (Lie of the Land wasn’t the best but it wasn’t a Hell Bent/Kill the Moon disaster). As long as the finale is amazing then Series 10 will likely go down as one of New Who’s best.

Next week it’s the return of John Simm’s Master and the Mondasian Cybermen. As cool as it is to have a multi Master story, I just love the original Cybermen and look forward to their reappearance more. I recommend watching The Tenth Planet and listening to the fantastic Big Finish audio Spare Parts in anticipation.

 

Oxygen review: This series just gets better and better

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Well, this is slightly late.

In my feeble defense I have been doing exams and fortunately we have a three parter coming up so I can take a break from writing until the Monk story is finished. For now though, we have the best story in the series so far and the best in the show overall since probably Heaven Sent or Flatline.

This is just a spectacular episode in every way. For the first time this series the characters were in real danger and the tension was brilliant. There’s just a sense that the characters could die at any point and thanks to the brilliant final reveal this story has a lasting effect on the Doctor. Finally, the danger of the Whoniverse is back.

Look at this. Just look at this. This is such an awesome ship.

Even the mere premise is genius. The idea of oxygen as money is a fascinating idea similar to the ideas of Sleep No More last series, however Jamie Mathieson actually utilised his ideas well and incorporated them into the story without making the episode any less entertaining or tense. Doctor Who has done satire before- The Sun Makers springs to mind immediately- but New Who doing a very topical satire attacking capitalism (although the writers of Doctor Who didn’t know there would be an upcoming election otherwise we’d have a Peladon story) is not something that happens often. Unlike Kill the Moon, which stopped being a Troughton-esque base under siege halfway through, Oxygen never loses sight of the space zombies or the scares.

Wow, I’ve gone about the themes but haven’t even discussed the characters yet. This is easily the best the Twelfth Doctor has been since the Zygon two parter (like the Third Doctor, Twelve seems to fire on all cylinders during political scripts). He’s funny, cold, serious and most importantly, vulnerable. Even before he’s blind he is out of his comfort zone with no TARDIS and no sonic. After he is blind, the story’s stakes are raised to an even higher degree than before. It’s just like 42, where David Tennant being possessed by Toraji gave the episode a dramatic edge which made for truly compelling viewing. There is a reason Oxygen is so tense in the second half and that’s due to the vulnerability the Doctor is in. This episode also demonstrates one of the Doctor’s best aspects- his willingness to help anyone regardless of who they are.

The Doctor’s ability to survive in space has been established before but there’s never been consequences.

The companions were also on top form. This is Nardole’s first true adventure as a companion since the Christmas special and he worked very well in the already established Doctor/Bill dynamic. It’s so refreshing to have an alien companion and whilst many people feared Nardole would only be a comedic character, this episode proved them wrong. He has a defined purpose in the team and it looks like he’ll be taking a central role tonight. He’s easily the most unique New Series companion and I hope he sticks around. Bill continued to be the best companion since Donna and I can’t express how good it is to have a companion who experiences fear and can help the audience connect with what’s going on. I snarked whilst watching that she had died after the incredible losing oxygen scene but I honestly feel some kids probably thought she had died. That’s a mark of a great episode, where you care about characters you know will survive.

Honestly, with one exception which I’ll discuss later, I don’t think there was a single problem with the episode. It was perfectly based, the zombies were great (no aliens again but the faceless bureaucrats behind the killings were a great villain) and the direction was fantastic. The opening was perfect, with a scene of two astronauts being picked off by the zombies, setting the scene perfectly for the scares ahead. I personally wasn’t too scared but I can imagine kids being pretty terrified and unlike Knock Knock there was no happy ending. This was hard core sci-fi at its best.

These are the scariest monsters since the Foretold. The fact that they’re human is even scarier.

So, the one problem I had? I think the villain should have been Gus from Mummy on the Orient Express. It would have added continuity, made a great episode even better and solved a loose plot thread. The themes from Oxygen would not have been lost and it would have given the episode a tangible threat. Don’t get me wrong, I love the twist that there was no hack and the suits were just doing what they were programmed to do but Gus could have easily been controlling them. That said, it wasn’t an objective problem and not everyone would have liked that so I admit this is just a personal gripe that doesn’t actually make the episode worse.

What else is there to talk about? I feel I’ve discussed everything…

Oh yeah, the final scene.

What a genius idea this is. Making the Doctor blind will just make the upcoming episodes so much better if Moffat runs with it well. It also makes the question of how Peter Capaldi will regenerate much more interesting. As if the return of Missy and the promise of a three parter wasn’t already enough to hype me for tonight, we now have a blind Doctor and whoever is in the Vault will know that. I thought Knock Knock would be the arc based one whilst this would be standalone but I was completely wrong, as this episode will have lasting consequences on the series, making a fantastic episode even better.

So, a three parter with actual villains and Missy? Sign me up. I’ll be back in early June to tackle the biggest story since Series 3.

Doctor Who Knock Knock review

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We’re a third of the way through the series already- where’s the time gone? To be realistic, the weeks are going slowly due to my upcoming exams (HELP!) and Doctor Who is the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.

I’ve made it no secret I’ve found this run of episodes to be very strong so far, but much like Series 8 and 9 we’ll have to wait to see if a dud comes around at some point towards the end (let’s hope not). Knock Knock continues the series’s strong run so far, and is reminiscent of stories like Ghost Light and Image of the Fendahl, two of my favourite stories. Whilst not as strong as those stories, this is still a very entertaining and well written addition to the already strong Series 10. It’s probably my favourite so far.

This is the first time this series where the Doctor and Bill are separated and this is where the episode shines. We see how far Bill has come in just four episodes as she basically tells the Doctor to go away and let her live her life, which is great although I’m not a fan of how Steven Moffat always has companions pop in and out of their daily lives. Whilst I like The Caretaker, we really didn’t need another similar episode in Series 10 dealing with the companion’s dual life so I’m glad that wasn’t the focus this week. Scaring children (and my mum who only watched because of David Suchet) and creating an entertaining story was the focus. It wasn’t as character based as last week, but I’m sensing themes and arcs throughout the series I’ll discuss later.

Haunted house, creepy bugs, body horror. This episode truly feels like a Guillermo del Toro film.

The Doctor was again fantastic (let’s hope Mike Bartlett is invited back in Chris Chibnall’s run) and I always love seeing him work independently and with other characters that aren’t the companion. He gets great lines (“Don’t be scared. It doesn’t help”) and I’m enjoying him every week. Thee most interesting aspect of his character is his interactions with whoever’s in the vault, which I’ll get back to later. Overall, another strong outing for the Twelfth Doctor, who is shaping up to be a truly great Doctor in his final series and it only looks better from here.

The best part of the episode for me was the Landlord. He’s the first truly complex villain of the series and I love how by the end of the episode you truly feel sympathy for him despite his villainous actions. His motives are understandable and he really is a tragic figure, as he’s so caught up with keeping his mother alive that he’s forgotten to live a life, in contrast to both the Doctor and Bill who have experienced loss and moved on. We’ve now had two human villains this series and the Landlord is a lot better than Sutcliffe last week. I’d honestly call the Landlord my favourite original villain since House from The Doctor’s Wife. To think I believed him to be a major character in the whole series when he’s just a one-off character.

One major criticism is that I wish all of Bill’s friends stayed dead (morbid I know but a kid died last week) or at least some of them didn’t come back. Maybe they’ll come back later in the series but I just wish there were some deaths in the episode to increase the stakes. Another problem which the episode shares with the rest of the series so far is the slightly rushed ending. The scenes with Eliza are the best of the series so far with brilliant writing, acting and emotion but there isn’t enough to let the emotions sink in before the tease about the vault. There’s also a lack of explanation about where the woodlice creatures come from or the full extent of their powers. The rushed endings have been a constant problem this series and I really wish the episodes were an hour long. There’s a three parter coming and a two part finale so I doubt this will be a constant problem but it’s been a recurring issue so far.

Not the episode’s fault, but I wish the marketing hadn’t given away Eliza in the trailer. It would have made the reveal in the episode terrifying.

A positive element of all the episodes have been the introduction of themes and character arcs I think will be expanded upon later on in the series. The main theme I think so far is about how to move on from loss or trauma, as it’s popped up in every episode so far-

  • The Pilot: Bill has to let go of Heather and the Doctor has to let go of his oath to accept his new companion.
  • Smile: The Vardi cannot let go of the grief that the colonists faced when the oldest member died and see grief as a virus.
  • Thin Ice: One of the main themes of the episode. Bill moves on from her trauma at seeing someone die and the Doctor admits that he moves on all the time.
  • Knock Knock: The Landlord is unable to move on from the promise he makes to his mother.

Could this go anywhere? I think so, and Steven Moffat is smart enough to bring together all the episodes thematically like he did with Series 5, 8 and to an extent 6. I think it could be to do with what’s in the vault, which I think could either be Missy, The Master, the Myrka, Frobisher the Penguin or Susan. Two of those guesses will definitely not be happening.

“And then there was that time when I fought the Abzorbaloff, but we don’t talk about that…”

In conclusion, Knock Knock is a great story that’s better on rewatch once you know what’s going on. I find it far superior to Hide but not as good as the Classic Who stories I mentioned earlier. This week it’s Oxygen, which looks so awesome I’ve decided to not read or watch anything linked with it. I want to go in completely blind.

Doctor Who Series 10: Thin Ice Review

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With it being slightly frosty this week, yesterday’s episode was very appropriate for the weather. Regardless of weather, this episode still continues the trend of fantastic stories from Series 10. I’m serious, if these early episodes are supposed to be the “weaker” ones, then I just can’t wait for the upcoming ones.

One of the best things about this episode is how it’s completely different from last week. We’ve gone from a sci-fi mystery with robots and lasers to a Regency-era costume drama with a big fish/snake thing. It’s this kind of juxtaposition that I love from Doctor Who, and this is probably the biggest contrast for consecutive episodes since Rings of Akhaten/Cold War.

The character work was superb this week, as both regulars got huge amounts of development. Sarah Dollard really knows how to write the Twelfth Doctor and he gets one of his best outings in a while, with his characteristic snarking, humour and cynicism mixed with humanity and warmth. The highlights are when he punched Sutcliffe for his treatment of Bill (I’ve seen people complain about this, but trust me, the Doctor is NOT a pacifist. Just watch any Jon Pertwee or Colin Baker story) and his speech about human progress.

Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age, that’s… what defines a species.

There’s also the continued development of Bill, and this episode once again shows what Moffat and co should have done with Clara in Series 7- show that travelling with the Doctor was not always fun. In this story, she sees a child die (pretty dark considering Doctor Who is a family show) and is understandably upset about it. There were hints of this in Cold War when Skaldak was killing the redshirts, but Clara never had a moment to reflect on what she saw. By having Bill realise the darker side of the Doctor and respond in a realistic way, it makes her more human and relatable. There are plenty of fantastic scenes between them and all three episodes so far have essentially been just her and the Doctor learning about each other. I feel like beginning from Knock Knock, the stories will get larger and more plot based.

I really liked the villain, Lord Sutcliffe, and he was basically exactly what I wanted after two weeks with no villains. I said I liked him when it’s really more “love to hate”, as in he’s so evil and careless that I just couldn’t help but like him and hate him at the same time. He’s essentially a villain from the Jon Pertwee era and as a massive fan of that era, I appreciated the return the stingy, metaphorically moustache twirling, condescending, obnoxious figure of high power that just irritates the Doctor and the audience. He’s so evil that his death is immensely satisfying. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent human villain on Doctor Who, and Sutcliffe is probably the best since Solomon from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. I’d have liked to see more of him though and have his plan expanded.

I’d love to see this guy spar with Edmund Blackadder, considering he was also in Regency London. I’d call the episode Fish and Finality. I reckon Sutcliffe would not be able to stand a chance against Blackadder.

There’s so much more to love about this story. One of the best aspects was how it handled the racism of 1814 and taught the children watching that it is never appropriate to be racist, regardless of what time period someone’s from (just because nearly everyone in 1814 was racist doesn’t excuse it). Whilst I love the Shakespeare Code, it didn’t really deal with the obvious issues that Martha would be dealing with in the 16th century. Thin Ice deals with the issue of Bill facing racism in the past a lot better, even if it was just by the Doctor knocking Sutcliffe unconscious in anger. Part of Doctor Who’s original goal was to educate the kids, and this was a good way to do it. Throwing in a real historical event and giving it a Doctor Who twist also makes the historical aspect of the show stand out more than just stories which happen to be in the past (what did the Vikings and Stuart settings add to the Ashildr stories last season?)

Another interesting element was the lack of aliens (again). It’s never really confirmed whether the sea serpent is from Earth or not and I like it that way. Whilst it is yet another misunderstood creature, the presence of Sutcliffe means there was an actual villain, although I really want the monsters this week to be the “we will kill you all” kind. Comparisons to The Beast Below are obvious as well as the Torchwood episode Meat (I’ve only recently gotten into Torchwood and I’ve been watching the good ones with my dad). There were also elements of Kill the Moon (companion makes a choice that revolves around a moral dilemma) but it’s handled better here because there weren’t any one sided dilemmas and no giant flying moon babies.

Ice to meet you (I know, I know, puns are terrible. Eye won’t make any more)

Overall, we have yet another strong episode. I feel like I’m in the minority when I say Smile is my favourite of this opening trilogy (its sci-fi aspects, clever twists and great dialogue sell it for me) but Thin Ice comes a very close second. As one of my most anticipated episodes pre broadcast it didn’t disappoint. There wasn’t much about the story arc, but we got a hint towards what’s in the vault (my Master theory is getting stronger) and it appears that Nardole will become a regular from next week.

Speaking of next week, we have a mysterious landlord, a haunted house, tree dudes and things in the wall. It feels like Ghost Light and the SJA story The Eternity Trap combined. Before that though, I’ll be reviewing Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.

Smile review: All is forgiven Frank

Well, another week, another Doctor Who. After the fast paced frenzy of last week and the introduction of a great new companion, this week took a much slower pace with an episode that evoked Classic Who, in particular The Ark in Space and The Happiness Patrol.

As I said in my Series 10 hype post, this was the episode I was the most worried about, considering Frank Cottrell Boyce’s only other Doctor Who script was In the Forest of the Night. Fortunately, Smile was a lot better, and I enjoyed it even more than The Pilot.

A big part of this was because of the Doctor and Bill’s interactions, with Nardole completely disappearing from the episode in the first scene. The episode played out like a Part One of Classic Who, where the characters explore the setting by themselves. This was especially important as we needed to know how this new TARDIS team functioned and how Bill adjusted to life in the TARDIS. Having no real action or supporting characters meant the story could have been dull, but due to the interactions and continued character development I was entertained throughout.

My thoughts on the episode in a nutshell.

I love the structure of this story, with the pieces slowly being unravelled and the plot slowly fitting together to form a very enticing mystery. Each plot point made sense and felt necessary, with every aspect of the story slotting into place by the end. I’ll admit the ending was a bit weak, with the Doctor essentially rebooting the robots with his sonic screwdriver, but the resolution still ultimately left me satisfied due to the great build up.

The emojibots worked well in my opinion. They weren’t particularly scary but I don’t think they were meant to be, especially considering the whole story was just a misunderstanding between the Vardis and the humans. It was quite brave to have a story with no real villain (The Edge of Destruction, Listen and to an extent Gridlock all show how a story with no villain can work, as does Smile) and I appreciated the small scale nature of the story and due to the lack of a real antagonist the emojibots served their purpose well as a physical threat to keep the story from being too boring. This is the second story in a row with no actual villain, so I’m hoping this week we see the return of the evil, slightly hammy doomsday villain, because sometimes that’s good.

This frowny face is hilarious and is basically my reaction to there being yet another election I can’t vote in.

I found the Doctor’s characterisation in this episode spot on. It’s so refreshing to have the Doctor not know what’s going on and he has to solve everything by slowly investigating the situation and putting the pieces together. Something even rarer was the Doctor making a massive mistake and almost blowing up the cryogenic chambers. The Doctor rarely makes mistakes and seeing him make one was very refreshing, especially in comparison to the know-it-all persona that Steven Moffat loves. The balance between the gruff Doctor of Series 8 and the more quirky Doctor in Series 9 has been very well balanced, so it’s once again a shame that this is Peter Capaldi’s final series. I call it Peter Davison syndrome, where a Doctor only really comes into his own in his final series.

The story had a very William Hartnell vibe, from the slow pace to the Doctor miscalculating to the awesome link to Thin Ice at the end. Much like a William Hartnell story, we have a story which is more about the characters and the setting than the alien threat. The supporting characters however weren’t the best, and they only really popped up in the final third. This is where the story dips slightly, as In the Forest of the Night syndrome hits and we get some forced moralising, albeit more subtly. I wish the story developed the misunderstanding more and delved more deeply into the ideas of emotion and grief, which was the instigator of the whole story. The more I think about it, the more Smile is really just a more macarbe Inside Out.

I love the contrast between the clean city and dirty spaceship. This whole set looks like something out of the Tom Baker era.

 

SMILE OR DIE!

However, these are just a few flaws in what is a very enjoyable story. Bill continues to be great (in a few episodes time she may end up being my second favourite New Who companion, if not number one) and if the quality remains this good, we could have the best New Who series, surpassing even Series 4 and 5. Considering Smile had the most potential out of all the episodes to be bad, the fact that it’s good bodes very well for the episodes that looked great from the start.

Such as this week, featuring elephants and a frozen Thames. I cannot wait for this Saturday.

Doctor Who Series 10: The Pilot review

It’s finally here! After 16 months (excluding last year’s Christmas and the entirety of Class) Doctor Who is back without Clara! Yes!

It’s been so long since a new companion I actually had to rewatch the Bells of St John to remind myself of the last time a companion got introduced. To be precise, it’s been over 4 years, which is why The Pilot is so refreshing and feels so new.

As usual, this will contain spoilers, so definitely watch the episode first before reading.

Compared with the Bells of St John (which is a stupider title let’s be honest) this is a much more subtle affair. There’s no massive mystery surrounding Bill and the action is subdued for the first half. It’s more comparable to Rose or Partners in Crime, where the dynamic between the Doctor and the companion take centre stage over the alien plot.

I’ve complained in the past how many Capaldi era villains (Skovox Blitzer, moon spiders, Fisher King, Lenny the Lion and to an extent the Veil) have had no impact on the plot, been sidelined or are underwhelming. Here, I’m willing to let the lacklustre villain aside as there was a clear focus on reintroducing the world of Doctor Who and introducing the new companion. I will not be so kind on this week’s Emojibots if they end up being as stupid as some people think they will be.

So what about the rest of the story? Well, obviously this is Bill’s first story and in 50 minutes I already like her more than Clara. To be fair, I liked Nardole in one Christmas Special more than Clara and it’s pretty easy for me to like a companion more than Clara. Bill is the complete opposite of Clara, who was incredibly unrelatable as time went on and essentially became the Doctor by Series 9. Here however, we have a companion who is completely normal with a normal life and with no big mystery surrounding her, which is great. She’s a combination of Donna and Ace (my two favourite companions after Sarah Jane) and I like the fact that the Doctor acts like a father figure to her like the First, Third and Seventh Doctors were to their companions. This is the dynamic we should have gotten with Clara, and it’s a shame Peter Capaldi is leaving this year so this dynamic may be lost (depends who the new Doctor is).

This scene is awesome and it’s the best “companion enters the TARDIS” scene in my opinion.

Nardole returns yet again, and once again proves that a bit of comedy is never a bad thing. He and the Twelfth Doctor have very good physical comedy and character beats that remind me of the Second Doctor and Jamie. It’s clear from this episode that Nardole now acts as the Doctor’s conscience, as shown when he tells Bill “He doesn’t see the tears”. He doesn’t appear to be in the next one, so I can only assume he’s staying behind at the university to guard the vault, which seems to be the story arc of the series. Many people, including myself I’ll admit, were hesitant about Nardole’s presence in the series, but from his two stories as a companion I’m very happy with what I’ve seen. I loved the call back to Robots of Death when he explains the TARDIS dimensions to Bill and his “Wa-hay” when Bill says the famous line that all companions say when they first see the TARDIS.

What’s in the vault? My money’s on John Simm’s Master.

Another great thing about this story is that I actually got scared. Whilst the monster isn’t the most original concept (the Flood and the Midnight Entity come to mind as similar concepts) the scene where Bill is trying to figure out who’s in her house and she sees an eye in the shower plug was genuinely creepy and I had my knees up to hid the screen. My mum thought it was too scary, but that’s the point of Doctor Who in a way. As someone with fond memories of being scared of the werewolf, the faceless granny, the Empty Child, Weeping Angels, the Flood and the Silence, I think it’s great that a new generation have their own behind the sofa moments.

I’ll admit that I think the chase portion of the episode was the weakest aspect. We have a random trip to (CGI) Australia, a BBC quarr- I mean an alien planet and a war between the Daleks and Movellans (Steven Moffat has just outdone the Macra in Gridlock with “random Classic Who” villain returning. What next? The Malus?). This aspect of the episode is entertaining, it’s just a bit random and I wish the whole episode was in the university where the dark lighting could have kept the creepy tone throughout. On the subject of the Daleks, I think this confirms the popular belief that the Daleks have to be used every year otherwise the BBC use the rights (they appeared in the LEGO Batman Movie though so maybe the BBC do own them). Their appearance is very brief, even briefer than their cameos in Waters of Mars and Wedding of River Song, and are just there to add another scene to the plot. That said, I’d rather have a brief cameo than a rushed Dalek story taking up a slot in the series. I just hope Chris Chibnall uses them well.

I actually rewatched Into the Dalek thinking the Daleks would be important. How wrong I was.

Despite all this, the story was not the focus for this episode, and what it focused on worked very well. The new TARDIS team is great, the story arc is intriguing (how Missy, the Monks, the John Simm Master, the Mondasian Cybermen and possibly the Landlord fit into all this I don’t know) and it’s just great that Doctor Who is finally back on consistent schedule (I say consistent but this week’s episode may be delayed due to football. If that happens heads will roll). Introductory stories are never the best, but they’ve all been good, and The Pilot continues that trend.

Onto Smile, the episode with the Emoji Bots. Let’s hope it’s better than In the Forest of the Night…

Doctor Who Series 10- Let the hype begin

Hasn’t this year gone quickly? It’s already April and the new Doctor Who series is on the horizon. So, like with the past two series, I’ll be going through the series and looking at which episodes I’m looking forward to the most.

  • The Pilot

So what’s with that title? I know Steven Moffat wants to have it feel like a brand new show, but that title’s weird. Anyway, this is the opening episode, which are never my most anticipated, but nonetheless this one is important as it’ll introduce Bill. From what I’ve read the Doctor is stuck on Earth like Jon Pertwee was and is doing lectures at Bill’s university. You’ve also got Nardole coming back as the second companion (I loved him in the Christmas Special and look forward to seeing more of him) and the Daleks returning. Again. This will be the second series in a row with a Dalek opener and I hope this isn’t a trend. Whilst the rest of the series sounds more exciting, this is the most important, as new viewers will be introduced to the Whoniverse and viewers who have gone off the show will want to be reminded why this show is awesome.

  • Smile

Out of all the episodes this series, this is the one I’m approaching with the most caution. While the idea of emoji robots is a silly concept, this show has done the Kandyman and superheroes so I’m fine with the idea. The switching faces remind me of the Smilers from The Beast Below (very underrated story may I add). The main reason I’m approaching this one carefully is the writer, Frank Cottrel Boyce, wrote the unmatched genius of In the Forest of the Night (it’s hard to be sarcastic while typing) and I don’t want a repeat of “We’re going to phone everyone on Earth and tell them to leave the trees alone”. The off world story is very important to new viewers as they need to see the diverse nature of the Whoniverse and End of the World, Gridlock, Planet of the Ood, Beast Below and The Rings of Akhaten are all great stories which showcase just how creative the show can be with alien planets and cultures. I just hope this episode matches up to them.

  • Thin Ice

Now we’re talking. The pseudo historical is my favourite genre of Doctor Who, and this one set in 1814 (Regency Period, the same as Blackadder III) is right up my alley. It once again has stiff competition in the “first trip companion has to the past” department against The Unquiet Dead, The Shakespeare Code, The Fires of Pompeii and Cold War (I really liked this one on a rewatch) but considering Sarah Dollard wrote Face the Raven we should be in for good things. This is set in the last Frost Fair and is rumoured to be about a giant snake in the Thames. Much like the off world story, the historical story needs to show viewers the variety of the show and demonstrate the BBC’s massive costume department. This is one of my most anticipated of the series, and it seems to be a standalone story with everything I want from an episode, especially the giant snake. Incidentally, I really hope the monsters this year are scarier and more intimidating that Lenny the Lion and walking sleep dust.

  • Knock Knock

I really hope that picture matches the episode. Not much is known about this one except for the fact it introduces the Landlord (played by one of my mum’s favourite actors David Suchet), who may or not be a Time Lord. This is written by Mike Bartlett in his first Who script, so we should expect ideas outside of the norm. Rumoured to be one of the scariest of the series, this story will supposedly answer why the floorboards creak. Giant woodlice are also supposed to be involved, so I’m hoping for the Tractators from the great Peter Davison story Frontios to return. How the wood people tie into all this is a mystery, but I hope they don’t have a connection to that terrible Christmas special which I can’t be bothered to type out because it’s too long (the one with the trees. Doctor Who and trees don’t get along well). I’m expecting this to be tied to the story arc in some way due to the Landlord being a heavly promoted character.

  • Oxygen

Again, really hope that picture matches. We once again have a story where we don’t know much, however I love what we do know. It’s set on a spaceship and appears to be similar to a Troughton base under siege and the underrated Series 3 story 42. It’s written by Jamie Mathieson who wrote the brilliant Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline in Series 8 and co wrote the slightly less awesome but still fun Girl Who Died in Series 9. This appears to be another scary one and the clips of the Doctor and Bill in space appear to be from this story. I’m hoping that this turns out to be one of the best, as this also seems very standalone and character based. There’s no monster I can much to this episode, so maybe they’re too scary to put in the trailer like the Foretold was or they’re being hidden. It’s been ages since I’ve been scared by Doctor Who (it’s not the fact I’m older, as Waters of Mars still terrifies me) so hopefully this will truly be behind the sofa stuff.

  • Extremis/The Pyramid at the End of the World/The Lie of the Land

This is where things start to get really interesting, as there is a three part epic right in the middle of the series. This is my most anticipated of the series for many reasons. My favourite Master is returning, there’s some awesome looking new villains and it’s a three parter, which is very rare for the New Series. Whether this is going to be a full on three parter or a trilogy of linked like the Black Guardian trilogy or E-Space trilogy from Classic Who we don’t know. There’s three different writers, so my money’s on the second option. Part 1 is by Steven Moffat (mostly reliable), Part 2 is by Peter Harness (as long as he writes something like the Zygon Inversion and not Kill the Egg we should be fine) and Part 3 is by my favourite Doctor Who writer Toby Whithouse, so at least one part of this story will be awesome. Having a story this big in the middle of the series should be great as it will build momentum rather than lose momentum as a series often does, so let’s hope this story deserves a quarter of the series.

  • The Empress of Mars (WHAT a title)

As I’ve mentioned, I liked Cold War a lot more when I rewatched it a month ago. I didn’t like it when it first aired but I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a pretty good, if slightly rushed Ice Warrior story with an awesome setting and Matt Smith is great in it. The Ice Warriors are a very complex species so hopefully we will see good Ice Warriors, the awesome Ice Lord and the Grand Marshall in this episode. I like most of Mark Gatiss’s episodes and hopefully this one won’t slip under the radar due to its placement in the series. This one will be set on Mars (a potential return for the Flood?) and will also somehow have Zulu warriors. I’m looking forward to this one a lot more having rewatched both Cold War and watching their Classic Who stories (The Seeds of Death is really really fun and Curse of Peladon is one of my favourite Jon Pertwee stories). The Ice Warrior seen in the trailer appears to be the Empress of the Ice Warriors. This isn’t one of my most anticipated, but I think it’ll end up being one of my favourites.

  • The Eaters of Light

The first story in the New Series to be written by a Classic Who writer, Rona Monroe. She wrote the fantastic final story of Classic Who, Survival, which I highly recommend to anybody interested in checking out Classic Who as it’s very similar to Russel T Davies’s take on the show. Not much has been revealed apart from the title, but it appears to be set in ancient times (Romans are involved so probably the Roman conquest) and is said to be set in Scotland. Here’s hoping Peter Capaldi channels Sylvester McCoy in this one. This may end up being a pure historical, but judging by the title it’s probably not. As it’s the story before the finale, it needs to keep the momentum of the show going as Fear Her, In the Forest of the Night and Sleep No More all killed the momentum of the series which it needed before the finale. It may end up connecting to the finale like Utopia or Turn Left, but seeing how we don’t know anything about the arc it’s only speculation at this stage.

  • Episode 11 & 12

The original Cybermen from the Tenth Planet are back for what should hopefully be a fantastic finale. Steven Moffat’s track record with finales is patchy (Series 5, 7 and 8 have amazing finales, Series 6’s is meh and the less said about Hell Bent the better) but as this is his final one I’m expecting good things. We have Cybermen from the Tenth Planet as well as the new ones and the Cybus ones returning, so all we need are the Tomb of the Cybermen ones, the Invasion ones and the Exxxcellent ones from the 80’s. Missy is also returning, which is great as there’s always room for more Missy, and everything indicates that this will be one of the best finales of New Who. The Cybermen are my favourite monster and I’ve been longing for a finale in which they take centre stage, so I was so happy when I heard the news. Before this finale, watch the Tenth Planet and listen to the Big Finish audio Spare Parts for background on the Mondasian Cybermen. They’re so creepy with the cloth faces and sing-song voice and I hope Steven Moffat does them justice.

All in all, I am obviously very excited about Series 10. Unlike most of the other seasons, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious filler or cheap episodes, which is fantastic. We’ve got great writers, fantastic sounding episodes and a wide variety of monsters old and new. Add on top of that a new companion and a Doctor at the height of his powers and we should be in for what I hope is the first truly perfect series of New Who, because a perfect series is possible. Peter Capaldi deserves to go out on a high.

Here are my rankings from most to least anticipated-

  1. The Missy/Monk three parter
  2. Oxygen
  3. Thin Ice
  4. The finale
  5. Knock Knock
  6. The Eaters of Light
  7. The Pilot
  8. The Empress of Mars
  9. Smile