Do you know why I love Doctor Who? The ideas. Over 55 years this show has always striven to be the most imaginative, daring and bold television show on the planet. Stories that focus entirely on ideas are among my favourites- Tom Baker’s Warrior’s Gate is a wonderful piece of science fiction, Kinda and Enlightenment are my two favourite Peter Davison stories, The God Complex dissects the Doctor’s character by forcing him to battle the very idea of narrative and Ghost Light, the infamously complex and divisive story from the original run’s final season, is one of my all time favourite stories in anything ever. Whilst Series 11 has so far been strong on character and stories, in terms of pure ideas it’s been a bit behind. Until tonight. It Takes You Away (I assume the title refers to how the episode blows your mind) is not only the best episode of the series by a long shot (and remember, I consider both Rosa and Demons of the Punjab to be masterpieces and like everything else barring Tsuranga Conundrum) but one of the most original, bonkers, crazy, delightful, imaginative, complex and heartfelt stories the show has done in a looooong time, perhaps ever. Ed Hime, take a bow.
Category Archives: New Series reviews and rankings
Whoops, I missed a week. Events such as college, college and college prevented me from writing a Kerblam! review but in short: loved it, most fun episode since The Crimson Horror, bring Twirly back as a companion, Pete McTighe needs to write more episodes and it should have been episode 5. Now onto this week’s episode, The Witchfinders, which I’ve been anticipating for a while. I love historical episodes and the witch trials are a fascinating period of English history. With a female Doctor this premise promised great things and the episode even secured probably the biggest guest star since John Hurt with Alan Cumming (known to nerds like me as Nightcrawler from X-Men 2) as King James I & VI (it’s complicated). Fortunately this episode lived up to the hype by being a return to traditional Who- monsters, history and horror combining in a gloriously entertaining episode with one amazing guest role. Chris Chibnall may be an excellent showrunner, but he should really leave the majority of the writing to guest writers. Joy Wilkinson gets Who.
Question- what did we do to deserve this series? Seriously, we were lucky to have one era-defining historical story but to have two? The conspiracy theorist thinks Chibnall made last week deliberately “meh” in order to make us savour something with substance, and something with substance we got. Demons of the Punjab is a wonderful episode that encapsulates everything brilliant about this show and deals with a difficult subject matter with skill and precision. I dare say it’s even better than Rosa, but I’ll need to rewatch it. Rather than stick an alien invasion plot in the middle of a controversial period of history, Vinay Patel takes a complex, multi layered look at war, remembrance and religion.
The Peter Davison story The Awakening is neither good nor bad. It exists as a story of Doctor Who. The same can be said for this week’s episode, The Tsuranga Conundrum. For the first time since I don’t even know, we have an episode that really gives me no real emotion either way. Was it an exemplary piece of television? No. Was it a disaster? No. It simply was. It’s Schrodinger’s episode.
On Netflix there’s about 100 various b-movies, mainly from the 80’s that are incredibly obscure and cheesy. I mention this because this week’s Doctor Who was essentially a b-movie with a budget. After three quite serious weeks we had a chance to see this new team loosen up and engage with a sterotypical monster of the week plot befitting of the Pertwee era. In a week that was quite intense for me having to hand in my English coursework (hence the late review), a fun nonsensical Doctor Who episode was a great way to start the week and a fun, nonsensical episode we got.
Going into yesterday’s episode, I will admit I was concerned. How was Chris Chibnall and Malorie Blackman going to pull this off? The show had done touchy topics and addressed the past before, but not events that happened a mere decade before the show started in 1963 concerning events that still have an impact today. There was every chance that this episode could have gone wrong, but fortunately Rosa ended up being a game changer. Three episodes into the Chibnall era and we have been given one of the finest historical stories of the entire show, one that effortlessly captures the essence of the show and brilliantly handles its difficult subject matter with skill and care.
After last week’s epic introduction to the Thirteenth Doctor, Chris Chibnall has restored Doctor Who to a level of popularity not seen since the 50th anniversary. He has followed this up with a fairly risky episode (although not as risky as next week… oh boy…) which evokes the show’s beginnings- The Ghost Monument is an incredibly slow burning episode, evoking the show’s early epics like The Keys of Marinus and creating a fully fledged alien world for the characters to learn to adapt to. Whilst not as impactful as last week’s this was a nice exploration episode that focused on making these disparate individuals work together.
After months and months of waiting, we have finally reached The Thirteenth Doctor. Yesterday saw the debut episode of Jodie Whittaker’s era of Doctor Who, and it was worth the wait. Whilst far from being the greatest episode ever, The Woman Who Fell to Earth is a very enjoyable, refreshing start to what I hope is a solid season of Doctor Who. This episode channelled the best of the Tennant/Smith years and had a similar vibe to last year’s The Pilot, except with added freshness and darkness.
What an exciting time to be a Whovian. We have a new showrunner and a female Doctor on the way, but before we get there, we had the final story of the highly interesting Peter Capaldi era, and by an extension Steven Moffat’s time as showrunner. By “interesting” I mean that no matter what you think of this past era, whether you think it’s a new Golden Age or a complete mess (I’ve seen strong arguments for both sides), it has been fascinating to watch. It has all come to an end with the incredibly low key adventure Twice Upon a Time. This story had a lot riding on it- it had to write off the Twelfth Doctor, give the First Doctor a good reason to regenerate, follow through on one of the absolute best Doctor Who stories and a very strong series and do all that whilst being cohesive. Did it do that? Mostly.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room here- this was not the First Doctor. Whilst I’m not denying that David Bradley did a great job recreating William Hartnell’s tics and mannerisms, Steven Moffat’s writing just really let the side down. I understand what he was trying to do- he was using the First Doctor as a way to critique 60’s attitudes and mentality and show how far the show has come. The issue is that it goes against the First Doctor’s character. Yes, in Season 1 he was incredibly condescending, rude and abrasive to everyone. But this is supposed to be the Tenth Planet First Doctor in Season 4, who is a lot more like his future selves and accepting of everyone. Any sexist or discriminatory remarks or actions were a product of the time the stories were made, not the character himself. The First Doctor has been established as being the same as the others in mentality, as all the references to his childhood on Gallifrey refer to the idea that Time Lords have no set gender. So why One would be condescending towards women?
Another issue is that Moffat’s intentions are good, but not necessary because the show has done a fantastic job of moving away from the 60’s mentality. Having a female Doctor is a strong enough statement to show that the show has come far from the idea that the female companion was second tier to the masculine Doctor and companions (even then, Barbara is an excellent character who is a very strong female companion in the 60’s). We’ve had strong, diverse characters and the show has made great leaps in progress. Moffat really didn’t need to emphasise the differences between the 60’s and now because people know. Fans know that Toberman from Tomb of the Cybermen is not equatable to Martha, Mickey and Bill and that the modern era’s strong female characters are evidence of the show changing.
So, other than that massive issue, how was the episode? Pretty decent.
Whilst I would have loved the Twelfth Doctor to regenerate in The Doctor Falls, I was pretty happy with this episode. The best aspect of it is how it fixed one of my biggest problems with the Capaldi era and actually brought together all three seasons of his era together. His era had felt disjointed and unconnected, with no real continuity between them. This is probably due to Moffat completely changing Twelve’s behaviour and story arcs after Series 8 flopped with many people. After that you had Series 9, seen as an improvement by some but more of the same for others. Following this there was Series 10 which had a completely different tone and style again. In contrast to the other New Series Doctors, Capaldi’s run hasn’t been the most connected or well thought out.
So when everything got connected here, I was happy. Rusty the Dalek was a great callback, the stupid stupid memory wipe was erased and Clara returned briefly, which despite everything I’ve said about her I really liked. It was a great way to connect the era and I liked how Bill and Nardole were incorporated as well, allowing Twelve to say goodbye to all his companions. I would have liked to see Missy as well so that the Doctor would know she ultimately died fighting for him but that’s a minor gripe. Capaldi’s era has been retroactively improved by the inclusion of Clara in this story and the removal of one of the worst aspects of Hell Bent. I might actually like it now. Emphasis on “might”.
The story itself was very interesting and it had great ideas. The Testimony are a great idea which I would like to see again, and it’s great that they weren’t a villain and the situation were a misunderstanding. Although I am desperate for truly evil and memorable villains in the show again. The inclusion of the General was great, as he added some gravitas to the story and connected the plot to the wider Whoniverse. The Christmas Truce was a great touch with real meaning and weight to it, although I saw it coming. There isn’t too much to the plot, as there isn’t really one, but I can forgive it as it was more of a character piece. But again, I am so desperate for in depth stories and monsters again. It’s also great how this story brought Bill back without ruining her departure in the finale, which I thought was excellent.
Despite having many issues with the First Doctor, I did like some aspects of his interactions with the Twelfth Doctor. I loved how he learnt about change and how seeing his future set him on the path to regenerate, and the opening scene with The Tenth Planet was amazing. The Twelfth Doctor was utter gold, and it’s one of his best portrayals. The Doctor Falls was all about the Doctor earning his rest after so many years of fighting, whilst Twice Upon a Time is about him deciding he doesn’t need it and that the universe would be worse off without him. To top it all off, we get an amazing final speech and one final, brilliant performance from Peter Capaldi. Even in his worst scripts, he has shone.
So in conclusion, pretty decent. This wouldn’t make my Top 10 Capaldi stories or my Top 5 Christmas Specials but it was pretty enjoyable on the whole. Can’t wait for the next series.
Wait, there was something else?
Oh yeah, Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.
I’ll be absolutely honest here and say that this is the quickest I have accepted a new Doctor. Excluding David Tennant, who was my first, it took me roughly around Vampires of Venice to truly “get” Matt Smith’s Doctor (now my favourite) and I don’t know when I accepted Peter Capaldi. It certainly took a while, but by The Zygon Inversion I truly got into his incarnation and until Series 10 before I consistently enjoyed him. With Jodie Whittaker, all it took for me to see her as the Doctor was her grin and proclaiming “Oh brilliant”, before being immediately thrown out of an exploding TARDIS in the most Doctorly sequence imaginable. I’m sold already.
Bring on Series 11.
To quote Tom Baker- “It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for.” We have one more Peter Capaldi story to go so what better time than to look back at the best of his era. It’s been a bumpy ride but the good ultimately outweighed the bad. so let’s not waste any time and dive straight in-
A very strong early Series 8 script, Listen is an incredibly atmospheric and clever standalone that is unlike any other story in the show’s history. The sequences in the children’s home and at the end of the universe are very well written and full of tension and the dialogue is strong throughout. I love the simplicity of the storytelling and how real tension and scares were crafted out of barely anything at all. The final scene where the Doctor’s childhood was revealed could have been terrible, but I think it added to the mythology of the show. I wonder if we’ll get a reference this Christmas.
The great thing about this episode is how everything is ambiguous. The whole concept of fear and whether monsters are real or a figment of people’s imagination is a fascinating concept and one I think the episode handles very well. Watching this was one of the first times I truly saw Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and I love stories where the Doctor is vulnerable or unsure of himself. The only story I can compare this to is The Edge of Destruction, another story with no villain and that focuses entirely on character relationships and atmosphere.
9. The Eaters of Light
One of several Series 10 stories that will pop up on this list, I really love this story. Whilst monster-of-the-week plots tend to fall flat, I found this one to be strong mainly because of the themes presented throughout, such as the theme of colonisation and also about the Doctor’s responsibilities. There are many similarities to Rona Munroe’s previous story Survival, as once again there are a group of youngsters thrown into a world they don’t understand and they have to fend for themselves. I just love stories which have more under the surface.
Having this be the story before the finale really helped in my opinion, as like Boom Town it was linked to the finale through common themes and character exploration. There’s the idea of time dilation, the Doctor and Bill being seperated and the Doctor’s willingness for sacrifice. The monster was great, the TARDIS team were great, especially Nardole, and I adore the pseudo-historical scripts in the show most of the time so this one was right up my alley. The mystical elements of the plot were also really well handled and added to the story rather than detracted.
8. Mummy on the Orient Express
One of the stronger stories from Capaldi’s first year, this story was a breath of fresh air in 2014 and is still entertaining now. On top of being a fun and well paced murder mystery with a Doctor Who vibe, this story is vital in fixing the Doctor and Clara’s relationship after the ending of Kill the Moon (the only good bit about Kill the Moon may I add) and does it very well. One of the best things about this episode was the ending, where the Doctor questions his own morals and comes to term with how Clara sees him. The character growth comes naturally from the story as opposed to being in the foreground, a common problem with this era.
The villains in this were great, with the Foretold being a very memorable monster, and I love the Doctor going solo in this adventure and solving the mystery on his own. Perkins is a really watchable character and I have a hunch that Steven Moffat considered bringing him back as the second companion of Series 10 before settling on Nardole. I adore the steampunk setting and the macabre tone throughout, with the delightfully sadistic Gus being my favourite Series 8 villain. Overall a solid slice of Doctor Who that will be remembered as a highlight of Series 8.
Considering this story focuses on Clara, I’m amazed I like this story as much as I do. It’s probably due to the incredibly tight script and the fascinating monsters combined with a simple but engaging plot. There are so many brilliant ideas here, such as the shrinking TARDIS, two dimensional beings, the companion becoming the Doctor and at the same time the Doctor learning how others see him through Clara. The best moment comes at the end, when the Doctor tells Clara that she was an “outstanding Doctor. Goodness had nothing to do with it”.
The Boneless are in my opinion the best original villain from the Capaldi era and I would like to see them return some day. This is easily my favourite Clara story, and whilst she’s my least favourite New Series companion I feel this story captured her character the best out of any story in her time as a companion. The whole episode just has a very original and fun vibe to it and it’s a blast every time I watch it. The sequence where the Doctor escapes from the train using his hand is simultaneously hilarious, tense and awesome.
Despite the conclusion to this three parter being disappointing, Extremis still holds up as an incredibly dark and clever story. As a set up it’s perfect, with The Monks feeling like a true threat and the Doctor’s blindness adding a lot to the stakes in the story. The main plot about the Veritas is a strong enough mystery but it’s the final twist that gives a story a sense of scale and it’s executed perfectly, with the absurd plot (the Pope visiting the Doctor in person, the TARDIS not translating Italian and the gateways around the world) slotting together to make an immensely satisfying whole.
The subplot with Missy and the final act of heroism from the virtual Doctor also sets up the arc for the rest of the series. Nardole is a highlight here, adding humour to the dark story and this was the start of him progressing from an entertaining side character to an awesome companion. This is a very topical story for 2017, as it questions how people can survive in a world full of darkness and it raises questions about what’s real and what’s not. Can a post-Trump and Brexit world still have positives? This story confirms that as long as people do heroic things, it doesn’t matter what the world is like. Extremis is extremely poignant and very meta.
5. The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar
This story is proof that when Steven Moffat hits, he hits hard. The highlights of this two parter are Missy and the interactions between the Doctor and Davros, with the scenes between them being some of the best of the Capaldi era. Much like the Series 10 finale later on, this story manages to feel small scale and epic at the same time. It was great seeing Skaro again and even better than that was seeing Davros again, with this being one of his finest stories. Some may find the resolution unsatisfying and that all of his character development was erased, but the early scenes still have weight to them when you realise that Davros meant every word he said, even if he hadn’t truly turned good.
Missy’s inclusion helps give the sombre second half humour and she is absolutely hilarious throughout, making the scene where she makes the Doctor almost kills Clara inside the Dalek a hint towards her darker side. She’s my favourite Master and this story confirmed it and I desperately wanted her as a full time companion. I even enjoyed Clara in this story and seeing the other Daleks from the show’s past was brilliant. The whole story is about trust, redemption and regret, and it’s simply wonderful. Whilst Series 9 may have ended poorly, it began with a bang.
Otherwise known as “what Kill the Moon should have been”. Oxygen is great because it isn’t just a base under siege/horror story, as good as those aspects of it are, but because it makes a point and serves as a clever satire. There’s no real villain here as the suits are programmed to obey the unseen company controlling them and I appreciate the return to hard sci-fi. Unlike Kill the Moon, the story never forgets that it’s Doctor Who and keeps the satire to a subtext, focusing on the brilliant dynamics between the Doctor, Bill and Nardole and the intense atmosphere.
Having recently watched the Alien movies, rewatching this story allowed me to see the influences those movies had on Oxygen, with the idea of corrupt corporations and human lives being sacrificed for the sake of profit. I always love it when the show tackles interesting ideas and difficult subject matter without losing the core of what makes the show good, which is entertaining sci fi. The story is perfectly paced and features amazing direction and cinematography, with the scene of Bill losing oxygen one of Series 10’s best. A borderline perfect story made even better by its relevance to the arc.
3. Heaven Sent
This is one story. One. Putting aside what actually happened afterwards, let’s just focus on this amazing episode featuring probably the best performance by any Doctor in any story. This looked like it was doomed to failure- the Doctor on his own talking for 55 minutes, with not much plot or action. Despite this, Peter Capaldi completely sells the Doctor’s grief and determination and it’s this episode that solidifies him as probably the best actor to take the part. The whole episode serves as a magnificent analysis of the Doctor’s mind and how he works.
The music is incredible, the direction is some of the show’s best and the whole story is a breathtaking experience. It’s the kind of episode I strive to make one day. It’s not conventional Who at all, but it’s still brilliant and serves as a fantastic metaphor for grief and letting go. The final ten minutes with the billions of Doctors punching through the wall for 4.5 billion years is a scene that will go down in Doctor Who history, with one of the lowest points of the Doctor’s life suddenly turning into the most triumphant. Easily the best episode of Series 9, but my favourite is…
2. The Zygon Invasion/Inversion
This is much more conventional Who than Heaven Sent, but that doesn’t make it worse. Taking the weakest aspect of the 50th and making a two parter out of it was extremely well played on Moffat’s part and makes the 50th even better than it already is. Like the best Jon Pertwee stories, what this story does best is use the current world climate to create a very modern and relevant story. Osgood makes a much better companion than Clara ever did and the story is full of tiny moments that help flesh out the conflict such as the Zygon who kills himself as he wants peace and the implication that these kind of conflicts never achieve anything.
The intense subject matter and themes doesn’t stop it from being highly entertaining, with a great villain in Bonnie and UNIT being plain awesome. This hearkens back to the best of the Jon Pertwee era and as a massive fan of that era this story was obviously going to appeal to me. The gritty direction and sombre mood throughout makes this an immersive experience that’s a hard watch but one that’s very rewarding. Whilst the speech in The Zygon Inversion may overshadow the rest of the story, there’s enough to like in both parts to make this a modern classic.
- World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls
I’ve gushed about this enough, but simply put this is now in my Top 10 stories of all time. Considering it had to write out two companions and featured two Masters, multiple versions of Cybermen and the Doctor’s impending regeneration, I would have been happy if this was merely good. The fact that it’s brilliant in every way is one of Moffat’s finest achievements, with a story which encapsulates who both the Doctor and the Master are. Everything about this story, from the acting to the music and the direction is pitch perfect.
The Cybermen get their best showing in New Who with their origins being masterfully handled and the sheer glee of seeing two Masters on screen is enough to make any fanboy happy. The story is about triumph and who the Doctor really is and his decision to stand and fight the Cybermen makes this a brilliant bookend to his good man arc in Series 8. The themes of the series and the era as a whole are expanded upon and made better by this story. It’s epic and intimate, incredibly dark but also incredibly optimistic and is perfect in every sense of the word.