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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

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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

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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…

Thirteenth Doctor: Should the Doctor be female?

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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 Return of Doctor Mysterio review

After a whole year without Doctor Who, this Christmas saw the return of everybody’s favourite time travelling Scotsman. This year combined the world of Doctor Who with superheroes, another one of my favourite genres. With tough competition from other Christmas specials such as A Christmas Carol, The Snowmen and The Christmas Invasion, The Return of Doctor Mysterio thankfully maintained the (mostly) strong quality of the Christmas specials. Although let’s be honest, all this special had to be was not be The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe to be better than that one.

An interesting note I made straight after the episode finished. In the show’s entire 53 year run, the only story where the Doctor travelled with a male companion throughout was The Keeper of Traken, where the Fourth Doctor and Adric were the TARDIS team, with Nyssa not becoming a companion until the next story Logopolis. If we exclude The Next Doctor, End of Time and Closing Time, where the Doctor was travelling alone and had a temporary companion, as well as the Massacre, where Dodo joins right at the end of the story, then The Return of Doctor Mysterio is the only other story in the whole show’s history to have that distinction.

doctor-and-nardole

For all the naysayers, let me assure you that the Twelfth Doctor and Nardole still isn’t as odd as the Sixth Doctor and Frobisher the shape shifting penguin.

Incidentally, I really like Nardole. He didn’t have much to do in Husbands of River Song, but this year he fits into the companion role well. I love his interactions with the Doctor and he had plenty of funny lines (I love his exclamation of “Oo, elephant”. I dunno why.) I’m also glad he’s returning for Series 10. Bill may be the main companion, but having a second companion is great. Just look at Two/Jamie/Zoe, Four/Sarah/Harry, Nine/Rose/Jack and Eleven/Amy/Rory. I also like any companion who breaks the “girl from modern Earth” trope.

As for the Doctor, well, he’s brilliant as always. It’s funny how I think the Twelfth Doctor is so much more enjoyable when not partnered with Clara. He works so much better with Perkins, Ashildr, Osgood, River Song and Nardole, not to mention his appearance in Class. He even worked better with Davros, that’s how much I didn’t enjoy Clara. In this special we once again see the funny side of Twelve. I’ve heard people complain that he got sidelined, but I honestly don’t see that. He goes through the episode eating sushi, making puns and pressing buttons randomly. That’s the Doctor I love.

The plot is very cliche, but that’s OK for a Christmas special. The main villains, Harmony Shoal, were a great link to last year’s Christmas special (looks like they’ve been taking notes from the Master in “quick reappearances”). I love the way the brains have eyes and how their faces rip open to hide guns. Their plan was reminiscent of Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Zygons and Aliens of London, and while it doesn’t make much sense (it didn’t make much sense in any of those stories either), I’m willing to forgive plot holes when the story is entertaining.

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This special means that the Shoal of the Winter Harmony has appeared in the show as much as the Mara, the Macra, Omega, Peladon, the Monk, the Rani and Sil the Mentor and almost as much as the Zygons. Huh.

This is an absolute laugh riot from beginning to end, and it’s right up there with The Romans, City of Death, The Unicorn and the Wasp and Robot of Sherwood as one of the funniest stories in the show’s history. The highlight of the whole episode for me was Lucy’s interrogation of the Doctor using Mr Huffles. I honestly do not think any scene in Doctor Who history is quite as ridiculous or completely hilarious. My favourite aspect of the scene is the Doctor’s pained expression when hearing Mr Huffle’s “screams”. It’s as if he doesn’t know whether the toy is actually in pain or if he just doesn’t like the noise.

The superhero aspect was also handled really well. Superhero movies are popular so it makes sense for Doctor Who to tackle it (and it is NOT the silliest thing the show has ever done, as I’ve stated here). Just like the Jon Pertwee era homaged James Bond and the Tom Baker era homaged Hammer Horror and later Star Wars, Return of Doctor Mysterio homages the superhero genre while also fitting into the Whoniverse nicely. I am slightly disappointed that there wasn’t a Karkus reference, as any mention of The Mind Robber is a plus for me, but that’s a personal gripe.

karkus

Much like last year, in amongst the silliness there is a simple story that’s built on character. Not only does the plot stand on its own but it links in with the Doctor’s grief over River, thus explaining Nardole’s presence, and potentially sets up the Doctor’s mindset in Series 10. All the characters felt relatable and real, and it gives me real hope that Bill will be great in the way Donna, Ace and Sarah Jane were.

All in all, The Return of Doctor Mysterio was a great episode that helped me ease back into the show. Between this and Husbands of River Song, which I also immensely enjoyed, not to mention the pretty great spin off Class, the sour taste of Hell Bent has been almost completely wiped from my memory (I may enjoy most of Steven Moffat’s stories but I certainly did not enjoy the finale). This year has lacked Doctor Who, but for me personally it’s allowed me to get even more into it. I’ve met two Doctors in London Comic Con, enjoyed countless Big Finish, almost finished Classic Who and immersed myself in the Doctor Who graphic novels. This Christmas special was just the icing on the cake for my Doctor Who experience this year, and while it’s no Christmas Carol (which is one of my favourite stories), it’s a dumb, silly and highly enjoyable romp in the vein of The Runaway Bride and The Next Doctor. That’s pretty much all I need for Christmas specials.

And that’s all.

Oh wait, I forgot something…

Oh yeah, Series 10 trailer-

Well, this almost overshadowed the whole special didn’t it? What can I say other than I’m looking forward to this a lot, and in a year which will also see more Star Wars, Skulduggery Pleasant, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man, Doctor Who will unsurprisingly take priority. Bill seems like a very down to Earth and fun character and the relationship between the Doctor and Bill from this trailer indicates a similar relationship to the Third Doctor and Jo or the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Bill seems like a combination of Ace and Donna, and with Nardole thrown in too, this TARDIS team seems like it’s going to be great. Not much to say really other than the Doctor is back.

Why a superhero in Doctor Who is NOT too silly

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OK, my next post was going to be about my Harry Potter read-athon, but seeing how I still haven’t finished Deathly Hallows yet, that’s been delayed somewhat. However, something has propped up which is worth talking about- the Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio.

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Now, the common criticism I’m hearing from people is that the premise- the Doctor teams up with a superhero to save New York- is too silly and too outlandish for the show. Then cue angry fans using this as an excuse to attack Steven Moffat, complain the show was better with David Tennant/Matt Smith, unlimited rice pudding etc etc.

Right… so a show with a two thousand year old alien who changes faces and travels through time and space in a police box that’s bigger on the inside is acceptable, but a superhero is where people draw the line? This isn’t even the silliest Christmas special. Remember A Christmas Carol, with Dumbledore flying a shark? Or Voyage of the Damned, with a replica of the Titanic hijacked by robot angels? Or Last Christmas, which had FATHER CHRISTMAS? This isn’t even the first superhero in the show. Case in point, I give you the Karkus, from the Second Doctor story The Mind Robber-

karkus

In this instance, the Karkus is a fictional superhero from a comic strip which the Doctor’s companion Zoe reads in the almighty future of the year 2000. The Land of Fiction where the main characters are trapped in brings fictional beings to life. The story has a cliffhanger where Jamie and Zoe are crushed by a giant book, Jamie loses his face and the Doctor accidentally gives him the wrong one, and a unicorn. This story, incidentally, is awesome, and makes total sense in context.

Yet, a superhero in Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who is totally pushing the boundaries of the show.

I haven’t even mentioned The Gunfighters, which is a musical set in the Wild West. Or The Happiness Patrol, where a robot made out of sweets forces people to be happy and the TARDIS is painted pink. Or maybe the Pirate Planet, where a cyborg pirate with a robot parrot controls a hollow planet to crush smaller planets. How about Amy’s Choice, with killer grannies? Or perhaps I should refer the naysayers to Smith and Jones, where rhinoceros policemen move a hospital on the Moon and hunt down a vampire disguised as an old lady who sucks people’s blood with a straw. Doctor Who has always been inherently silly and a superhero is absolutely not the worst thing linked with the show.

Uh huh, Steven Moffat’s tenure is totally the only time the show got really really silly. I actually really like this story, but it is ridiculously silly.

Yes stories like Heaven Sent, Inferno, Vincent and the Doctor, The Seeds of Doom, The Waters of Mars and The Curse of Fenric are all fantastic and among the show’s best, but we can’t have body horror, mental illness, and the whole world being torn apart every week. Sometimes we need some light hearted, fun and occasionally comedic scripts to balance the mood. Stories like City of Death (which is possibly the silliest script the show has ever had), The Unicorn and the Wasp, Robot of Sherwood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Romans and Carnival of Monsters are all delightfully absurd and wacky.

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Need I remind the “Doctor Who must always be serious” brigade that one of the best stories of all time, Genesis of the Daleks, has giant clams? I think that’s a lot sillier than a superhero.

Some Doctor Who fans just can’t get to grips with the fact that sometimes the show needs to be light hearted. People complain that the show is too comedic now but I’m sorry, I don’t see it. In the past two years we’ve had scripts involving cyborgs gouging people’s eyes out, creatures under the bed, a mummy that slowly murders people one by one, two dimensional beings that flatten people, Cybermen being resurrected from graves, ghosts, a Zygon terrorist group, Clara being killed (I don’t care, Face the Raven is the end of her story), not to mention the Doctor being trapped in an endless maze and being murdered billions of times over and over again. We’ve had stories dealing with genocide, war, psychological horror and grief.

mummy

Yup, this is a totally funny and lighthearted romp through time and space with a nice and fluffy monster isn’t it?

If anything, the show is a lot darker than the David Tennant and Matt Smith years. There have been comedic scripts such as Robot of Sherwood (which contained a darker and mature subtext), In the Forest of the Night (OK, that was terrible), The Girl Who Died (which dealt with the Doctor coming to terms with who he was) and The Husbands of River Song (which was emotionally linked with Silence in the Library), but they are infrequent compared to the serious stories.

kandyman

This is an actual monster from an actual story of Doctor Who. I also really like this story, but it is once again really really silly.

This year’s Christmas special will be comedic, but Series 10 will be (hopefully) the balance of comedy and drama that the show is known for. Part of the reason 80’s Who is disliked by some is because there was no comedy. Just look at Peter Davison’s final season- nearly every story was a total bloodbath with little to no laughs. Conversely, Tom Baker and Patrick Troughton were both really funny and embraced the silliness of the show as well as the serious side. Just like the characters and stories, the variety in tone is what makes Doctor Who great. Sometimes a comedic script like City of Death can be awesome, whereas sometimes a serious script like Kill the Moon (shakes fist in rage) can be absolutely terrible. All that matters is the story- the way it’s told is mostly irrelevant.

warriors-of-the-deep

A pretty accurate image to sum up the doom and gloom of the Fifth Doctor’s final season. Warriors of the Deep isn’t exactly liked by fandom, but it has a “so bad it’s good” quality for me.

So this Christmas, don’t approach The Return of Doctor Mysterio (nice title) with apathy. If you enjoy City of Death or any of the other comedic scripts in the show’s history, you should have no problem here. Just remember that there’s a whole series of adventure just around the corner.

5 wishes for Doctor Who Series 10

Tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, Face the Raven, is going to be a very important one. At the Doctor Who Festival last week the writers and actors all discussed Face the Raven as a game changer. So naturally, I’m hyped. But one thing is certain; by the end of Series 9, Clara will be gone, almost certainly dead. Series 10 will hopefully see the return of a darker Doctor, one who has lost his companion and who is angry at the universe, which should hopefully change the style of storytelling.

I thought about writing this article after the series had finished, but I thought before tonight’s episode will do, given its importance. Any of the wishes I say here could happen by the end of the series. So here goes, 5 wishes I have for Series 10.

  • An interesting and new companion

face the raven

With Clara leaving, the new companion is of course going to appear soon. Now my hopes for a new companion is for someone completely different from the other New Series companions. Part of the reason I love companions like Romana and Jack are that they are so unique from all the others. I hope the new companion is either a male companion who travels independently with the Doctor (a Second Doctor/Jamie dynamic could be established) or an alien companion. Someone from the Earth’s past could be interesting as well. While I haven’t hated any New Series companion, they are all pretty similar in origins and there are several similarities between them. I love Donna because she was a break from the RTD era mould, so the third companion of the Moffat era should be a break from this era’s mould (a feisty girl with a mystery around them).

Clara’s departure should not impact the new companion either. Part of the problem I have with Series 3 is that the Tenth Doctor just wouldn’t shut up about losing Rose, meaning Martha’s introduction was like “new companion, yeah, but the old one is better”. This is partly why I find the Series 4 dynamic of The Doctor/Donna much more satisfying. I understand that Clara’s departure will be devastating for the Doctor (and the audience) but he shouldn’t be mourning for a whole series. Clara’s introduction worked because the Doctor got over Amy and Rory’s departure and accepted Clara, so the audience automatically did. The companion is the surrogate for the audience, so it is important the Doctor treats them with respect. Yes, Series 10 has to have an angry and upset Doctor, but the new companion needs to be treated as their own character, not just as a replacement for Clara.

  • Bring back more old monsters and have better new ones

zygon

Series 10 needs to be braver when it comes to reviving older monsters. This year, the Zygons returned with a bang after only two appearances (one of which wasn’t focused on them) and Davros returned after seven years. This was much more refreshing than just the Daleks, Cybermen or the Master, although two out of three of them have already appeared. I love the Daleks and the Cybermen, but they need a break to make their appearances have more impact. The show needs to revive older monsters, preferably ones who haven’t appeared for a while.

The Zygons have already been successfully revived, so I think it is time for the Rutans, the Mara, the Ice Warriors or the Autons to have a revival. The Rutans and Mara haven’t appeared in the New Series yet, and they have plenty of potential, while the Ice Warriors and Autons are monsters who have appeared but can be used better than how they were. Cold War was a very rushed re-introduction to the Ice Warriors who deserve a two parter (as I write I’m listening to a Sixth Doctor audio featuring them), and the Autons haven’t been used since 2010, when they are a fascinating threat. On that note, why didn’t Closing Time use them? It’s set in a shop! Even the Sontarans haven’t had a story focused on them since 2008.

More monsters I would like to see include the Terileptils, Sil, the Mandragora Helix, the Fendahl and Omega. If the Macra can re- appear, then I see no reason why he can’t.

omega

Omega versus the Third and Second Doctor. I still have a long way to wait for this story in my viewing marathon but I can’t wait to watch it.

However, Series 10 needs cool new threats as well. In the whole Capaldi era, only the Teller, the Foretold and the Boneless have had a huge impact from Series 8, while Series 9 has lacked an awesome new alien. The ghosts were great, but the Fisher King should have been better than he was, and the other new monsters have barely made an impact. Christopher Eccleston had the Slitheen and the Empty Child, David Tennant had the Ood, Weeping Angels, Judoon and Vashta Nerada, while Matt Smith had the Silence. Capaldi’s era needs a truly iconic and terrifying threat. Series 9 could potentially have the weakest rogues gallery of the revival after Series 7, which barely had villains at all.

  • More focus on story

I have loved the new focus on character and emotion recently, and the idea to make nearly every story a two parter is great. However, often the story gets lost in the muddle. The plot, villains and action of a story is just as important as the character and emotion in my eyes. Stories like Kill the Moon have suffered because it forgot the plot and became a talky episode about killing a moon baby (facepalm) and while the Woman Who Lived was significantly better, the plot still got sidelined to the point where the villain literally exploded for no reason.

Episodes like The Waters of Mars, Mummy on the Orient Express, Vincent and the Doctor and The Satan Pit are all great examples of a story has an equal balance of character drama and emotion and also having a great story and threat. Yes, the Krafygis wasn’t needed in Vincent and the Doctor, but it still functioned in the plot and didn’t feel sidelined, to me at least.

Other examples include The Waters of Mars, which is both a great base under siege story and a powerful character drama while Human Nature is a basic plot made into a story full of strong themes and ideas, with the threat still intact and the story in place.

 

underthelake

Under the Lake is another great example from recent memory with an equal balance of story and character.

In short, the story telling needs to be written alongside the character work, not written separatly and bunched together.

  • The Doctor needs to have a consistent costume
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This awesome promo picture is on my wall and is how I want the Twelfth Doctor to look.

A bit minor, but still an issue I want to address. When Capaldi was introduced, he had that awesome buttoned jacket and plain white shirt. Simple, but effective. So why does it keep changing? I don’t mind costume changes, as Pertwee changed costume all the time, but all his costumes were regal and posh. Capaldi has worn hoodies, boring jumpers and loose white shirts. It doesn’t really scream “Lord of Time” when the main character has a polka dot shirt, hoodie or baggy trousers. Yes, I know Troughton wore baggy trousers but that was in character with his Doctor. Capaldi is a harsh and uncompromising Doctor, so it really doesn’t suit him.

Imagine being a Dalek and confronting the Doctor when he is dressed like this. Not very intimidating, is it?

Thankfully, tonight’s episode has got the Doctor wearing a gorgeous purple velvet coat, similar to his original one.

purple coat

This evokes class and is reminiscent of Pertwee. I love it.

This screams “Lord of Time” and I think he should coordinate between this one and his original coat. It’s a minor point, but I fail to see why the Twelfth Doctor has so many stories where he looks so un-Doctorly. Why is he wearing a baggy white shirt with a pink one underneath when confronting Davros, his archenemy? Into the Dalek, Flatline, Death in Heaven and now Face the Raven have had Twelve at his most regal and impressive, like he should be. Although the First Doctor esque costume in Mummy on the Orient Express was great.

  • Alien worlds

I can’t stress this enough, but I am really tired of Earth in Doctor Who. I understand the budget may not be able to accommodate an alien world every week, but if the Classic Series can have unique worlds and planets every series, then I fail to see why the New Series can’t.

krop tor

Krop Tor from the Impossible Planet is one of my favourite alien worlds in the show.

Capaldi has had two stories fully set on alien planets (Time Heist and The Witch’s Familiar) while Tennant and Smith has had plenty of interesting ones. The Doctor Who universe is so huge and vast, so quite why Earth is always visited baffles me. I won’t even mind a space station or a space ship, but Earth is really getting dull as a story location, especially London. If Earth stories are going to be the norm, then they should be set somewhere like Japan, Australia (the only story ever set there is the Enemy of the World) or Chandler’s Ford to shake things up a bit (OK, maybe not that last place). I understand location filming is expensive, but locations can be mocked up, and for the benefit of an interesting story I want a more diverse set of locations next year away from Earth.

Sydney opera house

I think I speak for all Australian Whovians when I say that a story set there would be awesome, and I’m not even Australian.

So those are my five wishes for Series 10. There are still three weeks to go of Series 9 so some of this may become outdated but I think now is a good time to say what I would like from the show next series.

Oh, and a theme tune change. I want awesome time travelling, not strangled cats. The variation from Before the Flood is what Capaldi’s Doctor needs every week-

Until then, it’s time to Face the Raven…

Top 5 Twelfth Doctor scenes

With Series 9 on the horizon, I feel it’s time to reflect on the Twelfth Doctor’s previous series. With a multitude of amazing moments, it was hard to choose, but I’ve finally been able to narrow it down. For this, I’m going for the best and most important, not necessarily the funniest, so “Top layer if you want a few words”, “Shuttity up up up” and “Can you hurry up please or I’ll hit you with my shoe” will not be here.

I’ll be doing them in the order of the episodes they were in, as I don’t think a ranking would be enough for the Twelfth (and his eyebrows).

Looking into the Dalek’s mind- Into the Dalek

This is a great scene which shows the kinder side of this Doctor. What works about this is that you can clearly see that the Doctor is determined to be right, and prove that a Dalek can be good. There is some clever misdirection here, as for a moment, it seems the Doctor has won. But then, the tables are turned and Rusty starts killing the Daleks. In Rusty’s mind, this is what a good Dalek is. But for the Doctor, it’s just what a normal Dalek does. His final line is a powerful remainder that the Daleks can never change.

The beach scene- Mummy on the Orient Express

This serves as a great ending to the past two episodes. Here, the Doctor is fully admitting of his mistakes in both this episode and Kill the Moon. He knows that he is cruel and manipulative, yet he knows that being like that will ultimately solve the problem in an easy way. When there’s no simple solution to the problem, like the Mummy, there can be no easy way out. This scene not only shows what kind of a man the Twelfth Doctor is, but that he wants to be a better one.

Defeating the Boneless- Flatline

This scene once again shows the more forgiving side of the Doctor. Throughout the episode, the Doctor wanted to give the Boneless a chance and tried to make the whole situation out as a misunderstanding. It puts the Doctor’s idea of second chances to full effect. The speech also works because here, the Doctor is in charge. No longer is there a man unsure of himself. Instead, there is the man who defends the Earth from monsters. It’s so satisfying to hear him become the Doctor. Too bad the next episode failed to expand on that. Have I mentioned I HATE In the Forest of the Night?

Comforting Clara- Dark Water

This quiet scene brings the Doctor/Clara relationship full circle. The Doctor has seen the extent that Clara will go to save Danny, but instead of abandoning her, he helps her. Why? Because it’s a good deed and a thank you to Clara for staying with him over the series. The scene once again shows the Doctor in full, as he forgives, forgets and does the right thing. It is the Twelfth Doctor’s most noble act, and up there with the Third’s sacrifice, the Fifth’s trek across Androzani and the Eleventh’s protection of Trenzalore as one of the most selfless acts done in the show. This is the Doctor I want in Series 9.

A good man- Death in Heaven

My favourite Twelfth Doctor scene is also one of my favourite Doctor Who scenes in general. Here is the Doctor, with the an army at his disposal, the ability to change history, but he says no. Because that’s not who he is. He is the man willing to give Daleks and Boneless a chance. The man who accepts his place in history. The man who saves a species from extinction. The man with the trust that Clara will make the right choice and to know he’s wrong. He is a hero, a good man, and it takes the Master’s plot to drive him mad for him to realise this. He isn’t a general or a soldier because he doesn’t need to be. All he needs to be is the Doctor. It is the best moment from Series 8 in my opinion.

(As you can see, only two scenes had videos. I will update the post with the finale clips when they arrive on the Doctor Who channel. For some reason the Mummy scene isn’t there)

And those were my favourite Twelfth Doctor moments. Series 8 as a whole is my second favourite series, below only Series 4. There is a high chance Series 9 may be able to beat it though. 8 days to go!