Ever heard of second chances? Well, a couple of months ago that’s what I gave the Doctor Who Series 9 finale, Hell Bent. One of the most divisive episodes of perhaps the entire show, I was firmly in the “dislike” camp. More than dislike- in fact I remember during the 2016 hiatus my enthusiasm for televised Who dropping primarily due to how poor Hell Bent was. But, in the lead up to the Series 12 finale, I decided to give it another shot. And…
OK, I still don’t like it. At all. In fact, it’s worse than I remember. I still don’t find it a satisfying or good episode at all, with the production values and acting being the only things of merit. BUT, here’s the thing- I don’t HATE it, at least on an emotional level. I hate it as a finale and a Doctor Who story, but I’m not angry it exists. I don’t have the energy to hate pieces media anymore, to be honest.
The best thing to come out of this lockdown in the UK has been the assembled efforts of Doctor Who fans to get together online and live tweet episodes. And it’s gone viral, with Steven Moffat, Russell T Davies, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and lots more joining in. So far we’ve had Day of the Doctor, Rose and Vincent and the Doctor. And today sees a fan re-watch of The Eleventh Hour, which is a decade old and marked the beginning of my proper obsession with Doctor Who.
Mary Shelley needs no introduction. She’s essentially the mother of modern science fiction, and without Frankenstein science fiction may as well never exist. So a Doctor Who episode exploring her and the creation of Frankenstein is of course one Chibnall would love to tackle and… wait a minute, I know this premise! Big Finish did it first!
I’m kidding. The television show has contradicted expanded media before and I don’t expect it to now. Besides “Mary Shelley meeting the Cybermen” is such a good premise I don’t blame Chibnall for wanting to explore this plotline even if it’s technically blowing a massive hole in canon (and yes, Big Finish IS canon). Although in this episode the Doctor states time is in flux, so in one timeline the Eighth Doctor was in Villa Diodati but the Cybermen’s interference caused a split in the timeline. Oh whatever.
So… this was an… interesting episode. Yeah. We’re gonna need to talk about this one.
Why do I love Doctor Who? A lot of reasons, but I love it because it can do anything. Go anywhere, explore any ideas and tell any story. And some of the best of Doctor Who over the past 56 years has been when the show goes beyond the monster of the week, world at stake plot line that so many past episodes have used. Can You Hear Me (?) is one of those episodes. Yes, Nikola Tesla fighting scorpions and space rhinos in Gloucester are all fun and all, but Can You Hear Me (no I will not use the punctuation every time) is perhaps the most daring and interesting episode since the masterful It Takes You Away last series. Whilst I have some more mixed thoughts on this one compared to that one, I appreciate it so much. This is what I was saying last week- I can enjoy a sci fi romp like Praxeus or Kerblam, but the episodes that go above and beyond are the ones that stick in the memory.
The Cybermen, first introduced in 1966, are Doctor Who’s second oldest and persistent foe. There are many different versions and interpretations, but the Cybermen are always tragic figures who in the right hands can be brilliant villains and characters. Chris Chibnall is planning to bring them back in Series 12, with the “Lone Cyberman” already being teased in both Fugitive of the Judoon and the trailer and today we got a glimpse of the beautiful new Cyberman design for the two part finale, Ascension of the Cybermen/The Timeless Children. So to celebrate my favourite Doctor Who monster, we’re going to discuss all sixteen Cybermen television stories so far, plus an audio sidetrack. We’re not doing any story where the Cybermen are featured but not about them or as a main villain (such as The Five Doctors or The Pandorica Opens) or Cyberwoman from Torchwood, mainly because I haven’t seen it and have no intention of doing so thank you very much. So with that aside, let’s chronicle the Cybermen throughout Who’s history-
How do you follow on from last week? It’s a question that other episodes in the past have tried to answer by following heavy, arc focused and mind shattering episodes with standalone, “breather” episodes that aim to break the ice. This hasn’t always worked as Curse of the Black Spot and Orphan 55 proved but for Praxeus, it worked slightly better. Serving as a direct follow on Fugitive of the Judoon’s cliffhanger ending helped but it was still odd literally having no discussions of the events of the last episode. But ignoring the fact that this was a follow-on from the dramatic and franchise shifting last episode, is Praxeus actually good?
Um, I think so?
Rewatching the episodes before writing these reviews have really helped with my thoughts. On first watch, I found Praxeus to be a bit light weight without much happening at all and a lack of forward momentum for the arc but on a rewatch there’s a lot to like, starting off with the premise.
Amongst the many talking points of Fugitive of the Judoon, one of the biggest is the return of John Barrowman’s Captain Jack, who returned after a ten year absence to warn the Doctor of the “Lone Cyberman” before vanishing. Naturally with the return of Jack comes talk of bringing Torchwood, the adult oriented Doctor Who spin-off, back.
OK, heads up. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 8:00 last night, you’ll know that some MAJOR stuff happens in Fugitive of the Judoon. It’s impossible to discuss the episode without discussing the two major twists and as a result I will be spoiling EVERYTHING. So watch the episode then come back. Seriously.
So… the past seven days have been a bit of a mess when this fandom is concerned as Orphan 55 pretty much became the most toxic thing the show has done since… well, since at least Hell Bent. It got so ridiculous people were actually using The Twin Dilemma as an example as to why Chibnall’s Who is the worst thing ever but have those people actually seen The Twin Dilemma? Because I have, and let me tell you Orphan 55 is not as bad as that. So to say that Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror had some big shoes to fill with regards to uniting the fandom and making discussing the show a joy rather than a chore is a bit of an understatement.You can, in a way, compare this to Mummy on the Orient Express, which similarly followed a divisive episode. Well, I’m safe to say that Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, which for the sake of sanity I’ll refer to as “the episode” from now on, is a fun, exciting and great episode that HAS united the fandom again. It seems Orphan 55 is a fluke, because Series 12 is on the up.
Last series of Doctor Who, Ed Hime delivered what is now my second favourite Doctor Who story of all time. For all of Series 11’s faults, It Takes You Away was a mindblowing, innovative masterpiece that redefined what Chibnall’s era was capable of. So to say I was anticipating Orphan 55 is a bit of an understatement. Despite this, I promised to be open minded and take this as a separate episode, not as a follow up to one of my favourite stories in the Whoniverse. Orphan 55 was, in my opinion, an enjoyable episode with one fatal flaw. A fatal flaw. And it’s impossible to discuss that flaw without discussing how it harms the episode entirely. So let’s dive straight into it.