“Don’t turn round.” This is the episode that horror writers/directors should watch to see the tension get wretched up without the cheap thrills, blood or music. Written by Stephen Moffat it takes it’s themes from Don’t Blink and Silence in the Library without the use of the Angels that have become the Borg to the Doctor’s Enterprise. Listen begins with Doctor positing a theory: Are we actually alone when we talk out loud or do we have a companion? He does this by himself in the TARDIS. Writing things down and pacing around the set. Capaldi nails it like Tennent would’ve while Smith probably wouldn’t have nailed the dismount. I know some Smith fans may not want to hear this but the Doctor on a caffeine high has left the building. I hope a Neil Gaiman Capadi episode but it doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen this season. While the Doctor sets the mood, Clara and Danny Pink have a first date. The date doesn’t go well and Clara comes home to find the Doctor and the TARDIS occupying 3/4 of her bedroom. In the post haze of the bad date, the Doctor uses the TARDIS to focus on Clara’s timeline and pop back to see where Clara had that dream everyone has about something under the bed. Except, instead of Clara’s timeline we get to Rupert Pink and soon find out that yes, there probably is something under the bed and all it takes is a bed sheet, Capaldi and good direction and we get a successor to Blink. But, it doesn’t stop there. Clara asks to go back to the date and retry with Danny until Clara name drops Rupert and everything implodes again because Danny is Rupert. It implodes even more when the orange spaceman suit walks into the restaurant and motions Clara to follow him. It’s at this point no one gets up and demands to know why, this is Cardiff after all, the populace is so desensitized to the Doctor’s shenanigans that no one blinks at the strange. Torchwood should’ve been like this: Oh, more alien crap, thattaway, Torchwood and go back to their tea. The man in the spacesuit isn’t the Doctor but Orson Pink and the Doctor found him 100 years into Clara’s timeline, they launched him into space and he promptly got Buck Rogers and now he’s the last man in the universe but he’s not alone. Once Orson saves the Doctor, Clara tries to fix things and goes back down the timeline and lands in a barn and gives a crying child a good speech about the things that go bump in the night. The barn didn’t make sense at first until we find out why. The why was nicely done and I won’t ruin it here but it’s a great call back that I didn’t see coming and it really worked. Clara’s dialogue with the new Doctor continues to be a highlight while she gets her history filled in even if it’s possible future. Danny’s soldier days while not big speed bump like they were in Into the Dalek is better this time round. I think he’ll make a good addition to the companions once we see him in action and not him as a child or his great grandson. It was a good episode all around and highly enjoyed it.
For everyone who complained (not me) about episodes 1+2 being off and Episode 3 being back on track were half right. Episode 3 is a classic Doctor Who historical episode. Clara makes a request to go see a fictional character and while the Doctor tries to dissuade her, she puts down her foot and we return to Nottingham, 12th century and are instantly greeted by Robin Hood much to the Doctor’s annoyance. The tropes are there, Doctor and Robin fight on a bridge, each man besting each other. #3’s fencing comes in handy, although not as one might expect. The Merry Men are all introduced and the Sheriff while not as menacing as Alan Rickman, he’s still wants power and is willing to do anything to get it. And they all fight with English accents. Ha za! As always something is wrong and the Doctor begins looking for it within the men then the environment and finds it when as the tale goes, Robin walks into a trap and the Sheriff unleashes his robotic knights and thus begins our trip down the rabbit hole to figure out: 1. Is Robin and the Sheriff robots? 2. Why is the Sheriff taking all the gold? 3. Robotic knights with cross lasers in their foreheads? The fact Robin and the Doctor don’t get along is better than expected. Most of the time, the Doctor and his new friends generally get along well but the constant back and forth between him and the Earl of Loxley was refreshing. All the while, Clara can’t stand any of it since the Doctor’s normal plan is to use his now stolen sonic screwdriver. I’ve been enjoying Capaldi since episode 1 and this episode felt right on the money. No picking up Clara, just straight into the story. Tardis arriving shot and the whole nine. Clara gets a bit more to work with besides the added tae kwon do (which makes great sense with all the adventuring) when she’s interrogating the Sheriff of his plans. Thankfully, he’s not a robot because we’ve had that trope before and it’s been done to death. The robots from episode 1 make a re-appearance but not as clockwork as they were before and we’re given enough backstory that they landed here from the 29th Century headed to The Promised Land to make repairs to the engines and forged an alliance with the Sheriff. The Doctor rallies the prisoners in the Sheriffs dungeon and destroys most of the robots in the simplest fashion for the time without his sonic screwdriver. The only thing missing is Missy and not welcoming the Sheriff to The Promised Land but we don’t want to repeat ourselves from last episode. Overall, great episode. Throughly enjoyed it.
(Image courtesy of David Catterall) The carry over from the Matt Smith years continues with the Doctor in the beginning of his journey only to have to pick Clara up from school before dashing off to face down the pepper shakers of doom. The ole’ Daleks are back! Ha za! No more Skittle colored Daleks to be found! No Devros. No Emperor Dalek. No eye stalks coming out people’s heads. No creep factor that was Asylum of the Daleks. Instead, we do actually go to the most dangerous place in all the universe. Taking place on a human ship hiding in an asteroid belt from the Daleks, the Doctor rescues, Journey Blue played by Zawe Ashton just as her space ship is about to be blown up and returns her to her uncle, Col. Morgan Blue played by Michael Smiley on board the aforementioned spaceship, Aristotle and is greeted by an imprisoned Dalek that cares. Meanwhile, Clara is introduced to Danny Pink played by Samuel Anderson, a former soldier who from most reports will be another companion this year. Danny isn’t dragged along this time and is left for most of the episode so the Doctor, Clara, Journey and 2 red shirts can be micronized into a Dalek to see what’s wrong with it. Yep, it’s Doctor Who meets Fantastic Voyage (which oddly enough hasn’t been remade, yet). The interior of the Dalek is a fun set piece. It may look like people climbing through a big computer. But anything with roving eyes that act as anti-bodies is pretty creepy cool. It feels more real than the dungeon set piece from Deep Breath. The Daleks and the Doctor may have been enemies before but since the Time War it’s gotten worse. Once the Dalek’s problem is fixed it goes back to the same ole’ Exterminate routine and the solution to the problem works until the Doctor goes one step further and we get a similar problem to The Fourth Doctor’s situation in The Face of Evil. Kids, never imprint your 900+ year old brain onto anyone, m’kay? The conclusion feels foreboding enough and one might wonder if the Doctor’s hatred will cool because of this or if two angry people are going to their separate corners of the universe only to come back for a rematch. Capaldi continues to handle things well. He’s a bit sharp around the edges which is both good and bad. His treatment of the red shirts and women in particular does need a bit fine tuning to say the least. Most of the time he’s great then sometimes you have to wonder why the writers typed that in. Thankfully he’s surrounded by strong women this episode and more than once gets slapped and pushed against the wall demanding to know why he just let someone die after giving them false hope. Journey tries to hop a ride but the Doctor turns her down due to her tenancy to shoot first and ask politely later. If and when the next companion slot opens up, I hope they’d return to the character to see if she’s changed. The ongoing plot thread for this season is Missy. First introduced in last weeks episode and welcoming the antagonistic robot to the “promised land”, she welcomes one of the red shirts to “Heaven” and offers her tea. So who is Missy, exactly? Theories are running the gamut from Rani to TARDIS to Master. I’m happy we’re getting something. The last season with the Great Intelligence wasn’t so great and lack any emotional punch or set up. The Doctor does need an ongoing plot in the background to keep things interesting from a crack in the wall to John Saxon.
Extant on CBS is SyFy’s Helix for women. Minus the vampire vectors and the black goo. It stars Halle Berry as an astronaut, Molly Woods in space on a 13 month mission when suddenly, something happens! Back on Earth she re-adjusts with her inventor husband and their robot child she until the NASA doc played by Camryn Manheim tells her some news: she’s pregnant! But how can this be? She can’t have kids! Meanwhile, her superiors have a shadowy boss played by Hiroyuki Sanada who played a shadowy boss on Helix. Meanwhile, her hubby happily shows off his learning robot child until someone during the demonstration bluntly asks: And what’s the contingency if they all go Skynet on us? He blows a gasket since this robot isn’t a robot it’s a child. But it turns out everything will be fine due to shadowy boss is going to fund the hubby’s research privately, shadowy. Meaneahile, someone is lurking in the ever concealing shadows outside their home and it turns out to be . . . Sorry, I won’t ruin the entire pilot. Mostly due to we’re running out of tropes to use. I didn’t catch The Astronaut’s Wife, so I can’t make comparisons . . . Having said all this, I enjoyed Extant so long as I ignore the use of flashbacks the began and started with a iris in and out and ignore the fact they didn’t open the show with the inciting event that should have kicked off the show. The space station set was nicely done. The rotating ring to zero-G was perfect. And the inciting event was very . . . Contact comes to mind. Yes, I’m backseat writing. Backseat writing meaning: Hook your audience in the first 5 minutes. You want edgy but not bloody edgy. You want fun without the technobabble. I wanted a linear plot and I got a show with flashbacks that were completely unneeded. Sci-Fi is my bread and butter. I’d watch a show like this, The Last Ship and Leftovers until the end even if there are clunker episodes because those shows are still better than what’s on network television. If this show had been on AMC, FX or SyFy, Halle would’ve been in a rubber room ala E.T. or The Stand. And that’s the widening gulf that shouldn’t exist between network and cable television shows.
After two years of waiting, the US fans of Sherlock will have to wait another two weeks for Season 3 to start with The Empty Hearse. When we last left our heroes, Watson arrived to witness Sherlock jump off a building to make sure Moriarty’s goons didn’t kill Watson, Lastrade or Mrs. Hudson. The death of Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem has been played out across much of the reboots over the years. Jeremy Brett’s run being the one I remember the most. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows being the most recent and enjoyable since both Robert Downey Jr and Jared Harris were fun to watch even if the plot got a little laughable in spots. The Reichenbach Fall doesn’t take us all the way to Switzerland and instead The Final Problem is played out on a rooftop giving our hero the only option left to him to save his friends. In the end, Sherlock falls, dies and is buried. And in the final moments shown to be quite alive. There’s a phrase in DC Universe to explain how Batman does the things he does: He’s Batman. And like the costumed Detective, Sherlock is the same way. The tone of The Empty Hearse is less morose than it’s predecessor, The Empty House. Two years have passed and everyone is getting on with their lives. Fresh from the seven minute short entitled Many Happy Returns, Lastrade continues to happily shoot down wild theories from Anderson that Sherlock is solving crimes across Europe. Watson, now with mustache is getting ready to propose to Mary and just where is Sherlock, exactly? The return of Sherlock is less of a surprise this time round. Instead of Sherlock regaling Watson of his continental adventures we’re shown the events which is much better than being told it. The set up and the pay off is laugh riot. Honest to god, a laugh riot. And I’m not just talking about Martin Freeman flipping off the audience (check the Hobbit DVD extras for his outtakes of flipping off the audience) the episode on a whole is fun to watch and is welcome breath of fresh air after the disappointing Doctor Who season. For much of the episode the Detective Duo are separated until the unnamed antagonists reach out and the episode gets moving. The use of Moran was a nice touch even if he isn’t chasing Holmes like before. The episode on a whole was very V for Vendetta, minus the bald Natalie Portman. Using the London Underground as a set peice reminded me of Skyfall. In the end, I’m happy Gatniss and Moffat have dulled some of the edges of Sherlock and made him more human. This is a good thing. You make the highly functioning sociopath more likable while still solving crime and keep the humor within reason. Here’s hoping the quality of the next two episodes are just as good.
It has been fifty years since William Hartnell premiered in the Unearthly Child. I can thank WGBH out of Boston for being here. In the eighties my family was glued to the television set at 7pm on weeknights for 30mins of Cybermen, Daleks and a Timelord played by Tom Baker. The Day of the Doctor revisits a fixed point that has been elephant in the room since the series restarted: The Time War. Timelords vs. Daleks and Doctor #8 being at the middle of it all until one day he decides drop his pacifist notions and by way of a elixir of life from the Sisterhood of Karn, becomes a war doctor. The downside of seeing Paul McGann regenerate into John Hurt is that it’s not part of The Day of the Doctor special itself. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great snippet that should be how we start off this special. Instead we get a classic opening. As in, the old black and white opening turning to color as we find Clara, played again by Jenna Coleman is now a school teacher near to Foreman Junkyard that started it all 50 years ago. This is slightly perplexing because the last time we saw the Doctor and Clara at Trenzalore and the whole timeline with the Intelligence trying to kill them all. The Doctor and Clara are picked up, literally, by a UNIT helicopter and brought back to London where trouble is a abrewing in the form of a three dimensional painting called Galifrey Falls or No More. It should not exist. This brings up bad memories for the Doctor obviously and the we are shown the final day of the war as John Hurt puts the hurt on some Daleks and steals “the moment” a galaxy eating machine that has a personality. He steals it because he plans on using it to end the war and in doing so treks to this far off place that if I didn’t know better was his home but no one mentions who, what, when or why so I’m going with his childhood home. The moment is steampunk-type box with clock gears and it’s personality is none other than the Bad Wolf herself played by Billie Piper. The dialogue between the two of them is getting off to rather good start when the plot pulls them away when a time vortex opens and a fez pops through something neither of them were expecting unless you’re the audience and you know exactly how Moffat’s mind works. Everything is out of time/space so going back to the Doctor and UNIT where Kate Stewart played by Jemma Redgrave brings the audience up to speed on the Doctor’s affair with Elizabeth 1. Somewhere between Voyage of the Damned and Partners in Crime, Doctor #10 visited Queen Elizabeth and the two are having a lovely time playing kissy face when Zygons try to take over the Crown. And while running away from these shape shifters is when #10 and #11 meet up with hilarious results until the War Doctor arrives through the time vortex the fez came through and quickly all three are dumped into the Tower of London as prisoners. I should also make mention that John Hurt steals every single scene he’s in and for some reason there wasn’t enough in the budget to spike #10’s hair so he may look odd. If the scarf was #4’s trademark then the hair is trademarked for #10. Soon the Zygons threaten to derail the plot but the Doctors fix the on coming invasion quickly and get back on track to the real problem at hand: The War Doctor is about to blow up all of Galifrey to stop the war. The prop department had a good time with this episode from the Black Vault that is TARDIS proof with certain Doctor items to having 3 Tardi next to each other with different paint schemes and designs. The three actors, John Hurt, David Tennent and Matt Smith really act with each other. Having all three of them stuck in the Tower of London to bounce off each other was a great idea because there are no explosions or SFX, it’s just them and their baggage and Bad Wolf just watching them all. Clara and Bad Wolf are mostly in the background and while they’re there for most of the big scenes they get the short end of the stick since the dopey Elizabeth plot is given so much. UNIT and their secret vaults are a great idea since Torchwood inception and execution was fumbled and they are practically no longer even in the picture. I hope the areas introduced are used again next season. As for the overall plot: It’s really all over the place and really when you have a Doctor team up most of the plot goes out the window. Part of me and probably my mother would ask this: Ditch Queen Elizabeth and get the Doctor/Donna back in there. Donna zingers would have helped or even Wilf. This episode thankfully gives the Doctor his call to action without blowing up the universe, or gathering the heroes to save the universe or the hero’s journey shenanigans that most season finales are there for. Instead this episode was about one man trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do in the time of war. The Curator idea I loved before the Curator showed up. I wished for more Curators but as you’ll see the extra special video at the bottom of this post helps. Does The Day of the Doctor make up for the lameness of Season 7. Nope. Season 7 should have built up to this but instead this episode is rather stand alone. Like neatening up dangling plot lines. The Christmas Episode should be interesting since it’ll be Matt Smith’s last and Peter Capaldi’s first. I’m hoping for a grim Christmas episode or least one without the sweet tooth. And for a extra special treat: A 30min film written and directed by Peter #5 Davidson which features a good deal of the Whovian cast both past and present. The Five(ish) Doctors –
Ever since the second half of this season of Doctor Who started the quality of the writing has taken a giant step backwards. The overall arcing plots that we’ve come to know and enjoy disappeared to replaced with one rather tepid plot: Who is Clara Oswald and why is she impossible? This has made her into a mix of River Song/Rose Tyler-type but without the puppy dog eyes when it comes to luvin’ the Doctor. Steven Moffat’s MO since he started is time traveling out of sequence is fun fun fun for the entire family. Something like Memento mixed with Back to the Future. I was ready to write this episode off. Until the pre-credit sequence has Clara greenscreened into 1 adventure per Doctor. And, even as far back as the Doctor and his granddaughter stealing the TARDIS before The Unearthly Child episode. Yeh. They went there.
Diana Rigg has been busy this season from Game of Thrones to Doctor Who she has got her bases covered. Each of the characters at polar opposites of each other. In The Crimson Horror she plays a scientist Madame Gillyflower that has created her own perfect little town called Sweetville that is taking the best the brightest and using goo from the 65 million years ago to turn them into mindless slaves and she’s going to take over the planet. Yeah, it’s one of those plots. Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax learn about the odd dealings and begin to investigate and find something peculiar: the Doctor was the last thing the victim saw before dying. Through undercover work and sneaking around Jenny finds out why: the Doctor and Clara found out about the odd dealings too and decided to investigate and were captured. Overall, Diana Rigg steals the episode with her blind ambition even harming her own daughter Ada played by her own real life daughter, Rachel Stirling. Ada’s arc through the episode follows dots from sub-serviant blind daughter to taking back her life. The trio of Vastra, Jenny and Strax are happy sight enough so to ignore the blatant GPS directions from Thomas Thomas. This could have been a Doctor-less episode and it still would have been good. And I think the audience would have applauded the idea. Cybermen from Neil Gaiman next week followed by the finale on the 5/18.
I’m happy to see a ship in the bottle episode in the TARDIS. Last season’s Doctor’s Wife was more psychological while this was more action oriented I thought. It is the one type of episode that could easily be stretched out into a multiple episodes and I wouldn’t bat an eye since Doctor Who has been around for 50 years and after 900 years the Doctor must have an metric ton worth of baggage and possibly even a stowaway civilization on board. The set designers pull off some nice rooms: the observatory, the aforementioned pool, the library, a giant tree that can manufacture anything you want and the TARDIS’s engine room which impressed me more than her center. Unfortunately, it’s the leaps in logic that’s making me re-watch the last five minutes and I’m starting to agree with my mother: Is this half of the season sucking.