Tag Archive: DW


Doctor Who: Under the Lake Review

After the fantastic story to open series 9 of Doctor Who, I had my doubts about a base-under-siege story as a followup. However, after watching “Under the Lake,” I can safely say my concerns were not needed and that series 9 continues its mark of excellence.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Typically, these sort of stories result in a lot of running around and a somewhat rushed ending and they usually get kind of

Doing some sort of stuff

Doing some investigative stuff

boring. I can’t say what the end result is since this is a two part story, but I can say the cliffhanger has me wanting more.

Basically, the Doctor and Clara end up in an underwater base located in the midst of a flooded town in the not-so-distant future. Here’s the catch (so punny): there are ghosts roaming the halls of the base. To make matters more interesting, there’s a spaceship they discovered in the town that they brought aboard the base, and it has some sort of writing on it that sort of subliminally conveys a message to all that have looked at it.

Here’s the mystery: where’d the ship come from, what is the writing, where is the ship’s captain, why is one of the energy cells missing from the ship, and where is the body being transported in it (suspended animation chamber or something, can’t recall exactly what it’s called)?

These are a lot of questions that normally wouldn’t be around if the episode was only 45 minutes. This is why I enjoy two part episodes. The writer is able to fully develop the story, creating little parts and details that otherwise would not be able to make the final cut.

Speaking of the writing, I love how the characters are written in this story. Naturally, there’s a crew on the base, and as some background, in the opening credits one of the dies and becomes a ghost. Instead of being hostile towards the Doctor – and in turn killing about 10 minutes of the Doctor trying to gain their trust – they basically just go with it (and a little help of the psychic paper saying he’s from UNIT helped as well). The crew isn’t yelling at each other or anything. Instead, they’re trying to figure out how to approach the situation and actually listen to what the Doctor has to say. I rather enjoy how these professionals aren’t a bunch of bumbling fools, which is something that bothers me in a lot of sci-fi when a team of supposedly intelligent scientists turn into a bunch of clueless characters existing just to be killed off, which is basically lazy writing.

Clara is arguably the best dressed teacher on any show ever

Clara is arguably the best dressed teacher on any show ever, and Rose could take some style advice from her

There is one annoying character, a businessman who is over-the-top in it for the profit, but luckily he gets killed off and becomes a ghost (not a big spoiler, you see it coming a mile away).

Perhaps my favorite character is Cass, who is deaf and has her interpreter, Lunn (the sexual tension is strong between these two). Whereas in the the pre-Moffat era, having a diverse character meant banging it over the viewer’s head until the entire planet knew there was a diverse character, Cass exists as an actual character and not as an agenda or political correctness. I don’t believe it was ever pointed out that she’s deaf. Which would make sense since the Doctor and Clara travel the universe, so if a deaf person is their biggest surprise, well, there’s an issue. And Cass ends up being the one in charge of the base, which is great in terms that it shows her disability does not define her and for all the people complaining about Moffat’s apparent (at least to some people, I don’t see it as much) lack of ability to write a female character, he has writers who can write strong female characters.

Cass and Lunn

Cass and Lunn

Also note, Lunn was not killed by the ghosts when he was cornered by them. Why is this? I think that is something we’ll have to wait to find out. I don’t want to give away why he got in this position, but just remember it. This is something I like about a two part episode, they can have these mysteries all come together as things get resolved in the second part, or at least that’s the hope.

Even more interesting, the ghosts are mouthing words, which the Doctor concludes are coordinates to a building in the town. What is the significance of the building? Well, the Doctor believes they are a signal, but a signal for what?

The Doctor gets tired of not knowing why the town was flooded (well, he knows a dam broke, but what happened around that time) and all the previous mysteries noted (ah, they also found the suspended animation chamber, which is now just chilling in their main room, because why not?), so he decides to go back to the TARDIS and to when it all started. Except the ghosts get smart, and begin to lock down the base, so as they’re all running to the TARDIS, the Doctor and Clara get separated. Clara ends up with Cass and Lunn and the Doctor gets O’Donnell and Bennett (also the sexual tension, but again, enjoyably written characters).

Then, the cliffhanger: the Doctor and them fly away and Clara and her group make it back to the main room, look out the window, and see the Doctor as a ghost. Except, unlike all the other ghosts who are mouthing the same words, the Doctor is saying something different. What happens in the past that caused this? What is he saying? Just add more questions to the list.

So where are we now? The Doctor’s a ghost, adding to the total count of now four ghosts (one original, then a crew member, the business man, and now the Doctor), what’s in the suspended animation chamber, where is the missing energy cell, why did the town flood, what’s the mysterious writing on the spaceship, and who is the first ghost that didn’t die at the base?

I guess we’ll find out in part two “Before the Flood.”

Into the Dalek sees the Doctor going to the most dangerous place in the universe, or at least the twenty something most dangerous place in the universe.  Yes, the Doctor seems to be finding himself frequenting these sorts of places more often these days, but I suppose they want to drive home how much darker series 8 is, fine, so be it, what’s important is how the episode is, and everyone can have a sigh of relief, because it’s a Dalek episode actually worth not only watching but watching again and then possibly once more.

Every series we have gotten a Dalek episode, some good, some average, and some downright awful (human Daleks and pig people, just think about that for a minute) and honestly, this may be the best one that isn’t part of a finale.  Back in series 1 we had Dalek, which reintroduced the Daleks to thousands of Classic Who fans and introduced Daleks to waves of new fans.  The episode was very good, last of the Daleks, last of the Time Lords, that is until the finale of series 1 in which a massive Dalek fleet appeared out of nowhere and then they never stopped coming, which leads us to Into the Dalek.

YEAH, THERE ARE SOME BIG SPOILERS UP AHEAD

Brief Summary:

Essentially, the episode is about the Doctor still coming to terms with his regeneration and trying to figure out what sort of person he is and asking Clara if he’s a good man.  As the story progresses there are parallels between himself and the damaged Dalek.  Yes, the Dalek in question this weeks is damaged and as a result has been

Can this show just be the two of them talking, I'd be quite alright with that

Can this show just be the two of them talking, I’d be quite alright with that

captured and to an extent has turned “good” or at least different.  The Doctor starts off the episode by rescuing a soldier trying to flee from a Dalek ship and when the soldier’s ship blows up, the Doctor materializes around it, allowing the soldier to survive.  She starts to freak out a bit about the situation but after some stern words from the Doctor, she realizes who is in charge.  The Doctor shows how he really hasn’t the time for excess.  He still understands emotion (the soldier’s brother just died, and he gets that, but he also lets her know she’s a soldier and has to get back on duty when they arrive back on her base ship), so it’s not like he’s this cold figure looming over people.  Once on her ship, the Doctor finds out they have a damaged Dalek they want to repair by shrinking down a team to go inside the Dalek and presumably repair it (because who isn’t proficient in Dalek repairs?).  Before that can be done, the Doctor has to go fetch Clara, who is back on Earth teaching and it’s three weeks past their last meeting in last week’s episode.

Back they pop to repair the Dalek.

See, Daleks really aren’t all that interesting, and I have a feeling they knew this when writing.  The story barely features a Dalek and by shrinking everyone to go inside the Dalek it could have been anything with a mechanical outer shell, but that’s alright.  When they go inside the Dalek there is a Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (and The Invisible Enemy) feel as they’re rummaging through hallways and various rooms.  Eventually they do get to finding the issue: a part of the Dalek leaking radiation, in turn altering the part of it which limits emotion and allows it to be “good” or rather, realize the Daleks are bad and in turn want to kill the Daleks, so good-ish.  Once repaired the Dalek goes back to normal and the Doctor tries to come to terns with the fact that some things will never change: Daleks will always be evil.  He kept saying this to Clara leading up to this point, not because he was being stubborn, but instead because he was tired of it, tired of the lack of change, which also reflected his state of mind.

Opinion:

Without simply restating the entire episode, I will say by the end of it the Doctor, with the help of Clara, realized things are not always as they seem.  A damaged Dalek could still be “good” even if consistently a soldier.  While the Dalek notes how the Doctor is a good Dalek (another tired line in Dalek episodes), Clara lets the Doctor know what really matters is he tries to do good.  Even when things don’t go right it still ends with good intentions.

Right, is this really a good idea?

Right, is this really a good idea?

Now, I do enjoy the chemistry between the Doctor and Clara.  For once she isn’t written simply as a plot device to lead into the 50th anniversary and her personality is a lot more defined, probably a result of more consistent writing.  While still finding himself, the Doctor has a distinct personality.  He has no time for trivial matters or things that cannot be avoided.  In one scene a member of the group inside the Dalek is going to die, the Doctor knows there’s no way to stop it from happening, so he puts a sort of tracking device in him so they can see where dead bodies go in the Dalek.  Yes, at first it seems harsh, but as the Doctor notes, there was no way to save him so his death can at least help them survive.  This Doctor gets mad at soldiers waving guns around and barking out orders.  He doesn’t have the time to put up with that, just talk like a civil person, that’s all, don’t eliminate your soul for the sake of being a good soldier.  In a way, this Doctor needs Clara to balance him out, though, I’d like to see a solo episode or two with him, that would be interesting (I’m thinking along the lines of The Deadly Assassin).

Extras:

Danny Pink, Clara’s new boyfriend made his first appearance.  All we learn is he was a soldier and all signs indicate to some sort of incident in which he ended up killing a civilian (heavy stuff compared to the last couple series of the show).  So far he seems like a good guy, he had a funny scene when Clara was trying to ask him out/get him to ask her out.  I’m looking forward to more of him, for once we may be getting a male companion (other than Jack) who is a strong character on his own.

Missy makes another appearance.  A female crew member who went in the Dalek was also killed but somehow ended up in what Missy calls heaven.  What is going on there I’d like to know, but I’ve given up with making theories for Moffat stories, far too many of his haven’t gone anywhere and it just turned into a headache, so this time around I’m taking a different approach and simply am trying to enjoy the ride and hoping the writing is more solid this time around.

Conclusion:

I don’t like Dalek episodes.  I dread them the week leading up to them.  They’re rarely good.  This week’s proved to be very good as it allowed the Doctor to analyze himself and ultimately show he is a good man through the simple act of trying his hardest to do good, even if his approach isn’t as happy-go-lucky as the 11th Doctor.  I really enjoy the more serious tone of this series and I hope others do as well.

Next week is set in the past again, and the trailer seems pretty solid for Robot of Sherwood with Robin Hood (it seems very Classic Who):

 

Right, it’s been a while since I wrote about Doctor Who and that’s mainly due to not much happening other than potential spoilers from on set pictures taken by fans (don’t want to accidentally be the one to ruin anything for anyone by posting it) and I watched all of Warehouse 13 (highly recommended), Orphan Black (season 1 again and then 2)and am re-watching Downton Abbey and Fringe at the moment, and I just picked up season one of Continuum.  Needless to say, my TV viewing has been filled with a lot of shows.

But now the teaser trailers are rolling out for Doctor Who series 8.  The latest, and probably most important one, features the Doctor in an exploding console room (seriously, this thing explodes a lot) and what seems to be a Dalek voice narrating the scene.  More surprising is it sounds like Davros, which if it is then they’ll likely use the same lame excuse of emergency temporal shifting away from what would have otherwise been an immediate death at the end of series 4.  As he continues to narrate the scene, a slightly different sounding voice comes in for the last few words.  The voice is still Dalek sounding but a much different tone than the suspected Davros voice.  Since they’re narration goes together it may be assumed they are both in the same room and are on a combined mission of sorts to go against the Doctor.  This may also allow the Daleks to remember all of the Doctor’s past battles with them, which were erased (well kind of sorta erased since the past Christmas episode made Clara impossible, at least as the impossible girl, she should technically just be an ordinary girl that the Doctor would have no interest searching for all that time) by Clara (again, kinda sorta) in the beginning of series 7, as Davros may not be part of the connected Dalek network/mind Clara hacked.

If I’m being honest, I’m tired of the Daleks.  Ever since they became half human in series 3 (wasting two episode slots) they really haven’t been in any good story.  It’s like they just fill this wasted episode spot all the time and show up so much that they kind of turned into a joke and lost any sort of intrigue (similar to the Weeping Angels and Cybermen).  The issue is, the Daleks never showed up this frequently in Classic Who, and even then their stories usually weren’t anything special.

I’d like this season to have an all new threat.  Perhaps a single man or woman who balances between good and evil, never really being dedicated solely to one side.  A complex character who does what he thinks is right but without going to any sort of over-the-top extremes.  This sort of character can challenge the Doctor, who in recent years has been written to do a lot of self reflecting and the like.

What I’d really like is this season to be along the lines of a miniseries, where there aren’t random filler episodes, but rather one story, which they have attempted in the Classic Who era and I think it needs a return, especially if this season is hopefully going to be about searching for Gallifrey.

Back to Davros, if he is back, which I hope he isn’t because really, how menacing is an old man in an electric wheelchair, then I’ll be a little disappointed.  We already know we’re stuck dealing with Jenny, Strax, and Vastra again, who may I remind you, have never ever been explained, they just showed up, completely dropping any notion of a back story and turning the Sontarans into bumbling fools instead of a clone race designed for war.

As much as I don’t like Moffat’s writing and choices for series 7 and then making his own writing in series 7 literally impossible (even he had no idea how to explain it) but I am intrigued by what he said in an article I read a couple weeks ago about series 8 ending on a cliffhanger.  I actually really like that, which may be due to me being into Orphan Black and its crazy cliffhangers, but I think the format can work well for Doctor Who, at least it can’t be as bad as cramming a blockbuster into a 45 minute time slot each week.  Speaking of, a miniseries format could help get rid of the many rushed endings we had in series 7, or at the very least do bring back two part episodes.

Still, here’s to hoping series 8 brings the show back to the standards of my favorite of the new series; series 5 (odd, I know since I can’t stand Moffat now, but that series he actually did well minus a few errors like how did the Doctor originally get out of the Pandorica and whose TARDIS was that on top of Craig’s house?).  I’m a fan of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman (when Clara is written a little consistently).  I have wanted a return to Gallifrey since the show came back nearly ten years ago now (wow, that went by fast).

rings of akhaten doctor who

Really Awesome

Is this what the wait for the rest of season 7 has been for?  I really hope not.  Let’s get talking, shall we? (Oh, there will be spoilers)

So, episode two of this half of the season isn’t exactly what I would call good.  In fact, the majority of the episode was nothing short of awful.  I had hoped we’d gotten past the really bad episodes with Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three, but sadly I have been proven wrong.

The beginning of the episode with Clara’s parents and the leaf was actually kind of cool and helped add some emotional impact to this version of Clara.  However, outside of that the story went nowhere good.  She and the Doctor end up on an alien world looking down on some really spectacular space CGI.  Then they go to another part of the planet to take a visit to the Cantina (I’m not exactly sure if where they were had a specific name, but it was basically the Star Wars Cantina).  Even from there it seemed like there was some hope when Clara started talking to the Queen of Years (a little girl named Mary was chosen to be the queen, not quite sure why).  It was a nice little scene, as it continues to show Clara has a motherly inclination to her (this probably is important, just as important as the Doctor referencing his granddaughter I’d say).  But then it all goes to pieces.

Apparently the Queen (and presumably King) have to sing a being to sleep every thousand years, or he will eat the soul of the Queen (again, not quite sure why).  Naturally, something goes wrong and the being wakes up, but not before the Queen is teleported to the being and the Doctor and Clara somehow learn to breathe in space (yeah, I know).  So of course the Queen doesn’t die because she’s a little girl and that would not fly.  Eventually the being breaks out of its nifty glass cage and proceeds to be illuminated by a bright light and die (makes sense, right?).  So what is the natural order of progression here?  The sun, yes that’s right, the sun, ends up being the evil force controlling the now dead being (I guess he’s the middleman so the sun can sleep) and decides it wants to be a sun with a face.  Yes, a face, with the eyes, nose, mouth, all of it (to be fair, they treat the sun as a god so the face may be why, and apparently it’s a parasite of sorts, but again, not quite sure why/how).  At this point I’d like to note that if this were done in Classic Who, I imagine they’d at least make an effort to explain anything that’s going on right now, but then again they didn’t have a deranged Steven Moffat who wants to cram everything into a very small time frame or is off doing Sherlock or writing something else (no wonder DW is losing quality control these days, which is kind of sad considering how good Matt Smith can be and Jenna-Louise Coleman is quickly showing signs of becoming my favorite New-Who companion).

The Doctor then goes on a nice speech to the sun how he is all full of memories with pain and loss and love and happiness (you get the point, oh, the Time War was brought up again, I assume to prep us for the 1oth Doctor’s return, as he liked to go on about it a lot) and the sun starts to consume the memories (by the way, the soul is code for memories) but it just isn’t enough to fill its appetite.  So what does Clara do?  Well, for starters she figures out how to fly a space moped and then gives up her leaf for the sun, because we all know that what could have been offers an infinite amount of memories, which is why it is puzzling why she didn’t give up the book of things she wants to do, which likely contains the memories of her and her mother of things that could have been, but whatever, at this point it doesn’t matter.

And well, this isn't really awesome

And well, this isn’t really awesome

So, here’s what gets me the most: the Doctor, yet again, likely kills a ton of innocent people since the sun ate too much and then somehow disappeared, hence no gravitational pull from the sun, and I’d assume the fall of those planets out of orbit (still, was that as bad as blowing up humans on the spaceships in The Power of Three?).

Also, there’s a lot of filler in terms of singing, which I get is important for this story, but it really felt like filler, especially since the Doctor was barely in the episode (perhaps he was needed to film another episode).

I don’t exactly remember how the episode ended, but I do know Clara was given back her mother’s ring she had to give up to buy the space moped.  I liked this part because it brought the episode back to Clara, who is, oh I don’t know, the current story arc that is supposed to wrap up in the next six episodes, and with next week’s episode it doesn’t look like anyone will be addressing that arc soon.  On the bright side, next week’s episode looks to be a lot better and last week’s was also very good (I’ll probably be reviewing it during the week).

So, what do I rate this episode?  It hurts me to do this, but I can’t be kind just because I’m a huge DW fan (actually, that gives me more of a reason to be critical) but The Rings of Akhaten gets a very poor: 5/10

I liked the dialogue between the Doctor and Clara, but the rest was just plain bad.