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Following “The Girl Who Died,” Ashildr is back in England and in 1651. She can’t age but luckily seems to be pretty good at learning and adapting to new accents and ways of speaking. And she’s also not doing very well coping with her ability not to die. So how is “The Woman Who Lived” as a sort of sequel to “The Girl Who Died?” Let’s find out.

SPOILER WARNING

I’m not sure if this story needed to be told directly after Ashildr found out she can’t die. The only real connection is her and I’m assuming they may do something with her character later in series 9, which is why they wanted to get this one out of the way so early on. But in England, Ashildr, who decides she doesn’t want that name and simply calls herself Me or as

the-woman-who-lived

She’s a thief and he, well, he’s trying to look cool

people know her, The Knightmare, a thief. But no ordinary thief. Instead, she’s a thief looking for an alien artifact, called The Eyes of Hades. More on all this in a moment.

If you’re wondering why Ashildr is going by Me, it’s because she doesn’t see herself as that person anymore, or any of the other people she has been, instead, she’s just her, or rather, Me. The main story basically deals with her dealing with not being able to die, which ends up feeling a little drawn out since we’ve had the Doctor go on about it a lot during the David Tennant era, so hearing it again isn’t as interesting. However, Maisie Williams is still solid in her role, so at the very least, when these specific scenes come up, they’re still well done.

It is fun to realize she became rich somewhere along the way, perhaps through thievery, but probably just had the time to get to that point. She has also become cold to the world. By not being able to die she has stopped getting close to people (she previously had children, but they all died during the Black Death, so, understandably, she’s not in the best of places right now).

Back to the alien artifact. Both Ashildr and the Doctor are looking for the same artifact, but for different reasons, and here comes the antagonist of the story: Leandro, a lion guy, like literally, it’s a lion that’s a person (Doctor Who does enjoy a future universe full of cat people).

We learn the artifact is Leandro’s way of creating a portal between his world and Earth and for his people to come and attack Earth. It’s not very exciting. However, the artifact requires a sacrifice, and Ashildr decided to sacrifice Sam Swift, a rival, or rather just another notorious thief in the area. And then after she realizes what’s going on she knows Leandro never intended to help her explore the galaxy like he promised/tricked her

Woman-Who-Lived-3

See, more cat people

into thinking, and as such she turns against him. Through a series of events he is defeated and everyone is happy. Except Swift, who was sacrificed, but if you recall, another one of those devices that brought Ashildr back is still around.

So what happens? Well, AShildr decides to stop being quite so cold to the world and she saves Swift and now he too can live forever, which really isn’t so exciting, but hey, it works to get her back on track emotionally.

Noteworthy, Clara is absent from this episode. It’s actually a bit of a relief to do without Clara for a little bit. For some reason her writing has made her somewhat overbearing. I still like her, but a break was nice.

Overall, I’m not completely into this episode. The problem is the interesting parts (relationship with the Doctor and Ashildr) end up being pushed aside some for the less than exciting story with Leandro. I do enjoy that Ashildr is set up to come back for future episodes, and I suppose this story was needed to show what she’s been up to since being a viking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still entertaining to watch and you will want to know what happens, but looking back on series 9 so far, it does not hold up to the previous two two-part stories (possibly due to this being a setup episode for Ashildr for a future story, in which case, I do want to know what has become of her).

However, I am interested to see what happens in the upcoming two-part Zygon story, which I will be reviewing as a whole, so below are both trailers:

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Vikings, gods, aliens, and Maisie Williams… yeah, Doctor Who is weird. But weird is fun and interesting. “The Girl Who Died” has a much lighter tone than the previous two episodes, and it’s a nice change of pace.

SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED.

Basically, the Doctor and Clara land on Earth quite some time ago and are instantly captured by vikings and are taken to the viking village. Simple and tidy setup, nothing wrong with that. The Doctor tries to show off his power and act as Odin, one of the gods the vikings pray to. Just as he’s doing this, a giant image of a man in the sky, who the villagers know as Odin, appears and he claims to be Odin and is sending his troops down to bring the best warriors of the village up to Valhalla.

So crazy it just might work. Left to right: Clara (Jenna Coleman), Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Ashildr (Maisie Williams)

So crazy it just might work. Left to right: Clara (Jenna Coleman), Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Ashildr (Maisie Williams)

Well, it goes rather poorly, as the men are killed, but Clara and Ashildr (played by Maisie Williams, best known as Arya Stark from Game of Thrones) are also brought to the ship referred to as Valhalla, but they are not killed. Ashildr, much like Arya (really, if you know Game of Thrones, you’ll notice similarities in the two characters), declares war on the alien posing as Odin. By the way, they happen to be one of the other million deadliest alien races (seriously, is it the Daleks, Sontarans, or this new race called the Mire?).

No matter, the village has 24 hours to get ready to fight the most fearsome beings in the universe. Easy, right? Maybe, that is, if the village’s soldiers weren’t just killed off.

This is where the tone changes compared to the rest of the series 9 so far. We get a series of funny scenes of the Doctor trying to train the villagers how to fight. It seems getting normal townspeople to use swords is harder than you may think. These scenes are a welcome change to the more dramatic nature of the past four episodes.

Admittedly, I do think the episode starts to fall towards a little more silly territory, but then ties it all in with a couple serious scenes to balance the tone. We are given a nice scene between the Doctor and Clara the night before the battle is to begin. The two of them seem more like friends this year and don’t have the awkwardness that sometimes came up last year.

As with Doctor Who, all ends well in the end, and I won’t give any of that away, but it is somewhat anti-climactic. But that’s not important (though, it does hilariously use The Benny Hill Show’s theme tune). What is important is the Doctor remembering why he chose his face, which has been hinted at since his first episode. He chose it to remind himself to always save someone and to not just give up. In this case it is Ashildr, who was integral to securing their victory over the Mire, even if it cost her life.

The Doctor doesn't look overly intimidated by his new enemy

The Doctor doesn’t look overly intimidated by his new enemy

This is where the episode becomes important and more than just a standalone story. The Mire have technology to revive them during battle, and the Doctor took it from them once they were defeated (two tablets to be exact). He revives Ashildr with one, and while she lives she too cannot die (Captain Jack says hello). At this point, only the Doctor knows this and it sets up the story for next week’s The Woman Who Lived.

Before that, I would like to note this episode, despite its silliness does something welcoming for a story in a Steven Moffat led series: establishes the background and develops a new character who will likely show up throughout series 9. Ashildr has a well established character. She’s loyal to her village and its people. Not only is she loyal, but she likes the people and isn’t just loyal because she has to be. However, now we get to see how she develops as the people around her die and she continues to live forever. Unlike the Doctor she can only run so far. These are things we may find out in The Woman Who Lived, and I hope we do. River Song was Moffat’s big character, but her development, well, never really developed and she just ended up showing up to say “hello sweetie” and “spoilers.” Boring, very, very boring. Now we have a character who isn’t annoyingly in love with the Doctor, and instead has to cope with going through the decades, seeing the world change, and having to be an observer, never really there.

I’m excited for the rest of series 9 and am really interested in seeing where The Woman Who Lived takes us. Until then, here’s the trailer:

Skaro, Davros, Daleks, Missy and Clara dead or alive, so much was left with last week’s cliffhanger, and rest assured, “The Witch’s Familiar” resolves everything in a pleasantly satisfying and entertaining manner. Without further delay (please excuse me posting this after “Under the Lake” aired, I will have that review up within a much more reasonable time frame) here is the review of “The Witch’s Familiar.”

THERE ARE SPOILERS, REPEAT, SPOILERS AHEAD.

Clara and Missy apparently were killed last week, or that’s what the Daleks thought. Of course they weren’t (contracts and all that good stuff dictate they live) and we now know how they are alive. Missy tells Clara of a story when the Doctor was trapped, about to be shot by a bunch of robot assassins, and in a fraction of a second, used the energy from their laser beams to teleport out of his less-than-desirable position. Similarly, Missy uses the energy from the Daleks’ laser beams to poof her and Clara (remember, their vortex manipulators are linked) out of their situation. They end up outside the city where the Doctor is and must trek back, which is mostly done off screen, so more time for the Doctor and Davros.

An old rivalry lives on

An old rivalry lives on

It’s worth noting, Missy and Clara are surprisingly great together. Or rather, I think Missy would be great with anyone. Michelle Gomez plays the part perfectly, always keeping the viewer on edge, never quite knowing which direction the character is about to go in. Unlike Steven Moffat’s previous female “equal” for the Doctor, River, Missy actually has a personality beyond saying “Hello Sweetie” and showing up to cryptically say how everything is out of order and this is the first time or this is the last time or this is somewhere in-between. I feel like there’s a whole mystery left to unravel with Missy, such as how she escaped Gallifrey, and even though we know about a lot of her past, there’s still room to explore. If it ever is explored is another topic of discussion, but for now I’d like to hope it will be explored at some point.

The majority of the story is based around the Doctor and Davros talking. Even though Davros is evil and is destined to always be evil, it was interesting to see him act with some humanity. Attempting to trick the Doctor into thinking he was going to die soon, Davros was able to play on the Doctor’s emotions, and “trick” him into using some regeneration energy to allow Davros to see one final sunrise. However, Davros anticipated this compassion, and tried to harness the Doctor’s regeneration energy (to make Dalek/Time Lord hybrids, at least it’s cooler than human Daleks and pig people), but then the Doctor countered that, and used his sonic sunglasses to do some sci-fi stuff. Little did Davros think, the regeneration energy would go through the whole city.

While Missy and Clara trek back to find the Doctor, they are in a tunnel, that’s actually a sewer, that’s actually a catacomb, where apparently the decaying Daleks are tossed down in. So the regeneration energy also went to them, and since they were pretty annoyed for being thrown away, they used the new energy to rise up and take down the city. Yeah, it was weird, but the real highlight of the story was the Doctor and Davros talking. Throughout, parallels are again drawn between the Doctor and Daleks. At one point, Davros seems to be glad Gallifrey survived, and that both he and the Doctor try their hardest to continue the existence of their people. This continues throughout the majority of the episode, and aids in further developing Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. By the way, Capaldi is absolutely fantastic in series 9 so far. It seems the writers, or at to this point, Moffat, have figured out the way he plays the character and catered the writing towards his strengths and personality.

Glasses are cool, Clara, I have sonic glasses now

Glasses are cool, Clara, I have sonic glasses now

We also get flashbacks to “Asylum of the Daleks,” with Clara once again finding herself inside a Dalek. Though, this time she is in there as a disguise and has full, telepathic control of the movement and weapons of the Dalek. This is mainly done as a plot device, in which the Doctor has to figure out if it is really Clara or an actual Dalek, at which point he threatens to kill the Dalek and Clara makes it say mercy (note, the Daleks were created by Davros, and in turn cannot say certain things, so when she wants to say it’s Clara it translates and is conveyed as “I am a Dalek”). Of course then the Doctor has to figure out why the Daleks would be able to say mercy, and realizes he made a mistake all those years ago, leaving Davros to die. Watch for yourself what happens then, but I’m sure you can guess if you have not already watched. It’s actually a really nice scene, so yes, do watch it if you have not already.

Whereas “The Magician’s Apprentice” faltered with pacing and tonal issues, “The Witch’s Familiar” doesn’t miss a beat, and keeps your eyes stuck on the screen until the final credits role. The performances from the cast are all great and for once in a long time I can say Moffat did a very good job wrapping up a story.

Here’s to hoping next week’s base-under-siege “Under the Lake” keeps the the same high quality as these two episodes did. Here is the trailer for “Under the Lake:”

 

Here we are, Doctor Who is back with the dramatic opening scene of “The Magician’s Apprentice.” Is it good, bad, or a little of both? I’m going with the latter, read on to find out how the 12th Doctor’s second season began.

Brace yourself, SPOILERS AHEAD.

After Clara and the Doctor told each other the truth in last year’s Christmas episode, they went their separate ways, with Clara being a schoolteacher and the Doctor doing whatever it is he does, and that leads us to the dramatic beginning of the episode, on Skaro. There’s a big war going on, and for whatever reason the troops on ground have bows and arrows and the opposing forces have early era airplanes, but ignoring that, this is a war on Skaro. So far so cool. As the previews showed, there’s a young boy here, and the Doctor pops in, as he does, and attempts to save him. Until, spoiler, he finds out it’s a young Davros. Davros, as in, creator of the Daleks, that Davros. Fast forward a bunch of years and Davros is seeking the Doctor because he all of a sudden remembers what happened all those years ago and is dying in a hospital. Worth noting, he is being sought out by Colony Sarff, a colony of snakes that create a humanoid being and is a loyal follower of Davros.

Things are looking a little bleak

Things are looking a little bleak

Cut to intro title/credits scene.

Back to the show.

For the next ten to fifteen minutes we may as well forget the Doctor is doing much of anything because it turns back into the Clara show as all of the airplanes on Earth stop and Clara is pulled out of her classroom and brought to UNIT Here she is apparently more competent than all of UNIT, including Kate Stewart, who is in charge of UNIT, but I’ll conveniently ignore that. After a few minutes of not much happening other than Clara telling Kate what to do, Missy comes back. Hold up, what, but she died, right?

Wrong. So that means there’s an explanation for how she didn’t die, right?

Wrong. Because, well, Moffat has tendency to not explain these sort of things (I’m looking at you Sherlock) and expects everyone to go with it, so fine, I’m going with it.

After some time, Missy, who didn’t turn good mind you, ends up helping Clara and UNIT find the Doctor. Key things to note, the Doctor left Missy his last will and testament in case he dies and Missy is his best friend, which we all kind of knew if you watched some of the Classic Who stories, where there were some rather fun scenes with the two characters. Sure, we don’t know how she came back, but she escapes death all the time, it’s her thing. I’m good with it because I really enjoy her character. She’s so dark and ridiculous, I always look forward to seeing what she is going to do next. She doesn’t play the role of the strictly villainous character, she actually has a dimension to her character, which I sometimes feel is lacking in characters Moffat creates. So more Missy the better.

So much sass

So much sass

Then things get a little confusing, at least for me, so forgive me if I missed anything explaining this. They look at a big map of the world that UNIT has and search for keywords to try and find where the Doctor is. Somehow Clara figures out he’s in 1138 AD, so I’m assuming the map accounts for all of history. Strange, but alright, it gets the plot going so Clara and Missy can make their way to the Doctor. And I’m not even going to begin to ask or wonder how the Doctor, who came to an “ax fight” with his electric guitar in 1138 AD (funny, but a little bit of a tone killer for this episode) also had a tank, he can’t simply drive one out of the TARDIS doors. Missy and Clara get here via a vortex manipulator (if you recall River used one). What’s more confusing is how Colony Sarff a) knew to look in 1138 AD and b) how they even got to 1138 AD. Even more confusing, and this part I just can’t look past because it makes zero sense according to the lore of the show:

Colony Sarff is presumably using a Dalek ship to go around the universe looking for the Doctor. This would mean the ship has no time travel, because the Daleks only manage to temporal shift to a random place or end up somewhere by accident (or make pig people and human Daleks). So, we are now left to wonder how Colony Sarff a) time traveled backwards and b) time traveled forward without the use of time travel (vortex manipulators only work on the person who is wearing one). And this is important, because Davros is assumed to be dying in 2015 AD (Clara is the same age as the previous season and is a schoolteacher, so it matches the timeline, which at most could only be off a couple of years). So they now need to go forward to 2015 AD. None of this is ever explained, and we are still left to assume the Daleks don’t have time travel because Missy herself said so at the end of the episode.

So Moffat, if you read this, I would appreciate some clarity.

Luckily, the rest of the episode is pretty good.

Yeah, so, that was a thing

Yeah, so, that was a thing

We end up back at the hospital where Davros is, Clara and Missy are kept in waiting as the Doctor confronts Davros, who recognizes the face the Doctor currently has, as it’s the one that he saw all those years ago during the war. This part was pretty great, as it brought in Classic Who moments and tied them all together with the current show and it brought back the drama and seriousness of the opening scene of the episode. Then the big reveal. They’re not on a medical ship as originally assumed, but rather, on Skaro. And not just Skaro, but one that has been rebuilt since the war.

In the final moments, Missy and Clara are left to perish at the hands (figuratively speaking) of the Daleks, as they then turn their attention toward blowing up the TARDIS.

All very heavy stuff and all very good. The time travel still is an issue with Moffat, but I like where this story is going. It’s big and ambitious and brings in the lore of the show. I loved the performances of the entire cast. Each character really hit their stride in this one and the closing minutes had me on the edge of my seat, waiting for more. While I enjoyed last season, it felt like it was lacking something, and even though this is only the first episode of this season, I have a feeling it’s going to provide what I was looking for.

I for one cannot wait for next Saturday (well, Sunday, I think I’ll be doing Halloween type things already on Saturday at a haunted asylum, also a good idea for a Doctor Who story), and I am fully on board for this season. Yes, there was some bad, but overall, I want to see what happens next, how will Clara and Missy be saved, how with the TARDIS be saved, how will the Doctor get out of this one? So I’ll leave you with the trailer for next week’s story, “The Witch’s Familiar.”

“Last Christmas” pleasantly surprised me. I didn’t expect much after the previous Christmas episode, but luckily I was proven wrong. Moffat hit his stride with this one. Sure there are some borrowed elements from Inception and Alien, but Moffat successfully makes them his own. I don’t have any glaring negatives to reflect on, instead here’s a highly positive look at a well written story.

SPOILER WARNING AHEAD

Continuing from series 8, the Doctor and Clara lied to each other and went their separate ways. Now they come back together and soon enough the Doctor brings up Danny (he doesn’t know Danny isn’t alive) and they reveal to each other how the lied to make each other happy (which

It makes sense, no really, it does

It makes sense, no really, it does

of course didn’t work out). All the while there is a real life Santa Clause. Hold on, what, a real Santa? Yes. It sounds ridiculous and for the majority of the episode I cringed at it, but then it all made sense and was very cleverly done. See, the main enemy is a species called Dream Crabs, and they essentially grab on your face (think facehugger from Alien, which they also said in the episode), put you to sleep, dig under your skin, and start to eat your brain. All the while you’re put into a dream state, and the only way to live is to become self aware and wake up from the dream, forcing the crabs off your face and killing them. Back to the story.

The story starts with Santa landing on Clara’s roof and she goes up to see what’s going on. She can’t believe what she’s seeing and then the Doctor appears and comes to take Clara away. They end up on a scientific base at the North Pole where they discover the previously mentioned Crabs. The scientific team comes to see what the Doctor and Clara are doing there when they get ambushed by Crabs and Santa comes busting in to the rescue. This is where things get cool. See, at this point they are in a dream state. The ambush actually resulted in them all being taken over by the Crabs and the hallucinated Santa. What’s more, Clara then goes into a further dream state as another Crab grabs on to her and the Doctor goes in to save her. This dream is about her and Danny. She dreams the perfect Christmas where he is still alive, which is what the Crabs do to make it so the person they take over doesn’t want to wake up. But the Doctor goes under the influence of a Crab and enters Clara’s dream, whereupon he and Danny convince Clara to wake up. Surprisingly, this was one of Danny’s better appearances, as it was one of his more human moments rather than his typical Jiminy Cricket-esque inspirational line moments.

Once they depart that dream they realize they’re still in a dream and after a while they get out of that as well, only to be in a supposed final dream state (these Crabs are tricky to say the least). This time Santa comes back to save the day, and they fly away on his sleigh. As they’re flying over London(?), Santa gives the Doctor the reigns to the sleigh. This is when the episode takes a cool turn: the Doctor who has been serious most of series 8 takes the reigns of Santa’s sleigh! Once he gets accustomed to it he stands up with a big smile on his face, yelling back in excitement to the people behind him. As they’re flying the rest of the people (the science crew) gain their memories back and return to their waking bodies, which for one woman was actually kind of sad because she forgot her actual body is confined to a wheelchair.

doctor-who-santa-capaldiThe Doctor returned to his body, after the science crew all returned, and went right to the TARDIS to get the Crab off Clara because she was hesitant to return to a world without Danny. When he gets to Clara he removes the Crab (it took him a while to figure out how to safely remove it, which is why he couldn’t do this in the dream), except the Crab latched on to Clara in the future (I believe she said 62 years in the future). In her living room, Clara explains how she never married despite proposals nobody could stand up to Danny or the Doctor (a tired theme but still worked decently here since he left her for 62 years). Because this Doctor doesn’t express his emotions as much as the 1oth, it was really nice when Clara asked if he really doesn’t see her as old and he basically says she can never be old to him. You can tell he adamantly feels bad for leaving her and that she truly is his best friend. It’s difficult to explain the little things they do in this scene, but by the end it becomes a classic scene likely to be remembered for years to come.

That could have all been enough, but that turned out to be the final dream state (after all, how was Santa originally on Clara’s roof?), and when the Doctor woke one more time he went to save Clara again, except this time she’s young Clara. In an expression of excitement and happiness I have never seen from Capaldi’s Doctor, he anxiously asks Clara to come back traveling with him. Of course she says yes and while I originally didn’t care if she came back or not, I’m glad she’s there for the Doctor and they deserve each other. It reminds me of the end of “Deep Breathe,” when Clara and the Doctor really started their new adventure together to now, when they can’t imagine not traveling with each other. I really have no idea how Clara will eventually depart, but it has to really be something, because her near departure was better than the actual departures of Amy, Rory, and River.

I can only hope series 9 has the same quality of writing as this episode does. It seems Moffat is either spot on or completely misses the mark, but for now he’s the former and it definitely was a redemption over last year’s mess of a Christmas episode. I feel Moffat is at his best when he writes intimate character moments and puts aside some over-the-top arc. The story also allowed for the Doctor and Clara to take center stage, whereas series 8 often had issues with who the main character was; they’re great together and I nearly forgot that. As an added bonus, Moffat made Santa’s existence actually make sense within the confines of the rules set forth in the story.

Despite being one part Inception and one part Alien, “Last Christmas” turned out to be a truly heartfelt story about regrets, relationships, and friendship.

 

Here we are, nearing the end of series 8 with “Dark Water,” the first part of this series two part finale. I don’t know where to begin so let’s jump right in.

SPOILERS AHEAD

There are many things I want to cover about “Dark Water,” so let’s start small. Essentially, the story can be summed up that when you die your mind is uploaded into a computer mainframe (or the Gallifreyan equivalent) and your mind can live out the rest of its life, or rather death, there. In the meantime, your body is stored in a tank of dark water. Dark doctor who cybermenwater is a type of liquid that makes inorganic material invisible, so you can only see the organic material beneath or around it. This is used to hide the fact that each dead body is stored inside a Cyberman. Why this is being hid I don’t exactly know, since the great big complex they are being held in is apparently under a cathedral in England, where there must be a ton of room not paid attention to by the city council of the city they are in. Nobody really goes down there, ever it seems, so why hide anything? Aren’t dead bodies sitting on chairs in a water tank strange enough? Who knows, I’m assuming it’s just a convenient way to draw out the plot until the Doctor (and viewers) figure out what is going on. Which occurs towards the end as the water in the tanks is drained and the Cybermen make their way to the city streets, whereupon all the civilians walking don’t seem to care much and forget this happened not to long ago in series 2.

Honestly, it’s not the worst setup for a Cybermen invasion since the episode didn’t waste too much time on the actual Cybermen part of it and if it weren’t for the BBC releasing the final scene from the episode about a week before it aired it would have been a better reveal. But as it stands the BBC released a hefty spoiler.

But wait, how did we even end up at the dead people tanks in the first place? Well, Clara’s talking to Danny in the beginning of the episode, tells him she loves him and then Danny gets hit by a car and dies and goes to the Nethersphere (aka, is uploaded to the computer). So she and the Doctor go and search for Danny. Not before Clara tries to knock out the Doctor and bring him to a volcano and threaten to destroy the TARDIS keys if he doesn’t change Danny’s fate and rescue him. This actually happened and she actually threw the keys into the volcano, except instead of sleeping patches she picks up waking dream patches and the Doctor made sure she would use them on herself. This whole scene was very out of character for Clara. Sure, she was grieving, I get that. But to want to completely hold the Doctor in that position and believe she was destroying the TARDIS keys felt forced and awkward. Yes, there was a nice scene after that in which the Doctor told her he cares for her so much that he would not just leave her even after she wanted to betray him, but the lead up to it was out of place. So then they go off to find Danny.

We finally get Danny’s back story, and it’s actually not bad. He ended up accidentally killing a child when he was a soldier, and it makes more sense now why he’s so protective of the kids at school. Still, he’s not exactly the most dynamic character, and his death in the beginning didn’t affect me on an emotional level and was a clear setup for the rest of the episode. Right, let’s get to the elephant in the room: Missy.

doctor who promoMissy, as we know, has been an arc through series 8. She occasionally shows up to collect dead people, spy on the Doctor, and spy on Clara. Nothing overly exciting, but she’s there and Moffat wanted us to know she’s important. Cool, I was digging it. Sure, putting her in the first episode was a little rushed, but it got the ball rolling. Then the ball must have ran out of air toward the halfway mark and somewhere toward the end found an air pump, leading us to now. Missy is in charge of the Nethersphere and the catacombs under the cathedral. She’s the one building a massive army of Cybermen, which is pretty cool and makes more sense than some previous Cybermen stories. When the Doctor and Clara first meet Missy she pretends to be a robot programmed to attend to the dead and the catacombs. She gives the Doctor the initial greeting for being in the catacombs (I forget the words she used to describe it) which amounted to pinning the Doctor to the wall, making out with him, and kissing him on the nose three times. Strange, but at the time she was supposedly a robot, so perhaps a malfunctioning one. Once the Doctor confronts Missy again he finds out she’s in charge of everything. She’s the Time Lady he left behind years ago. Then, in the final minutes we find out who she is.

Missy, short for Mistress, is the Master.

Yes, Missy is the Master. I have a major issue with this: the only reason the Master is a woman is because they could show her throughout the series and not have everyone know it’s the Master. The only problem is, the Doctor just met Missy, so it’s not like the main character was also trying to figure it out all along, it was just us. The Master being female doesn’t do anything for the actual story other than to create a reveal for the sake of having a reveal and saying how clever the writing was. Now, I understand the Master was a snake before and took over a human body, had a Terminator-esque chase scene, and did a bunch of campy things in the TV movie during the 90s, but this isn’t supposed to be that, except it feels like it.

First, apparently the Master is in love with the Doctor, which is news to me. I’m sorry, I don’t see Roger Delgado (the original Master) being in love with the Doctor, wanting to pin him against a wall and make out. Nor do I see John Simm’s Master doing that either. Second, the Doctor did not leave the Master for dead last they met, but Moffat apparently forgot that. I’m all for strong women characters, which is why I’ve been wanting Romana to return since 2005 and why my favorite shows include Orphan Black, Downton Abbey, and Once Upon a Time. My issue here is Missy doesn’t serve any purpose other than shock value. This could have easily been a male Master and the exact same story could have occurred. In Classic Who (note, they love to say how long the show has been going for) there were Time Lords and Time Ladies. Now they can be either, which makes it all very confusing and without an entire series dedicated to it, Moffat is flying off the top of his head with how the Master should act now that he’s a woman.

I didn’t have high hopes for the Missy reveal because Moffat has a track record of being awful at his reveals, but this has a lifelong fan of the show questioning whether or not he will continue to watch after series 8 if Moffat is still around. It just picks up 50 years of canon, and with no care in the world, throws it on its head. I was all set to get a new doctor claracharacter, but no, it’s the same old Master except now a woman.

So after 40+ minutes of “Dark Water” all I was left with was thinking a) why did they need all that time for what could have essentially been 15 minutes of setup and b) why can’t Moffat just write a story without trying to prove how clever he is? You may also be thinking I haven’t talked much about the Doctor. Well, unfortunately he was about as useless as can be the majority of the time. He literally existed to bring the viewer from point to point. I wouldn’t be surprised if after all was said and done, Clara and Danny, again, had more airtime than the Doctor.

I just want to note, if you’ve been reading my reviews throughout series 8 you’ll know I really enjoyed the first half and most of the second half of the series, which is why it’s so disappointing to write another Moffat finale is starting to disappoint me.

Next week we have the final episode of series 8, “Death in Heaven.” I’m really hoping I can watch it, look back on this review and go “why was I so down and out about ‘Dark Water,’ it set up an awesome finale.” At least that’s what I can hope for, until then here’s a little trailer that seems to have the clips from the “Dark Water” trailer in a different order:

 

With just an episode away from the two part finale we’re left with “In the Forest of the Night,” a filler episode with little in terms of substance.

SPOILERS AHEAD

It’s clear at this point in series 8 that Doctor Who is now more fantasy than sci-fi. It’s not a huge deal, but it should be acknowledged. I know the show was never grounded in any sort of hard scientific fact or theory, but there was always a lot of rambling about science type things, even if they were made up it still fit the theme. Now we get forests growing overnight to save the Earth from solar flares and other such natural disasters. If I didn’t know better I’d almost think I stumbled into Once Upon a Time. But if the writing is good this shouldn’t matter. Except the writing wasn’t good.

Basically, the story goes when the Earth is facing a natural disaster, trees grow in larger quantities to stop the Earth from being destroyed. This means pumping more oxygen into the atmosphere so things such as solar flares will burn up before being able to reach the Earth’s surface. This is all well and good really, except nothing else was.

For starters, Clara and Danny have one of the most forced relationships I ever saw. We’re meant to believe they are madly in love. Nothing can tear them apart. They’re soul mates. All that good stuff. But when Danny is on screen there’s barely any indication they’ve been on a date (other than showing us Clara going on a date a few episodes back).

Told you, she is Little Red Riding Hood. And he's a mad man with a box. And together this feels like it should fit in series 5.

Told you, she is Little Red Riding Hood. And he’s a mad man with a box. And together this feels like it should fit in series 5.

Literally every time Danny makes an appearance he either tells Clara to tell him the truth, not to lie to him, he’s not stupid, and to think about what he said and talk to him about it at a later date. He acts more like a watered down Jiminy Cricket than an actual human. We learned a while ago he was a soldier. This comes up again when he goes on about how being a soldier made him appreciate the little things back home and how one person can change your life (aka him hitting on Clara). Except that has grown stale. I wanted to care about his past when he was first introduced and made some remarks about what he did in the war that he regrets, but since then it’s just been inspirational quotes to Clara.

So maybe Clara developed some as a character? The answer again is no. I don’t know what she did in the episode, but it felt like a lot of whining. She basically tried to copy what Danny was doing, ensuring the safety of the kids (inbetween inspirational quotes that is) on their field trip as Clara wanted to figure out what was going on with the trees. Eventually she tries to get the Doctor to leave, because he says this is a time changing moment and the futures they traveled to will no longer happen. Instead of trying to figure out what to do, Clara uncharacteristically gives up and tries to get the Doctor to just leave and forget about everyone on Earth. It didn’t make much sense at all. She just went to tend to the kids with Danny, because Danny was doing it so she did whatever he was doing, because they’re in love, apparently.

But wait, this is Doctor Who, so what about the Doctor? Well, again, not much was going on with him. He had a TARDIS full of kids (why does series 8 have so many kids tagging along in the TARDIS, they’re always unbearably annoying) and had to save the Earth or so he thought but then thought he couldn’t and then was thrown off Earth by Clara. It was kind of cool how the first kid he met was Maebh (cool name) and she could act as a vessel for the Earth (I think the Earth or maybe the trees) to communicate through and attempt to explain the purpose of the trees coming out of nowhere. She’s also Little Red Riding Hood. No, really, she is. She’s chased by wolves and the whole episode for some reason talks about trees and their relation to fairy tales.

Back to the Doctor. He eventually realizes the purpose of the trees, comes back after Clara made him go, and takes Clara, Danny, and the kids back to the TARDIS to explain what’s going on. The Doctor is actually written a little oddly this time around. He starts off feeling kind of like Matt Smith’s Doctor. By this I mean he’s all hyped up and running all around the TARDIS, which feels odd for this Doctor. Other than that some of his dialogue felt too out there, in the sense they wrote it so he was incompetent talking to humans. Sure, he’s more alien this time around, but even his more alien versions knew how to hold a basic conversation. But other than some minor moments with these issues, the rest were good with him and no issues there.

They should make a blog of hers for us to follow

They should make a blog of hers for us to follow.

Also worth noting, Missy showed up again. This time using a computer screen (with the screen maker’s company name nowhere to be seen, so better than the iPad mess last week) to spy on the Doctor and Clara. I think she should ignore the Doctor and have an epic mash-up with Sherlock and Moriarty. But as is we will see more of her next week as the two part finale kicks off.

So, what do I have to say about “In the Forest of the Night?” It was filler of the most vanilla kind. Nothing exciting happened. There were barely any fun, witty, or sarcastic lines from the Doctor. There’s a forced relationship. There wasn’t really any sort of real threat. Even if the Doctor didn’t figure out what was going on the Earth would still have been saved (I know the governments of Earth wanted to lay chemicals to kill the trees, but the trees resisted fire [magic trees I suspect] so I doubt some poison would kill them). There were a bunch of annoying kids. Danny is a walking set of inspirational posters you see scattered on the walls of a classroom (I know what Clara’s getting him for Christmas). And Missy is catching up on the latest episode of Doctor Who.

Yes, it is filler. I just don’t get why a show like Doctor Who, with just 12 episodes, has boring filler. There are 22 episode seasons of other shows I have watched that contain no filler and other shows with Doctor Who length seasons that have no filler and can create believable relationships. But rant over, I have greatly enjoyed the majority of series 8 up to this point, so overall I have been really into the show this year and am glad it has gotten substantially better than series 7.

Next week kicks off the two part finale, with “Dark Water.” The trailer lets us know Clara isn’t really Clara, because being the impossible girl isn’t enough, who knew? But I will have a full trailer breakdown soon enough, for now here’s what the BBC has given us so far:

For the first time in series 8 I wish there were still two part episodes. Flatline has some interesting ideas, but due to a time limit of a little over 40 minutes there just isn’t enough room for anything to properly develop, and in the end I was left with an empty feeling.

THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE IMMINENT FUTURE

While I like Clara, this isn't "Clara Who," let's get the Doctor back in the title

While I like Clara, this isn’t “Clara Who,” let’s get the Doctor back in the title

As has been the case so far, Clara needs to get back to Danny, so the Doctor is all set to drop her off, but of course it doesn’t go according to plan. They still end up on Earth and not overly far from where they are supposed to go, but far enough to get caught up in some tricky business. The TARDIS is shrinking from the outside but remains the same on the inside. Basically, this is done to set up another Clara centered episode, as the Doctor remains inside to try and figure out what is going on outside. Using some fancy tech to talk to Clara and see through her eyes, the Doctor is able to keep track of the outside as Clara does some investigation of her own. Soon enough she stumbles upon some people having

to do community service due to being arrested for graffiti and other such crimes. They have a miserable old guy as their supervisor, and throughout the story he remains equally miserable, never seeming to be affected by the impending doom coming towards him. I’m not really sure what the point of him is since he’s not a bad guy and is just kind of annoying. Maybe it’s so Clara, who introduces herself as the Doctor to one of the guys cleaning graffiti off the wall (spoiler, he ends up making some nice artwork to trick the evil bad guys at the end and save the Doctor).

So, the evil bad guys previously mentioned are some sort of beings living on a two dimensional plane of existence and they are sucking up three dimensional humans into the walls to try and learn their biology. This is all done in an evil scheme to become three dimensional and take over the world, because, you know, why not? Really, it makes no sense. We never learn what they are or where they come from. The Doctor gives them some goofy name at the end in a moment of divine intervention when the TARDIS is accidentally resurrected by the evil guys. It’s all big and flashy but never feels right, mainly because the episode never knew what it wanted to be.

Most of the time it was a Clara being the Doctor story, where she ultimately learned what it meant to make the decisions the Doctor has to make when peoples’ lives are at risk. Except we just had that in Kill the Moon, so I’m not sure why we had it again so soon. Then we get the Doctor popping up

Small TARDIS...

Small TARDIS…

once in a while to give Clara some tech and run around his little but still big TARDIS and deliver the finishing blow on the bad guys.

The second half of the episode finds Clara, the graffiti guy, and the supervisor in a train tunnel, whereupon Clara decides it’s best to ram the bad guys with a train. So while they figure out how to do it the graffiti guy decides it’s best to just go in the train and drive it into the bad guys. Clara was just going to lock the accelerator so the train would go solo, and when she tried to take the guy off the train he was hesitant. I thought this may have meant he had some connection with the bad guys, but again, nothing, he was just being stubborn for no apparent reason.

I also want to point out I’m not being a fool by not referring to these side characters by their names, I literally cannot recall them, that’s how memorable they are, especially the supervisor and his superiority complex.

Also, Danny showed up for maybe a minute to call Clara. Nothing much happened and the episode moved on without him.

...Smaller TARDIS

…Smaller TARDIS

I like the concept of Flatline: a species living solely on a two dimensional plane trying to contact a three dimensional plane. That sounds pretty cool. Except it never evolved past evil bad guys trying to take over the world. We don’t know where they came from or really anything interesting about them. An underdeveloped alien species mixed with forgettable and generic characters makes for a boring 40 odd minutes. If the point of the episode was to let Clara see what it’s like to be the Doctor then great, we get it, she’s done it enough already. Did they forget she literally observed every single Doctor? This shouldn’t be new to her. I didn’t like series 7 that much but it’s still part of the show, so follow the continuity. I don’t have much to say about the Doctor, he was there but had such a small role that he may as well not have been there.

Almost forgot, Missy makes the most annoying appearance ever in the show. Why? She shows up at the end and is spying on the Doctor and Clara. No big deal. Except she’s using a legitimate Apple iPad! What the, I can’t, I just can’t. Every other character in the show has used a sci-fi, futuristic touch pad made for the show, keeping the viewer immersed in the world. Except now we get some mystery woman who is collecting dead people and using an iPad. It just felt cheap, like something a low budget, perhaps a web-series would have to due just to be able to help fund their show. Not here, this is a flagship show for the BBC and they sold out by putting an iPad in. Do note, the angle she is looking at Clara through the iPad is close to how the Doctor was looking at her, so is Missy looking through is eyes? Also note, Clara, yet again, is the most important girl in the whole universe. How many times can someone be the most important person ever? Rant over, I’ll wait and see where the story goes, no use getting worked up before it all tries to come together.

I’m not quite sure what to think of next week’s episode, In the Forest of the Night. From the trailer I can’t tell if the Doctor will be the focus or if Clara and Danny will. Ideally they can all work together, but if that doesn’t happen have Clara and Danny pop up once in a while and give the show back to the Doctor. Though, I must say, this series has been pretty great so far minus a couple bumpy episodes, I didn’t even realize next week’s episode is the last one before the two part finale (I still would like a two part normal story, but it’s a step in the right direction).

 

I didn’t have much of an idea what to expect from Mummy on the Orient Express. All I knew was it involved an Orient Express in space and there was a mummy, so basically, not a lot. With that to go off of, I was glad to see it wasn’t an Egyptian mummy is somehow resurrected and is now going to go around and kill a bunch of people for no apparent reason story (as I feared after series 5 ended with a phone call about an Egyptian Goddess causing issues on the Orient Express, which perhaps was the original idea for this story).

SPOILERS AHEAD

I’m not going to go ahead and summarize the episode as I’ve been doing, since you’ve seen the spoiler warning you have probably watched the episode and need little in terms of recap. I will however, tell you how I continue to enjoy the complexity of Capaldi’s Doctor. As the story progresses, the Doctor realizes only the person about to die can see the

Has he ever worn the same outfit twice so far?

Has he ever worn the same outfit twice so far?

mummy and they have 66 seconds to live before they either die or say the correct phrase to stop the mummy from attacking. Sure, this basically tells us the Doctor will figure out the phrase by the end but how he gets there is a little surprising, at least compared to the last two Doctor’s we’ve had.

Here, the Doctor doesn’t waste time apologizing to people how they have to die. Instead, he tries to focus them and have them tell him and the rest of the scientists on the space train what they are seeing in order to learn more about their foe. It’s a bit cold but at the same time there is no other option, so the Doctor does it in order to save as many as he ultimately can.

What is a little strange is they’re all put on a space train to solve this mystery. A train full of scientists, carefully put together, and I believe at one point it was mentioned this has been tried before but without success (i.e. all the scientists died before they could figure out what to do). Unless I missed something, I believe this may have been set up specifically for the Doctor. Let me explain my case.

First, I recall the Doctor saying he has been summoned to the train before. Someone clearly wants him there to solve this, which leads to what he ultimately solved.

The mummy, as we have established, isn’t a typical Egyptian evil mummy who is evil for the sake of being evil, or perhaps being woken up from a good dream. Instead, this mummy is a soldier who in the end had to be relieved of his duty. The Doctor figured this out after a series of Sherlock type observations and before the mummy could kill him the Doctor told the mummy he was relieved of duty. As a result the mummy collapsed.

Now, this whole series has, among other things, focused on the Doctor’s increasingly aggravating and somewhat insulting dislike towards soldiers. I assume this will be another underwhelming story arc, because right now all it really amounts to is the Doctor insulting anyone who has ever served for pretty much anything. For a man who prefers to talk and reason instead of waving a gun around, he sure does an awful job at explaining things (or perhaps Moffat has no idea where he was originally going with this idea). Regardless, this was another story heavily focusing on soldiers. Coincidence? I think not.

Just because I like this picture

Just because I like this picture

I’m ignoring the blatant elephant in the room, and no, it’s not Clara’s wig, it’s the fact she’s back so soon. She was all ready to leave the episode before and Danny kind of pushed her along to eventually go back with the Doctor. In the meantime I would have liked a solo Doctor story. Yeah, Moffat will scream and shout how the show is all about the companion and the Doctor, but last I checked the show is Doctor Who, not I’m a Super Important Companion Who Will Save the World and Here’s This Doctor Guy I Keep Around. Give Capaldi a solo story. He can carry it. Or at least do something like Matt Smith had with Craig, they were fun and more Doctor focused.

So somehow we are left to imagine what the Doctor and Clara did in between episodes, as this is supposed to be their last trip together after a series of ones after the previous episode when she left. Yeah, I guess this story did something to get her back, but really, it felt like any other episode, there wasn’t much weight or worry of Clara actually being gone at th end. Which is fine, I just don’t get why they set it up to be that kind of episode if they never followed through with it.

In the end, what are we left with? I’d say a really fun, frantic episode which calmed down in the second half once the Doctor started to understand what was really going on. We got to see more of the new Doctor’s personality, which I have been enjoying so far, minus his soldier thing. The pacing of the story was well done, it never felt rushed or too slow, it was always just right. Overall, I would not advise missing this one. For two weeks now we’ve gotten less than exciting episode titles and seemingly boring creatures/plots turned around into two rather good stories.

Now to see what next week brings with Flatline:

Well, I said last week Kill the Moon was a rather bad title, but after watching the episode I would like to retract that.  Sure, it’s now a less than subtle title but it’s definitely a fitting one for a rather good episode.

As I have mentioned in previous reviews for series 8, Clara is actually written consistently this time around.  As a result, we get an episode that relies on Clara to do some very important things, and while it is valid to argue the companions have been given too much of a role and taken the focus away from the Doctor, this time it’s the Doctor taking his own leave.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The story starts off simple enough. The Doctor is forced by Clara to take the girl (her name’s Courtney Woods) from the previous episode to space, because the Doctor was being rude and telling the girl how she isn’t significant. Oh, did I not mention in the last review there was a girl from Clara’s school? No big deal, there’s a girl from Clara’s school.

So, the Doctor goes to make her the first woman on the moon, and in the process, as is often the case with Doctor Who and wondrous cliches, gets more than he bargained for.

It seems there’s issues with the moon splitting apart and it’s going to be catastrophic for the tides down on Earth. A team of scientists are sent up to literally blow up the moon. Let’s just examine a few things for a moment. First, they’re scientists because I believe they say how NASA shut down space exploration, fine, no big deal. But the best they could

Orange never goes out of style in space

Orange never goes out of style in space

come up with was blowing up the moon with nuclear weapons? Let’s just ignore how that will affect the tides. Anyway, I digress.

Together, they all make their way to an abandoned station on the moon, in which the inhabitants have all been killed. Killed by what? Spiders, kind of. The first twenty minutes or so we’re left to believe spiders have infested the moon, are tearing it apart, and killing people who step foot on the moon. Because well, spiders are evil and will do anything to be more evil.

But luckily we’re spared a boring old spider story and instead are left to find they’re parasites, which leads into the bigger issue of what is going on with the moon?

We lose the Doctor for a bit at this point, as he literally dives into the moon to find out what is going on. Clara, the girl, and the final surviving scientist (why must the rest of the crew always insist on splitting up?) return to the station, left with the decision: blow up the moon or don’t. Soon enough the Doctor gets back and sheds some light on the situation. He discovers the moon is an egg, and inside is a new species, all on its own. Whereupon he departs again, not interfering in Earth’s history, or future, or timey-wimey. This doesn’t sit well with Clara, who along with the girl from school, does not want to blow up the moon since it is a living creature. The scientist on the other hand has to play the role of wanting to blow up the moon. And it’s for a decent enough reason, saving Earth and all.

So in a frantic mess, Clara sends a message to Earth, asking the people to cast their own vote on what should be done. In the end it comes down to the final seconds before the moon will explode. Clara lunges towards the cancel button and spares the moon. Conveniently, the Doctor shows up just in time to get them all off the moon and to the safety of Earth. They witness the moon crack open and a new creature emerge from inside. Unlike the blow up the moon method, the creature lays another moon, or egg rather, so nothing is ruined by the moon potentially no longer being there.

Right, all neat and tidy, except not really. See, Clara was not at all happy with the Doctor just leaving her. She wasn’t ready or wanting to take on such an important task on her own. Essentially paving the way for the future of humanity. She sees it as the Doctor making light of the situation, just popping off to do something else and come back to see how things are going. Of course the Doctor did it because he trusted her to make the right choice.

Logical? Nope. Really cool? Yup.

Logical? Nope. Really cool? Yup.

Clara actually does leave at the end of the episode, and for these forty odd minutes, it’s pretty significant. Obviously I don’t have to mention the stellar performances by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, because, well, when aren’t they fantastic. I mentioned earlier how it’s not bad for this to be Clara focused, because she’s finally being defined as a character instead of a plot device as she existed to be in series 7.  Plus, it’s not like the Doctor hasn’t been the focus of this series the majority of the time.

I actually really enjoyed this story. I was glad they took a risk and made it kind of out there instead of just having a spider invasion story for the millionth time in sci-fi history. I always seem to enjoy the episodes when they have to decide whether or not to save a creature (even if they usually end up saving it), there’s always a solid amount of tension and emotion, making for some good drama.

Clara walking out on the Doctor was pretty cool and even cooler was seeing Danny (anyone who read my previous reviews knows I’m a fan of Danny) disagree with Clara and show her she’s not done with the Doctor just yet.

There are so many dynamics at play with the characters this series that I’m glad we didn’t have to deal with more Missy stuff.

I’m looking forward to next week’s episode and seeing how the Doctor and Clara act together after the climactic ending of this week’s story. Here’s the trailer for Mummy on the Orient Express (I hate to judge an episode by its title, but can we get a bit of creativity one of these weeks with the title?):