Archive for the ‘The Great Re-Watch’ Category

The End and The Beginning   Leave a comment

‘Last Christmas’

The 2014 Christmas special holds up beautifully. Lots of fun, lots of twists and turns, plot holes actually serve a purpose. Side characters are wonderful as usual, with Nick Frost of course being an inspired choice. This one is right up there with ‘The Next Doctor’ and ‘The Runaway Bride’ for sheer holiday delight.

“Nobody likes the tangerines.”

‘The Magician’s Apprentice’

The following contains massive spoilers. Proceed with caution.

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

In his interview with Wil Wheaton following the ‘Dark/Death’ screening, Capaldi advised fans to brush up on their Dalek history.

He was not kidding. The pre-title sting knocked us out of our chairs.

Post-titles, we bring back the Shadow Proclamation, Ohila of Karn, Kate Stewart, and of course Missy. Michelle Gomez continues spectacular. The story is tight, compelling, crazy fun to watch, and wrenching.

I’m a little surprised at how much history Moffat is bringing to this story. So much is meaningless if you never saw ‘The Daleks,’ ‘Genesis of the Daleks,’ ‘Journey’s End,’ ‘Night of the Doctor,’ or even just the prologue*. For lunatics like me, it’s fantastic, but I wonder how it is for newer fans. You don’t get that punch to the chest if you don’t know who Davros is. You don’t get your heart torn out if you weren’t there for the Fourth Doctor’s dilemma. (Yes, the scene is included, but it doesn’t have quite the impact without its context.) But either way, no one can believe the Doctor did what he did, and no one can believe he will do what it appears.

If part 2 is half as good as this one, we’re in for a treat. Moffat is at his best with the impossible. I look forward to the Doctor’s brilliant solution.

*ETA I’m referring to the prologue shown in theaters, featuring Bors. It’s not yet up on youtube as far as I can tell. I didn’t know about the other one, which is.

Posted September 20, 2015 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Season 8, Season 9, The Great Re-Watch

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Because we are huge nerds…   Leave a comment

… we went to the 3D theatrical screening of ‘Dark Water/Death in Heaven.’

3D is not my favorite medium. Most of the time it feels gimmicky and pointless. That was true for the 50th, which we also saw in the theater, and about 98% of this one. The titles, however, made it worth it.

Clockwork spinning past your head, the TARDIS in your face, those eyebrows! For eighteen seconds, 3D served its purpose well.

As for the episode, it is mostly good. Clara’s assertion that she will never tell anyone else she loves him remains weird. Teenagers say things like that, not level-headed adults. Then she goes on to have a psychotic break and attempt murder-suicide by trapping herself and the Doctor in an active volcano. Believe me, I get grief. I get denial, I get rage. I don’t get this level of reaction. The fact that I never got what Clara and Danny see in each other just compounds the problem. It also left me bored with Danny’s emotional problems in the second part. The whole storyline is a mess from start to finish.

However. Michelle Gomez’s Master is a gem, a dream of a character. Every minute she’s onscreen is a joy. The UNIT stuff is silly but fun; Osgood is always great, and I adore the Brigadier, no matter how cheesy his scene. I wept from the moment his music began. The Cybermen reveal is fantastic, and I enjoy the nods to the classic with St. Paul’s and UNIT’s old-school Cyber-head. I like that the conversion doesn’t quite work like Missy hoped: the dead of Earth, rather than become slaves of their software, stand with their own kind against her. One of the recurring themes of Doctor Who is the heroism of ordinary humans, and this is a pretty cool example.

After the screening we got both S9 trailers, a humorous prologue, and an interview with the show’s two stars, conducted by Wil Wheaton and his alarming facial hair. All of these are now up on youtube, with the possible exception of the prologue, which I’ve no doubt will be soon. All are great fun, and we went home feeling we’d spent our evening well.

Next up: ‘Last Christmas,’ and then on to S9!

Graffiti Monsters   Leave a comment

‘Flatline’ is a treat.

It has everything that makes Doctor Who great: it’s funny, it’s scary, there’s a serious undercurrent to the madness, and it is completely barking mad. Shrinking TARDIS! Two-dimensional murders! “2-Dis!” Clara begins to see the cost of lying – and its value. Left on her own she’s the Doctor at his best, and her cleverness makes it possible for him to save the day as only he can.

Both Capaldi and Coleman are strong in this story. Rigsy is a delight, and I’m so glad he’ll be returning. The monsters are scary, and beautifully rendered, and street art saves the day.

Another excellent entry by Jamie Mathieson. I wish we were getting more of him in S9.

Posted August 28, 2015 by Elisabeth in Season 8, The Great Re-Watch

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Are you my Mummy?   1 comment

What a breath of fresh air, after two uncomfortable episodes.

Moffat mostly fails when it comes to character stuff. For one thing, Doctor Who is not primarily a character kind of show. When Davies developed Rose and Mickey and Donna, he did it as part of the adventure, not as a side track. With ‘Caretaker’ and ‘Moon,’ the adventure is the side track and the character development – weak and inadequate as it is – takes center stage.

‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ is a return to proper Doctor Who. It’s beautiful to look at, it’s scary, it’s fun, it brings in all sorts of interesting people and gives the Doctor lots of theatrical speeches. The music is fantastic and the in-jokes a delight. It’s also sharply clever; the Doctor solves the problem with his brain, without need for weapons, with a little help from the ordinary people around him, just as it should be. Capaldi is at his best in this episode.

Clara isn’t bad either, in spite of being relegated to second string. Her care for Maisie and her mixed feelings for the Doctor are reminiscent of some of Rose’s early adventures. However, after raging at the Doctor for lying to her and making her lie to Maisie, she turns around and tells the biggest lie of all, to the two people she supposedly cares for – and who supposedly care for her – the most of anyone in the universe.

Still, ‘Mummy’ remains a spectacular episode, easily the best of S8 and one of the best of the series as a whole.

I look forward to ‘Flatline,’ where Clara and Mathieson get to shine.

Moon Matters   Leave a comment

‘Kill the Moon’ is problematic.

The science is unusually bad, even for Doctor Who, but that’s not the worst of it. The character stuff is just weird. The whole adventure is launched because Courtney for some reason cares deeply about what the Doctor thinks of her. This is odd because they have no relationship: he’s not her dad, he’s not her teacher, he’s just a random guy on staff who showed her some weird space stuff. Plus she’s fifteen and a rebel, so even if he did hurt her feelings, I don’t imagine she’d give him the slightest hint that she cared. Then Clara tries to force him to be nice to her, which makes no sense at all. This isn’t Eleven; this Doctor would refuse her demands just to be contrary, whether he meant what he said or not.

Off on the wrong foot to start.

The trip to the moon itself is cool. “What’s wrong with my yoyo?” is a lovely and hilarious scene. I did wonder why no one at any point asked how they got there. And I wish they’d come up with an explanation for the moon’s increasing mass that actually worked.

The exploration and adventure part of the story is just fine, but the conflict is a major problem. No one’s behavior makes sense. Why does Clara suddenly give over everything to the Doctor? She’s never had trouble taking charge before. Why does he bail when there’s a life at stake? Does he really have so much faith in Clara? Why do they think that asking the people of Earth – at least those experiencing night in the visible portion of the hemisphere – to vote makes any sense at all? First of all, how many people are even going to get the communication in the limited delivery time? Then, how many of them are going to bother to respond? And how is there any chance at all that every one of them would agree? The whole idea is a mess.

If the Doctor knew that the moon dragon was harmless, obviously he should have said, but as I pointed out above, this is not Eleven. He’s not kind, he’s not reliable, he operates according to his whim and doesn’t concern himself with his companion’s feelings. If he didn’t know, it’s uncharacteristic of him not to stay and find out. The choice of destroy or not destroy is too simple for Doctor Who; in nearly every bad-choice scenario, he comes up with a third way, or at least stays in the fight to the messy end. ‘The Satan Pit’ is a good example: faced with two bad choices, the Doctor acts on faith and is rewarded with the TARDIS. Here the Doctor walks away, leaving the choice to someone else – and don’t think he wouldn’t punish her cruelly if she happened to choose wrong. “I knew you’d make the right choice” is as patronizing as he’s ever been.

Not that that’s out of character for this Doctor. He’s kind of a jerk.

Still, Clara’s reaction seems out of proportion. Maybe because she should know by now that’s how he is. Maybe because it’s unlike her to be so helpless. There are a hundred more plausible ways she could have operated in this story. Of course, none of them would have led to a dramatic breakup scene; if that’s what they were going for, maybe this was the best they could do.

There’s good stuff in here for sure. “My gran used to put things on Tumblr.” Moon dragon. Captain Lundvik is a great character, and she and Jenna get some wonderful acting to do. But in the end I don’t understand why Harness gets a two-parter in S9 while Mathieson – of ‘Mummy’ – gets only a double bill with the Moff.

Of course, maybe for this fanboy, it’s an honor. What do I know.

Caretaker parallels   Leave a comment

I did have one further meta-ish thought about this episode. There is a moment where Danny tells Clara he’s not stupid, the same way she told the Doctor, and a parallel begins to emerge – a parallel that is touched on repeatedly during the season.

Clara is becoming the Doctor.

Rose became the Doctor briefly on several occasions during her run. She refused to give up on him in ‘Parting of the Ways,’ to the point of becoming all-powerful, trading her life for his, saving the human race and her friends at the cost of herself. In ‘The Christmas Invasion,’ she took on his courage in the face of the enemy when all else was lost. “They’ll kill you,” Mickey argued, when she stepped up to speak for humanity before the Sycorax. “Someone’s got to be the Doctor,” she said. “Never stopped him.”

Clara takes on somewhat different aspects of the Doctor’s character: his brilliance, his superiority, his command. She leads an army in ‘Nightmare in Silver,’ gives up everything to save a child in the ‘Rings of Akhaten,’ treats the universe with casual fearlessness, and now, keeps her companion in the dark to both their detriment.

It doesn’t work for her any better than it does for the Doctor.

I look forward to re-watching ‘Flatline,’ where she takes on the Doctor’s entire role, and ‘Dark Water/Death in Heaven,’ where she briefly assumes his identity.

The Caretaker   Leave a comment

I think the main problem I have with this episode is that I don’t care about Danny and Clara’s relationship.

Much as with River and the Doctor (referenced in this episode) we never see what brings them together. We never see them get to know each other better or begin to fall in love. Yet the showrunner expects us to accept them as a couple, because he says so. I fell for Rose and the Doctor, because the evolution from distrust to friendship to love was so natural and organic in its development. I even bought Amy and Rory in the end, because there was so much honest passion and emotion there – and just enough back story. But Clara and Danny I don’t get. The adventures teased in the beginning – the chains in the desert, the fish people, the running – any of them would have made a better story.

Of course I also have trouble with the lying.

What do you tell someone you care about when you are seeing and doing impossible things they would likely never believe? It’s certainly a barrier to having an honest relationship, as Gwen Cooper discovered. I understand that Clara wants to keep her two lives separate, which is impossible and part of the problem, but if she cares for Danny as she claims to, she needed to tell him the truth from the start. His disbelief might threaten their relationship, but her lying and continuing to lie only make it worse.

I also have a problem with his extracting promises from her. What’s he doing but replacing her “superior officer” with himself? What makes him any better qualified for the job? She caves of course, as she does, though she has no real intention of keeping the promise. Clara has guts, but she fails to stand up for herself when it actually is important.

Still, there is enough to like about this episode. The Doctor’s stubborn cluelessness reaches new heights. Courtney Woods is a fun addition. Three classic monsters are referenced in the opening sequence: the plastic human forms of the Autons, the single blue eye of the Daleks, the metal leg of the Cybermen. The monster itself makes for some exciting sequences. The Doctor’s rage, and his passionate defense of humanity in spite of it, is always a joy to watch. I saw shades of the Tenth Doctor in his gagetry and shouting.

I do think, however, that this takes us into a low point in the season. I just want to skip ahead to ‘Mummy.’

Posted August 17, 2015 by Elisabeth in Season 8, The Great Re-Watch

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