Current Doctor

Kill The Moon – with Spiders

Kill_the_moonTo my mind, ‘Kill The Moon’ turned out to be another good episode. If I could compare it to a past Doctor – and it feels like the series currently demands that of you – it would probably be the Fourth Doctor, dear old Tom Baker. When the Doctor disappears into the crack in the Moon seeking out the source of the spiders, that reminded me of Tom for some reason. Not quite sure why. I’m happy to go with the gut instinct on this one.

So, in ‘Kill The Moon’ we have a humanity-changing situation at hand in a point of temporal flux of which The Doctor has no notion of the outcome. What happens now hasn’t happened yet – despite the fact that what has come after apparently already has. Clara has seen the Moon in the future, so how could it possibly be destroyed in the past?

Flux.

Anyway – we have had these temporal nexus points before. Going back to Tom, ‘Genesis of the Daleks‘ was a nexus in some measure. The Time Lords sent him to destroy the Daleks – and the point of their creation by Davros represented a malleable event open to change.

We seem to have two phenomenon that have cropped up many times like this – the nexus, where events could be changed despite the certainty they can’t be open to alteration; and, the forgotten past, where something happens – like a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a gigantic Cyberman – and people somehow paper over the incident like it never did happen. Who remembers it – um… no one, because it would hurt to give it credance, and it was probably just the fog or a minor outbreak of hysteria.

Here, The Doctor takes the stance he has worked against for so very long. The Time Lords claimed they held to values about non-intervention, and only the Doctor and a few others – like the Celestial Intervention Agency – worked against the grain. Here, The Doctor steps back and states he can have nothing to do with the decision. The only people able to make this decision has to be those affected by the outcome, the people of Earth.

(more…)

You Ham-Fisted Bun Vendor!

the-caretakerDays of delicate hard work and now look at it… The whole plan up in smoke because you messed with my careful (and entirely suspicious) preparations.

So, The Doctor gets a job as the caretaker at Coal Hill School, on the trail of the relentless and terrifying Skovox Blitzer (it’s a sort of crab/spider/robot thing that probably would have suited an appearance in the Sarah Jane Adventures – and that isn’t a bad thing). Left unchecked the deadly robot could destroy all humanity. However, the fate of the robot has a secondary role in the episode, which has a great deal more to do with the triangle of The Doctor, Clara and Danny Pink.

I can see how some people might really dislike this episode. My wife didn’t like it much, and the fleeting glance I gave to the odd review here and there didn’t rate it.

In a series giving a lot of nods to classic Doctors, this one had Jon Pertwee‘s Third Doctor layered on thick. From the Doctor’s introduction as the new caretaker, John Smith, through gadgetry and martial arts (or was that an earlier episode) – this was classic Who. I can almost see Pertwee dressed in the classic brown coat of the working caretaker, with screwdriver in hand and pencil lodged behind one ear.

Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.

This was a good episode. I loved the fact The Doctor got the wrong end of the stick about Adrian (pictured), the other teacher with a vague resemblance to a certain dashing bow-tie wearing Time Lord. It gave us the chance to see a little more of Clara and Capaldi and a bumbling Doctor up to something that isn’t clear to everyone else. He’s trying to be inconspicuous and achieving exactly the opposite.

Yes, it is a bit obvious in places. It is trying to show the difference between Pink and the Doctor, the two ex-soldiers who seem to handle their issues in the same way and yet so differently. Clara loves them both , though one love grows increasingly strained, and the other love suffers from her wrestling heart.

The threat wasn’t a big one. It did remind me of Sarah Jane. I’m sure it’s something to do with the special effects. I love a real, physical robot more than something rendered in CGI, but you need just the right film, director, atmosphere, etc. for a genuine sense of threat. This is tea time action adventure, so you’re never going to get that.

More Missy at the close and an assistant, Seb, ‘because she’s a bit busy at the moment’. The Nethersphere – Paradise – seems to be a busy place. Whatever is she up to? I guess it grows increasingly unlikely to be River Song, as I previously supposed. Also, I doubt it’s The Rani, unless she’s swayed from her interest in the purely biological-side of experimentation. She was all about weird experiments – and Paradise seems to have more sinister undertones.

I really do like the way the current series has played with facets of the old Doctor, echoes of incarnations past in story and characterisation. I have no idea whether that will factor into the last double episode or not – or whether it just all ties back into the aftermath of the 50th anniversary story arc.

The Heist of Your Life

time-heistOK – so, I don’t think that we have done a bank job before. Or done something quite so Ocean’s Eleven with time travellers thrown into the mix.

I can see the potential for entertainment value here – and, I wouldn’t rob Time Heist of any redeeming features. However, it didn’t really do it for me. Even having the delectable Keeley Hawes on-board, as the steely Ms Delphox, didn’t win me over.

At a basic level we have a Dark City scenario wrapped up with a bank job. The team gathered to complete the job have all had their memories wiped from the outset, but a message tells them what they need to do. I liked the slugs – they were kind of neat. I have a soft spot for creatures with weird defensive (or offensive) abilities that, in the hands of the ingenious, can be turned to another purpose altogether.

Anyway – we have Psi and Saibra on the team. One, a jacked up cyber-guy, the other a mutant capable of taking on any form. Both have something to gain from this job, specifically the ability to lose something, something that has hampered their existence. If they can pull off the impossible bank job, they will have their prize. However, Delphox has a pet mind scrambler in her arsenal – and she doesn’t have much patience for the guilty.

Yes, I found many aspects of the premise interesting. However, the Psi and Saibra felt just plain too shallow for me to care much about their sacrifices along the way.

I liked the basic idea of the Teller – and where that went story-wise sort of worked for me – but, I’m not sure it struck the right cord as a threat. Yes, it can turn your brain to mush when you’re found harbouring guilt, but in the end – why? Why such a heavy-handed approach to security? How do you keep up such an overwhelming profitable banking business when any customer might die at a moments notice for holding fleeting thoughts about steeling a pen from the counter, or a few credits from the vault?

The whole explanation for why… well, guilt and such is all well and good. We have had the Doctor haunted by guilt since the start of the new series 9 or so years ago. Even given the stakes involved, would the Doctor really have any cause to get involved like this?

Highlight of the episode for me remains the security check where you see a pile of faces of known criminals – and they include the likes of Abslom Daak, the Dalek Killer, and Captain John, from series 2 Torchwood. I love a knowing and appreciative nod to the wider continuity.

In the end, however, I didn’t really enjoy this so much – especially given how great the episode Listen proved to be the week before.

I’m Still Listening

next-time-on-doctor-whoBy no means redeeming Moffat for the first three episodes of the new Doctor, Listen, in my honest opinion, has been the best of the series so far and shows that despite evidence Clara and The Doctor can work together.

I did have some sneaky sense that something was just terribly wrong and that they simply didn’t work as Time Lord and companion. I can now see they still have a fighting chance – and I almost warmed to Danny Pink as well. Almost. It still might take another story or three to get me really bedded into seeing him as a viable character.

If you haven’t seen the episode yet, you would be unwise to read any further.

On the other hand, if you’re still reading – it was interesting to watch an episode that really didn’t have a villain. The Doctor has fear as a companion and that fear gives him his strength. Without that fear, that voice that keeps talking even when no one else is around, when silence hangs heavy – without that, the War Doctor could not have stood the test and did what he did. Without that ever present companion, the Doctor would not continue to soldier on.

What was under the blanket? Was that Clara? If she’s under the bed, then was she under the blanket as well? I guess, in some ways, it’s interesting to leave that one unanswered. When you lie awake at night and you hear something in the house. When you settle yourself and the pipes creaks, or you can just catch something scuttling across the roof tiles. That isn’t Clara… What it is, well – like I say, best not to consider it.

That was an interesting character piece, grappling with the past and the future. The Doctor ended up at the end of the Universe again. This time, he seems to have gone even further than the last, when he disturbed The Master and the Toclafane. At the end of time, something lurked outside the door. Clara again, perhaps? Or, just the threat of something, the fear of something made real. A manifestation of that dependable companion?

Yes, Listen might have been a turning point for me. I saw a Doctor before me. I didn’t see Peter Capaldi. I felt I was watching the same old Time Lord I have followed so avidly before and he had a new face. This was not simply another actor playing a role in a way that left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. Here, Capaldi did his bit and he stepped into those big Gallifreyan shoes. I saw The Doctor and I found myself comfortable with it for a moment. I saw a little of the darkness, and I saw the touch of age making him something different. The Doctor that shies away from hugs, who questions existence, who struggles to accept that he doesn’t know everything.

And then the episode ended. I found myself watching the clock, wondering what might happen next. In the end, we discovered another facet of Clara, the Impossible Girl. Clara, who would be at the side of The Doctor from the start to the finish, watching over him. Even before he became The Doctor we know, blankets pulled tightly over his head in the dead of night. Sleeping out in a barn – a barn that would one day be a ramshackle place to think over the future of his homeworld and his greatest enemy.

In those wee hours when the monsters lurk everywhere and we’re certain, if only for just a moment, that we might not make it through the night.

I liked that rather a lot.

Almost as much as I liked the trailer for the next episode. That made me squeal.

Midway through the trailer, we catch a glimpse of a Police database with several brief mugshots.

We see:

Brilliant. Daak made me squee. I squee’d out loud in front of my whole family.

Missy – Facts or Fiction?

Missy-Doctor-WhoI have mentioned it before – Moffat has piqued my interest with the introduction of the character Missy (played by Michelle Gomez). She appeared at the end of the first episode and close to the end of the second, her appearances fleeting and curious as with Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) in Series 6.

For my part, I appreciate these glimpse – I have a soft spot for Michelle Gomez as an actress. Not sure why. I was never a big fan of The Green Wing, but when I did watch it was probably to see her, Tamsin Greig, and the talented Mark Heap.

Anyway. I have seen various theories about Missy. Is she a renegade time lord? Would Moffat regenerate The Rani, as RTD regenerated The Master? Or, might she be River Song, who also has the regeneration-thing going on and the rightful inclination to refer to The Doctor as her ‘boyfriend’ (though, that might be a hint it isn’t River, as surely she’d refer to him as her husband, or more probably just ‘Sweetie’).

When we first saw her, I was taken by an overwhelming sense of familiarity with the setting for her ‘afterlife’, which seemed very much akin to the virtual afterlife River appeared in at the end of ‘Forest of the Dead‘. It could easily be they simply just used the same location or similar lighting – but, that familiarity and the reference to ‘boyfriend’ did scream River.

Thoughts of the planet-sized Library also slammed home with the last episode, ‘Robot of Sherwood‘. While The Independent seemed to be unimpressed with the story – which catered towards kids and caricature more than darkness and plot thrusts – I think I saw something different. Rather than an episode focussed too much on some inane quest by The Doctor to prove the fictional nature of Hood, why not consider this as more a matter of fictional leakage. Think Library, with a capital ‘L’, here.

The Library contained an immense amount of knowledge, including fiction, and the Moon set to maintain the integrity and security of the Library used fictionalised environs to contain viruses infecting the planet. Why not have a ‘world’ within the Library where Robin Hood exists?

The Mark Gatiss penned episode also contained a lot of in-references to previous Doctors. The Doctor questioned whether they’d landed in a Miniscope – from the 3rd Doctor episode ‘Carnival of Monsters’, the Sheriff had his chance while King Richard engaged in the Crusades – assisted by the 1st Doctor, and The Doctor battled Robin with a spoon – quite possibly a reference to the 8th Doctor’s fascination with said item of cutlery. Again… might leakage of knowledge from the Library have something to do with this?

(On the other hand, it might all just be fan boy stuff from Gatiss – including the fourth wall busting moment when we see Patrick Troughton in Robin Hood garb for an early BBC adaptation of the legend.)

What of the connection between Missy and The Promised Land? Are the virtual environs of the Library – filled with the knowledge and personalities of myriad people and civilisations – that place? Why would anyone seek to go there, aside from the potential for immortality – or a source of lost souls to facilitate some darker aim?

I suppose only time (pardon the pun) will tell.

Into the Not So Cool Dalek

into-the-dalekI have a real problem with the episode “Dalek“.

RTD made the damned thing so cool, no Dalek before or since can live up to it. Seriously.

The whole sequence where the Dalek assimilates time energy to regenerate, then heads out to exterminate its captors. The solders fall back, firing meagre weaponry that fails even to penetrate the Dalek’s basic shielding. We see bullets fly, only to slow, flatten and fall to the ground. The soldiers spread out, and we discover the Dalek war machine has 360 degree rotation in the upper and mid-section. Killing energies fly – soldiers fall, skeletons momentarily visible.

The Good Dalek did some of that here – and the soldiers tried all they could to stop it… but the Dalek couldn’t do anything really cool. It didn’t do anything new. It blundered along like the Jock sauntering into the party late, unaware that the really Cool Guy arrived an hour earlier in the same clothes and pulling off better tricks.

As a result, “Into The Dalek” didn’t break enough new ground. Doing the “Innerspace” thing, miniaturised to complete repairs, proved interesting enough, but the Dalek failed to stun or amaze. I want to be wowed.

And, I could easily be wowed with just that 360 degree swivel thing and a bit of hovering.

Or, if someone could please serve me up a technicoloured iDalek (per “Victory of the Daleks”), because I didn’t have a problem with that particular makeover. They appeared in “Asylum of the Daleks“, so why not since… and why did they appear on that occasion and not have an issue with the old gold-style kind?

Anyway – I found the threat of the Dalek underwhelming and the human forces uninspiring. For all the tough talk of putting The Doctor to death the moment he arrived, they appeared woefully ill-equipped in the face of a single enemy.

And why did they bring it on to the ship if they didn’t have the guns to handle it? I understand the lure of a partly disabled Dalek and the potential of turning it against your opposition – but, when it bites during the operation to heal it, shouldn’t you have proper gloves and something ready to put it down, just in case?

The Clara/Pink sub-plot didn’t grab me much.  It seemed weakly tagged on and all too obvious where it was going with the anti-militaristic viewed of the Doctor in the aftermath of his last regeneration. A Good Man Went to War – and he didn’t like it much.

I know everyone differs in taste and exposure to TV – and kids watching won’t have this issue at all (but, I’ll be continuing with this in a moment) – but guest starring Tyres (Michael Smiley, ‘Spaced‘) and Vod (Zawe Ashton, ‘Fresh Meat’) in the same episode proved a little too much for me. How can I take this war seriously?

Especially given the continuing adjustment to The Doctor…

I didn’t have trouble with the accent this time, but I did suffer some severe Malcolm Tucker moments. When The Doctor first inspected and talked about the Vault inside the Dalek that inhibited certain emotions – something in his tone and delivery just shouted Malcolm at me. Anyone who never watched “The Thick of It” won’t get what I’m suffering. However, I suspect those people who straddle fandom of Who and Tucker might be having issues differentiating the performance – which ultimately must come back to Capaldi and the writing.

One hopes that he still has time to settle.

Take a Deep Breath

Doctor-Who-Deep-BreathI had no particular expectations about Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, because the actor and the character so often have little in common. I mean, take David Tennant adopted a different accent and before Who his hair wasn’t so flamboyantly coiffured. I wanted to take the new Doctor as something of a blank slate.

Deep Breath offered an unexpected experience in that respect, as I found myself genuinely struggling to understand anything Capaldi said for the first 10 or 15 minutes. Maybe I’m just getting old and decrepit or something. I’m ready to consider that the failings of age might go some way to providing explanation. Perhaps my problem is a combination of Capaldi’s accent and the incidental music?

I definitely got the ‘jump on’ vibe – the sense of revisiting some basic principles just for the benefit of new viewers. At the same time, the script and plot contained plenty of elements suitable for fans – both of the Classic Who period and the 21st century rebirth. The Clockwork Robots were obviously not simply a nod, but an out-and-out connection to the much-loved episode, The Girl in the Fireplace.

I found the difficulty suffered by Clara in taking onboard the regeneration a struggle to empathise with. No one seems to have gone through this much trauma before – even Peri, who in waking to find the Doctor regenerating into Colin Baker was promptly set upon and strangled. She adjusted remarkably well.

Deep Breath has a slight feel of The Christmas Invasion, with The Doctor taking to bed, recovering from his regeneration. Capaldi harnesses the bewilderment common in so many post-regeneration Doctors, new and old.

I like Strax, though he undoubtedly must have a Jar-Jar/Marmite-style following amongst viewers. Sometimes, the humour hits the mark; other times, you have to wonder why Moffat has singled the Sontaran out for ridicule… I mean, they’re already a race of short, potato-headed clones. Do they need more piss taken out of them?

In some respect, now that I think about it, the fight between The Doctor and the Almost Man was rather similar to the sword fight between Tennant and the Sycorax Leader in The Christmas Invasion. The combatants battle close to the edge of the abyss and we have genuine doubts as to whether the Time Lord has it in him to not only win the fight, but also to put an end to the threat. Both adversaries spiralling to the ground… well, if anyone labels The Doctor out as cold for this act, it begs comparison with Tennant as setting the precedent.

I’m ready to continue watching and see how this pans out. Moffat has piqued my interest with Missy, as I’m certain it’s meant. I’m thinking something to do with River and her Virtual Tomb in the Library.