Clara Oswald

Under the Lake

Doctor_Who_Under_the_LakeOtherwise known as Echoes of the Baker.

Seriously, for all the right reasons, this could easily have been an episode featuring Tom Baker as The Doctor with his trusty screaming, but supportive, companion Sarah-Jane Smith.

An undersea base – once a military base in a village drowned by a broken dam – has been reopened because of the potential for profit. It would appear fuel reserves under the valley make a visit by a survey team worthwhile. Alas, they come across an alien spaceship containing an indecipherable message – and things go wrong from there.

Ghosts! Spirits of the dead, I tell you!

In short order, the ‘base under siege’ plot kicks in, with The Doctor and Clara as trapped as a crew – though, perhaps our time travels entrapment comes down to curiosity and the need for adventure more than physical restriction.

From the point of view of tie-in novels, the gap between here and the last episode must be huge. Clara seems positively buzzing on the potential for more excitement and adventure – which, upon arrival at the base, a gloomy and silent corridor doesn’t seem to offer.

However, once the traveller come face to face with the ghosts and then the crew, the excitement ramps up enough for Clara to stay.

Best bits?

Well, the gloom, claustrophobia, detective-work monologuing, and the sense of the alien about The Doctor harken back to Tom Baker’s turn as the Time Lord. Ghosts and mystery clash with technology and profiteering.

Clara has clearly set herself a goal of giving The Doctor a better bedside manner, providing him with convenient flashcards with calming and reassuring statements – which he proceeds to delivery in the most mechanical and unconvincing way. Lovely stuff.

Yes, we have been in the siege situation before. However, isn’t there some old truth about only a finite number of plots existing, so you have to recycle them eventually. Nothing wrong with that. I personally love the opportunity to run around the same lengths of a dimly-lit corridor from different angles time and time again. A curve, a junction and a couple of doorways – and voila! A whole base to have fun in.

You get Alien, Aliens and Alien3 thrown in for good measure, with the crew hunted, the gobby military personnel, the profiteering rep of the company with only his interests in mind, and the attempt to lure the adversary into a trap. Thankfully we pulled short of emulating Alien Resurrection – perhaps with The Doctor playing an over-enthusiastic and brutal game of tiddly-winks.

The episode just felt packed with nice touches and gentles nods at firm favourites – the TARDIS uneasy and the sound of the cloister bell, The Doctor quite forward about who he likes and who he has no time for, the brainstorming session for ideas where The Doctor just needs people to bounce his own ideas off, the House-style realisation that what The Doctor thought was completely wrong and suddenly the clues all fall into place.

And UNIT. The psychic paper flashes a UNIT ID and one of the personnel in the station has heard of The Doctor. No need for the traveller to worry they lack the credentials to take charge – UNIT still pack some clout and they’re not to be argued with.

Oh, and interesting to see the reuse of a known quantity in the Tivolian ghost. David Walliams played the Tivolian Gibbis in The God Complex – so we have a baseline understanding (assuming you’ve seen the episode) that they’re meek and pathetic by way of a defence mechanism. As The Doctor muses, what would turn such a cowardly alien into such a menacing and psychotic ghost?

I loved it and I can’t wait to see the next episode. The cliff-hanger ending was excellent… and simply leaves me wanting more, more, more.

Saving Santa

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OK – I can see Christmas Who remaining as divisive as ever. Since the Sycarax, murderous Christmas trees and oompah Santa-masked mercenaries took to the screen in the Tennent-period, has anything divided Who fans more? OK – Catherine Tate, perhaps. And Clara.

Indeed, I sense Clara will have much to do with the division this time. Some, like my wife, expected something of this Christmas episode that Moffat didn’t deliver. They expected Clara to leave, to walk away from the TARDIS once and for all. She had, at the end of the final episode of the series, spun a tale to the Doctor that she was happy with Danny Pink and he had nothing to worry about. He did the same in the respect of finding the location of Gallifrey. Christmas could have been the final final farewell.

That didn’t happen.

You should have heard my wife’s words of exasperation, like she had taken Moffat’s solemn promise and he had broken his vow. I don’t recall said words exchanged. I remember Canada acting all coy when he appeared on The One Show.

Perhaps Moffat also didn’t help his cause when he named this episode Last Christmas and provided the Act 3 twist that he did. Naughty man.

For my part, I would have missed Clara and I’m happy she will continue the journey. For all we know, she might pull a Bonnie Langford and only linger for a short while before handing over to someone else. It doesn’t make sense to spoil Christmas with something as wrenching as a departure. Christmas almost needs to be the episode you could miss altogether and not spoil the continuity of the show. Almost. Indeed, after the Tennent-period that pretty much has become the case.

I liked the episode. I liked Nick Frost as Santa, and those cheeky elves. I enjoyed the plot and the threat. A lot of the knowing humour hit spot on for me, making me chuckle – like Santa explaining he can carry all the presents for the children of the world because his sleigh is bigger on the inside.

In all likelihood I will give the episode further consideration and come back to it. For me, I found a lot to enjoy here and felt far more satisfied than I have with some Christmas episodes. It felt like a good episode with a dose of Christmas, rather than a dose of Christmas with a hint of Who.

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.

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