The Story at the Beginning of the Arc

May
31

Review of The Pyramid at the End of the World
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

I would be really interested in knowing how the writing work was split between Peter Harness and Stephen Moffat on The Pyramid at the End of the World (TPatEotW), because while it didn't feel completely Moffat-y, there were some distinctly Moffat qualities to the episode. Specifically, on first viewing, we get to the end and feel like we've been on a heckuva ride, but it's not until we step back and reflect that we realize there were things that didn't make sense along the way.

This is one of the features of Moffat's writing that has consistently frustrated me. It's wonderful on an immediate, gut level; the audience is easily swept up in the breadth of emotion as the story barrels along. Yet it is only that rapid-fire inevitability of plot development that keeps us from saying, "Hang on—that makes no sense." We have no time to process the bits that don't quite jibe, and thus they get swept away in the current of the story and we forget about them until we have clambered back out of the river and notice them swirling in an eddy downstream. Then they keep bobbing around, catching our eyes in a way we simply can't ignore them any longer.

There were two issues that I specifically felt detracted from the episode in that I-can-ignore-the-niggling-feeling-until-after-the-fact manner. The first was the safety protocols at Agrofuel Research Operations. While I loved watching events at the lab unfold, knowing as I watched that they were what was going to "end" the world (even if I didn't know for much of the episode precisely how), there were also several moments that left me shaking my head in disbelief.

For example, the instant Douglas removed part of his clean suit, I knew he was a dead man. Even putting aside the narrative convention that practically guarantees such an outcome, in what setting where one is required to wear a suit protective suit of that nature would it ever be deemed no big deal to breach it? He removes the helmet and Erica's reaction is a nonchalant, "What're you doing?" She's barely even concerned!

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In Veritas, Cavum

May
24

Review of Extremis
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

When Extremis came on my screen, I had no way to know what kind of a roller coaster ride I was in for—though probably not in the way you would assume upon reading that sentence.

Both on the micro and macro scales, my experience of the episode was full of shifting reactions. Outside of the content, I came in with a high level of excitement because for the first time ever, I was watching new Doctor Who fresh out of the box *with my daughters*.

It's only in the last couple of weeks that I've convinced them to give the show a try. They've seen it on the screen as I watched, alone or with the Ladies, in years past, but with the exception of a few minutes of (I believe) a Tom Baker serial, neither of them has ever sat down to watch with me. It had been summarily dismissed as "too scary."

Given that a number of years has passed since then, and that they have both read and watched plenty of scary content in the meantime, they finally agreed to give it a go with me. After The Pilot, they were champing at the proverbial bit for more. (We've also watched some of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and there are summer plans for further consumption of both pre- and post-Hiatus episodes.) So when they'd caught up and had the chance to watch the story unfold in "real time" with me, all three of us were excited.

By the time the episode ended, though, we all sat on the couch bemused.

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Zombies on a Spaceship

May
17

Review of Oxygen
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

You can't get much better for an American fan of my ilk than starting a Doctor Who episode with Star Trek's opening words. Unless, of course, you follow up with a clarification that space is "final" because it wants to kill us.

Oxygen combines some classic body horror with a commentary on the dangers of capitalism in an episode that looks like its sole story note from Moffat was "zombies in space," much like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship or Mummy on the Orient Express. Despite that dubious origin, in writer Jamie Mathieson's capable hands, we end up with a relatively strong story.

Among the facets that made this episode notable is the first full inclusion of Nardole as part of the TARDIS team. I've previously been less than complimentary to the Doctor's latest robot Companion (see also: K-9, Kamelion), but taking a reader's comments to heart, I've tried to set aside my pre-conceived notions about him (something in Husbands really set my teeth on edge) and look at him afresh. Judging purely on his appearances in Series Ten, then, I have to say I almost like him.

As a matter of fact, seeing Nardole in action for real—and most especially at the end of the episode when he confronts the Doctor with some actual fire in him—I've come around to what might even be considered fondness for the character. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that he got to be the bearer of an Easter egg for fans of the pre-Hiatus era or that he got to deliver the "as you know, Bob" dialog explaining to the audience why our heroes couldn't reach the TARDIS anymore.

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This Old House

May
10

Review of Knock Knock
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

One of the hallmarks of the Moffat era is Companions who (try to) live their own lives outside the TARDIS, traveling with the Doctor at their pleasure. Having fully engaged in travel through time and space, Bill is now attempting to slip back into a sense of normalcy at home. Needless to say, she gets no relief from her new life, and nor do her five new roommates.

To be fair, they're not exactly careful about what they're getting into, so desperate are they for an affordable place to live. Even Bill only briefly questions the low price of the expansive building that almost literally finds them rather than the other way around. Still, it's something of a harsh lesson for Bill that there really is no "part of [her] life [the Doctor's] not in."

And while it's clear that the Doctor has mellowed since this regeneration began, and he "gets" humans much more readily than he did during his time with Clara, he still has serious trouble respecting others' boundaries. Sometimes it's merely idiosyncratic (like inviting himself to share the housemates' Chinese food), but at other times he still really oversteps (as with his co-option of Bill's phone to share her Spotify playlist with everyone without asking).

It is, however, early days yet for them, and Bill is still learning about the Doctor. He tells her his species is called the Time Lords, and drops the word "regenerated" with an expression (hidden from her) that makes me wonder what's going through his mind. Does he sense he is nearing the end of this incarnation, or is there something else troubling him?

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Solid Footing

May
03

Review of Thin Ice
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

While Bill thinks she may be "low-key in love with [the TARDIS]" (which I thought was both a beautifully subtle nod to Bill's sexual orientation and a lovely statement of sentiment), I'm definitely low-key in love with writer Sarah Dollard's work.

Dollard, who penned last series's Face the Raven, hit another one out of the park with Thin Ice, keeping Series Ten on solid footing. Bill is fast becoming my favorite post-Hiatus Companion, and the developments in her relationship with the Doctor under Dollard's guidance are my favorite yet.

Following the Series One formula of modern-day introduction followed by a future adventure and then a past one, the Doctor (or, more accurately, the TARDIS) takes Bill to Regency-era London. I knew I'd love this episode the instant I saw Bill's initial reaction to the time: reminding the Doctor that as a person with melanin-rich skin, she's likely to have a different experience out there than he is. Better yet, Twelve actually considers her words before acknowledging the (general) danger and sending her off to choose a frock (in stark contrast to Ten's complete dismissal of Martha's similar anxiety at the beginning of The Shakespeare Code).

Throughout the episode, the chemistry between these two continued to fill me with joy. (I'm so crushed at the thought that we'll have no more of Capaldi after this series, and likely no more of Mackie, either—which is nigh criminal, as she's so bloody brilliant.) The Doctor yanks Bill's chain at least twice about her interaction with time travel—the imaginary disappearance of "Pete" and seeing the lights under the ice—and proves himself both particularly admirable and particularly problematic in her eyes.

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