Don't Wake Me


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

I've read (OK, skimmed) a fair number negative reviews for this episode, but I have to say I just can't relate at all.

This series more than any other, I've observed a vast array of opinions among fans. For any given episode, there seems to be a "best thing since sliced bread" camp and a "disastrous blight besmirching the face of Our Show" camp. Occasionally, there's a "Weeeeell... It wasn't awful, but it sure could've been better" contingent, too. As best I can tell, the residents of these camps don't all stay together as they switch campgrounds, either. I'm not sure if it's really this series, or that I'm a little more connected these days than I used to be that's responsible for my observation of the effect, but nearly every episode has been divisive to some degree.

I'm all for every fan having (and voicing) their own opinion, and I know no one's line up exactly with anyone else's - heck, things would be boring if they did. I like to believe that most times I can wrap my brain around the differences enough to say, "I don't agree with you, but I can understand why you feel that way." But this time I just don't get it.

It must come down to a visceral reaction. I don't know whether or not I'm part of the "target audience" that's supposed to be left cold by this reportedly awful episode, but I thought it was spectacular. It entertained me the whole way through both times I've seen it so far. Yes, there were bits that irritated me, but those were the parts I thought I were meant to irritate me (~cough~Angie~cough~). For the most part, I thought it did a brilliant job of its number one task: make the Cybermen scary again.


Invasion of the Leeches


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

I can't help but wonder if the Doctor isn't doing some universe-hopping with Clara on board. After all, it would explain both her comment that her current home "looks different" when she comes back to it and some of the nonsensical parts of their adventure this week.

Despite the fact that bad science often irks me when I see in in Who, something about the way Mrs. Gillyflower's rocket was the epitome of steampunk allowed me to put a perception filter on the whole thing and take it in stride. (Even if I can't buy that this "prize-winning chemist and mechanical engineer" could devise both a viable preservation process and a functional rocket with only the help of a millions-years-old leech.) I know others were bothered by the flurry of anachronisms (and I also don't believe that Vastra, Jenny, and Strax can work unmolested in Victorian London, but that's another issue), but somehow - while other episodes this season have really put me off - I was mostly able to roll with this one.

I can't honestly say I was over-the-top thrilled, though. After all, I've never really been a fan of the "penny dreadfuls" (or Hammer Horror films, to which I understand there were a great number of references). So the genre wasn't my thing. That means the bodies that had succumbed to the Crimson Horror grated on me, the all-around nasty old lady put me off, and Mr. Sweet was simply 100% icky.


Like a Box of Chocolates


Review of Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

I think that nearly every fan, upon hearing the title of this episode, felt their heart skip a beat. Indeed, Moffat himself has indicated in interviews that his own fannish disappointment with the results of similar hype surrounding the end of The Invasion of Time (the pursuit "through the labyrinthine corridors" consisting primarily of tromping through the same stretch of an abandoned hospital building) was the inspiration for Doing It Right, so to speak.

Well, at least they tried...

I find myself weirdly ambivalent about this one - so much so that I was hard pressed to make myself sit through a second viewing. Even though there was a lot I liked - pretty much anything that had to do with the TARDIS herself I loved - there were so many parts that didn't work for me that I've had a tough time mustering any enthusiasm for the episode as a whole.

Let's go with the uncomfortable bits first so we can go out on a high, eh? Starting with the social commentary, I was rather disturbed to realize it took me till that second viewing to realize that we'd finally got some people of color in key roles, but they were depicted as the baddies. That troubles me.

What troubled me more, though, was those characters' story. I found it horrific - I suppose from a storytelling point of view, that's good. After all, it was small anomalies that proved out over the course of the episode without being heavily telegraphed. Good stuff, right? Maybe, but it just made my skin crawl, and not in a good way.


Obvious Quality


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

So close. So close! It was almost another top-notch episode - filled with nods to the pre- and post-Hiatus eras both - but it tripped at the finish line.

I will admit that those last two minutes didn't bother me quite as much the second time through, but I was also pausing the recording at regular intervals to make notes. That tends to break up the action in a way that prevents one from getting pulled into it.

What did work for me was practically everything else in the episode. It was wonderfully atmospheric, providing the perfect ambience for a ghost story. I absolutely loved the way that the shots in the main part of the house were all done to give a strong impression of sepia tone photography, down to the brown costumes.

With the exception of the cringe-worthy entrance of the Doctor and (especially) Clara, the seriously spooky tone is well maintained throughout, with the occasional light comic relief to allow a break in the tension. Most of that is courtesy of Clara, or of her relationships with the Doctor or the TARDIS, as when the Doctor tells her that her "pants are so on fire."

Relationships are important in any story, and we're still in a character development period for Clara, so any new insights help us gauge how we will react to her, or to her experiences. Among the moments when we get to know her better is when the Doctor "gives her a face," as he puts it, encouraging her to come look for the ghost with him. She's extremely reluctant until she lets the Doctor in on the key to gaining her cooperation: "Dare me." Yeah - he'll never use that on her again...


Chillingly Good


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

Hallelujah - finally, an episode I actually liked!

Though the pre-credits sequence didn't grab me quite as much as it did the poor sailor, it was not a bad way to start (and narratively necessary). Where the story really got rolling, though, was immediately after the credits as the ship was heading down. It had an extremely Das Boot feel, and was incredibly tense as a result. And I thought they largely managed to maintain that tension throughout.

I'm not sure how much of my love for this episode comes from the fact that I could utterly relate to the Doctor's declaration: "hair, shoulder pads, nukes - it's the '80s. Everything's bigger." It certainly didn't hurt that I remember the political climate of 1983 so clearly. The episode definitely gave me that rock-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach feeling that "mutually-assured destruction" always did. It was something we lived with daily; the threat of nuclear war hung over the heads of even middle school kids like me. So suffice to say I thought they nailed the feel of the era.

The rest of the episode was also filled with fabulous moments of one flavor or another. There are the explanations of how the show works for those who are just coming on board with Clara ("Am I speaking Russian? How come I'm speaking Russian?" "Now? We have to do this now?" or "The world didn't end in 1983, or I wouldn't be here." "... History's in flux; it can be changed. Rewritten."). There are the nods to the pre-Hiatus years for the long-term fans ("All right, Captain, all right. You know what? Just this once, no dissembling, no psychic paper, no pretending to be an Earth ambassador."). And there are the uncomfortable character moments, especially for the Doctor ("Skaldak won't talk to you; you're an enemy soldier." "And how would he know that?" "A soldier knows another soldier. He'll smell it on you. Smell it on you a mile off." "And he wouldn't smell it on you, Doctor?").



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