The Weakness of Plot


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

"Uh-oh. It's Chibnall again." Despite my more-optimistic-than-any-previous-episode reaction to the next-time trailer for The Power of Three, I couldn't help wincing a bit and bracing for the worst when I realized it was another entry by one of my all-time least favorite writers. I'm happy to report, though, that I didn't hate it.

Granted, after some thought and a subsequent viewing, my initial very positive reaction was somewhat dulled as I realized how many plot holes there were, but somehow I was still mostly able to look beyond the letdown-y bits and have fun with it. Because - let's face it - I'm a sucker for any reference, however oblique, to the Brigadier.

OK, OK... There were other parts to like, too (Rory in his pants (or "underwear," for us Americans) was clearly among them). In fact, there was a lot I enjoyed. Especially that first time through, I got swept up in the "romp," willing until the very end to play along with what I was clearly intended to be getting out of it. There was a silly-fun puzzle with the cubes, another fish-out-of-water interlude with the Doctor trying to take the Slow Path with Amy & Rory, more of Rory's charming dad Brian, a random reference to an attempted Zygon invasion, and the delightful Kate (Lethbridge-) Stewart.

In other words, all the window-dressing was beautiful.


Respect, If Not Affection


Review of A Town Called Mercy
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

I don't know what it is about S7/S33, but I'm just not feeling it. Each episode has been beautifully rendered - good acting, good effects, and in this case a gorgeous location - but I have yet to feel a visceral connection with anything going on in the lives of the Doctor, Amy and Rory. Maybe it's because we're not really following their collective lives anymore.

Whatever is going on, I still liked this episode better than the last one. In Dinos, everything from the title on down was designed for the kiddies, with a few incongruous bits of very adult themes thrown in for good measure. Here's its rather the opposite. We've got a cool-looking cyborg, but that's the backdrop for a huge ethical exploration of what it means to be a war criminal. As Sue of Adventures with the Wife in Space would say: Not. For. Kids.

Maybe that's why I enjoyed Mercy more than Dinos, though. Westerns aren't my favorite; I vastly prefer The Seven Samurai to The Magnificent Seven. Despite that, I really felt like this was a story I could sink my teeth into - the spaghetti Western bit was just set dressing (as opposed to the first time the Doctor was coerced into becoming a lawman in America's Old West). Really, it could have been set anywhere, anywhen - they just happened to decide to put it in the 1870 U.S. frontier.


Some Treasures Among the Coprolites


Review of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.
Further warning: Profanity ahead.

I'm going to be up front about this: I didn't really care for this episode. To start, I've never been much of a Chris Chibnall fan. No disrespect meant, but I've just never particularly enjoyed his episodes. Mix that with the fact that I thought the whole dinosaurs-on-a-spaceship concept was less than fabulous (not to mention a ridiculously stupid title - I find the Snakes on a Plane reference juvenile and tawdry), and you have a recipe for ... well, for a bit of a letdown.

Before those of you who adored the episode crucify me, let me say I did not hate it unconditionally. There were parts I liked, and I'll get to those. But having come in with low expectations because of the title and then having my heart sink when I saw Chibnall's name on the screen, it was bound to be a bumpy ride. And while I could have fun with it from time to time, overall I came away with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

Let's start at the beginning. Surely I can't be the only one who's noticed with chagrin how strongly it's implied lately that the Doctor is not only sexually irresistible to every (usually historically famous) woman he comes across, but that he is sexually attracted to them in turn. I mean, I thought the whole thing with Ten and Queen Elizabeth I was bad - Queen Nefertiti in the opening moments here (and Mata Hari last week) is just over the top. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit I totally ship Ten/Rose (that's effectively canon), but that happened gradually over many many episodes. It started as a friendship, and built from there, rather than coming sheerly from a basal place of horndoggery like this. So I was irritated right off the top.

And then the Doctor decides to collect a gang. "Not really had a gang before. It's new." First, does he not remember any of his Fifth incarnation? What do you call Adric, Nyssa and Tegan, if not a gang? And what do they add? If you rewrote it without Nefertiti and Riddell in it, you would lose absolutely nothing from the episode - they're utterly extraneous. Finally, what possible motivation can he have for bringing random people he's met along in the TARDIS for one-off adventures, especially if he still intends to go back for "the Ponds"? Oh, right. That's Chibnall's idea of a story hook, not the Doctor's actual motivation.


A Trick with the Memory


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

Well. It looks like it's time to revise Confession #23. In truth, though, there's still much to be seen about where that particular plot twist takes us as we head into the second half of the series. More on that later, though.

My initial reaction was generally positive. Having managed to avoid any spoilers, I was suitably surprised by all the key revelations, and had no qualms allowing myself to be swept up in the narrative as it galumphed rapidly toward its conclusion. (Can galumphing ever be rapid? I'm going with "yes.") The Doctor's questions niggled at the back of my mind, too, but I was content to let them percolate until the denouement made it all clear. I might have been able to puzzle it out on my own given time, but of course the script never gives you that luxury.

One thing that the pacing made unpleasant for me was that the mass of Daleks wasn't... errr... massive enough. I know it's weird to say I didn't think there were enough Daleks (especially given my recent Confession about my feelings towards Daleks), but all the pre-show hype about "every Dalek ever" made it seem like it would be more obvious to non-experts like myself. I did love the list of survivors of various wars in the Intensive Care ward of the asylum, though (and even recognized many of them before looking them up): Spiridon, Kembel, Aridius, VulcanExxilon... So there was at least some verbal mention of diversity. I'll still have to go back to the cover of my Doctor Who Magazine #447 and review the physical differences so I know for whom to look. Even with my eyes peeled, I was barely able to find the Special Weapons Dalek.


Confession #24: I Want the Daleks to Go Away


I got to thinking about this after a lively Twitter conversation the other day. It's no surprise the Daleks are coming back for the first episode of Series Seven (or S33, depending on how you count) - and if it was till just now, I'm sorry for the "spoiler" (and you need to tell me how you managed to avoid it till now!) - but my question is "why?".

Don't get me wrong; I like Daleks well enough. I'm just really, really tired of them. Think about it. Series One (I'll use the post-Hiatus numbering for simplicity) brings them back with the lovely Dalek, in which Nine has to face the horrible truth about the Time War, and then ends with a Dalek extravaganza. Series Two combines Daleks and Cybermen. Series Three doesn't use them as the Big Bad, but does include a (lame) two-parter appearance. Series Four goes back to RTD's basics, throwing both Daleks and Davros into the mix for the finale.

Moving onto The Moffat Years, we get new, glossy, candy-coated Power Ranger pop-up toys Daleks in Series Five. Only in the most recent series are they - very nearly - absent. In the end Moffat couldn't resist a few-second cameo, so they still appeared.

Anyone noticing a trend yet?



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