"Closing" in on the Reveal


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

On the surface, Closing Time is a light-hearted, family-oriented romp leading us into the series finale. I, for one, don't believe it. I think it's highly unlikely that the production team would use something so utterly fluffy to head into the final stretch of the series, especially with all the portents of doom we've been getting since The Impossible Astronaut aired back in April.

It doesn't even take very thorough digging to see there's way more than the top-layer story here. The whole thing is very "meta." Here are just a few examples of how it references previous episodes:

  • Opening: much like Rose, the shop girls close up, then find danger in a dark part of the shop.
  • The Doctor visiting Craig: "Doctor's Reward," anyone?
  • Another baby: could there be any more babies (or kids) in this series? (Will the Doctor's cot reappear next week, or next series?)
  • "Stop noticing; just go": did he learn nothing from Bowie Base One?
  • "You always win! You always survive!": Obviously, this references the fans' view of the Doctor. The lovely, not-quite-weepy expression of the Doctor's reaction is supposed to help convince us that's not going to happen again this time. (Sorry, Mr. Moffat; protest all you like, but no one's buying it.)
  • "He needs someone": Donna told him so. But did he listen? Noooooo. And where did it get him? Hello, Eleven!
  • "Oh, please. Just give me this.": Seems we've heard this somewhere before...
  • Impossible Astronaut continuity: he nicks the blue envelopes from Sophie and gets a Stetson from Craig.

Labyrinthine Clues


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

Perhaps it's the fact that it was originally intended to be part of Series 5 instead of Series 6, but for some reason The God Complex has had a whole lot of hype. All sorts of superlatives were used, and somehow it was supposed to be something to which we all really looked forward. Having seen it, I can't say that I didn't enjoy the episode, but it certainly wasn't All That. To begin, there were some important ways in which it was quite derivative.

I had really mixed feelings, for example, about Rita. Overall, I loved her (nearly as much as the Doctor did), but you really know from the get-go that we're not taking on a new Companion (even if poor Amy doesn't when the Doctor pretends to "fire" her). Which, of course, means she's another Astrid Peth - perfect Companion material doomed to die heroically/horribly. Personally, I'd rather not invest emotional capital where the investment is sure to fail. That makes it hard to engage as fully in the episode as it might deserve.

More blatantly, though, it takes a page straight out of The Curse of Fenric. The climactic scene with Amy is a perfect rehash of how the Doctor has to ruin poor Ace's faith in him in the earlier story, and for effectively the same reason (though it's actually done much more gently here). Although I do like the way it sort of references the previous episode by turning Amy Pond: the Girl Who Waited into Amy Williams: the Girl Who Stopped Waiting, there's no hiding the fact that the major plot point came straight out of Fenric.


Kicking Ass and Waiting Games


Review of The Girl Who Waited
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

With a few jarring-moment exceptions, I was able to enjoy this episode as it was intended - an emotional look into Amy's character and into her relationship with Rory (again). It starts out very contrived, with Amy and Rory both breaking Rule Number Whatever: Don't Wander Off and making some dumb moves (e.g., telling Amy to "push the button" instead of specifying, or not asking Rory in return, "which one, idiot?"). Then we get the somewhat ridiculous excuse to strand the Doctor in the TARDIS ("Germ 7" is loose, and only affects two-hearted species? That's the best you've got?) so that they can shoot Doctor and Companion material separately a la "The Lodger" (they even go so far as to have a TARDIS-to-planet comm link in the same way).

Once the crew officially splits up, though (and why is Amy so sanguine about letting them fly off to "rescue" her, knowing the vagaries of the TARDIS?), everything steps up a notch. Along with the handbots becoming increasingly creepy and unintentionally (on their part) threatening, we get a few humorous moments as Amy gets oriented (like the available ride "authentically modeled on the famous Warp Speed Death Ride at Disneyland-Clom"), and the beautiful scenery of the Gardens to ease us into the main story.


This Is the Home That George Built


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

I'm not a fan of the horror genre, and last week's trailer did not inspire me. Further, given that Mark Gatiss's scripts have been very hit-or-miss for me (loved The Unquiet Dead, was so-so about The Idiot's Lantern, and abhorred Victory of the Daleks), I was rather apprehensive about what all that boded for the quality of Night Terrors. Although it wasn't my all-time favorite, it was much better than I'd allowed myself to expect.

I think perhaps I am the target market for the level of horror the Doctor Who team aims to maintain. In other words, I can handle about as much as the average eight-year-old. A little tension is good, but more than the predictable "boo!" moment upon opening a door, drawer, or what-have-you makes me too uncomfortable to watch. Thus, the horror factor in Night Terrors was just about perfect for me. Nothing truly unpredictable ever came of one of those instances, and the scene in which the landlord succumbs was just oogy enough to give me the creeps. (I had a moment of cognitive dissonance there, too - I first thought the shot of his hand morphing was Rory's going all Auton on us again. That didn't make sense, but the visual similarity was striking.)

Aside from these rather typical Who features (scaring the crap out of little kids with cool-looking monsters),  the story had several elements that we've seen woven throughout the Moffat era: fear emanating from a child's bedroom (The Eleventh Hour), a crack in the wall (Series Five; check the early scene when the old neighbor lady is walking down the hall), and old people as source of fear (Amy's Choice), to name the most obvious. I suppose in this child-heavy series, we're supposed to start wondering more about the Doctor's own parenthood and where his cot comes in. However, I was happy - for once - to be enjoying a story for itself, without any other Context getting in the way.


Same Song, Different 'Verse


Review of Let's Kill Hitler
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

There was a lot going on in this episode. People (aka "fans," aka "bloggers") complain a lot about the sense of pacing in Moffat's writing - how he seems to cram too much into the second half of a two-parter, for example - and I don't see that changing in regards to Hitler. But for the front end of River Song's story - from her perspective, anyway - we can hardly expect anything else.

I'll admit it: by the time the opening credits rolled, I was thinking, "oh, god... this one's going to be rubbish." I certainly didn't buy into the best-friend-we've-never-come-across-before thing, either. Before I could get too cranky about that, though, Moffat threw a bone to fandom with the temporal grace comment. "Hmmm..." I thought. "Maybe there's hope for the episode yet."

Once Rory got not only to punch Hitler but also to tell him to shut up, I was ready to roll with it. Anything that allows me to see Rory the Badass Roman lurking under that modern exterior is going to earn a few squee!'s from me (e.g., tricking an officer into saluting long enough to deck him and steal his bike, or even just taking the mickey out of his wife a bit by mimicking her accent back at her ("'Clues'? What kind of 'clues'?")). I like that the character development we've seen has been kept and expanded, so that he's really a full-on, capable Companion now.

On the note of Hitler, though, he really had very little to do with the episode. Once he'd been locked in a cupboard 15 minutes in, we never had so much as another whisper of him. So he's relegated to the ranks of Plot Devices (there had to be some reason the teselecta was there to notice Mels) and Excuses for Clever Titles. A fitting punishment for war crimes, perhaps...



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