Twelve

The Doctor Stands

Jul
05

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

The fact that I came out of this episode without a bad taste in my mouth pretty much makes it the best Moffat finale ever, as far as I'm concerned. Not to say that it was an over-the-top awesome episode—it was very good, though not great—but it didn't have the characteristic "tripped at the finish line" feeling I usually get from a Moffat two-part finale.

Coming off last week's gut-punch, I was truly worried about how Bill's story would be resolved. I honestly expected either full-on tragedy (as implied by the end of World Enough and Time) or something out of left field that left me squinting in puzzlement at the screen.

Frankly, I found a combination thereof most likely, e.g., a Frankenstein's monster replacement body in the same style that Nardole seems to have accumulated parts over his adventures (h/t to Verity! podcast for that thought). You can imagine my unease, then, when the first character we follow in the pre-credits sequence is a young Black girl; my first, disturbing thought was that she would end up providing the body that Bill's mind would eventually occupy. I cannot fully express my relief that such was not the case.

Given how focused I initially was on Bill, it's a testament to the execution of this plot that I didn't feel that everything else—and there was so much else!—was a mere distraction. With five main cast members, there was a lot to cover to keep them all relevant, and damned if Moffat didn't manage it.

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Science Enough and Horror

Jun
28

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

I have got to learn to stop watching the "Next Time" trailers.

I don't know who is in charge of deciding what parts of any given episode get put into those trailers, but they come across as if the party responsible has become drunk with power. "Look at all the cool shit that happens this time 'round," I imagine this person crowing. "Put a little of THAT in there, and watch them come running!"

The trouble is, all that cool shit is the stuff that brings tension to the story—specifically, not knowing that it's coming is the source of tension. So despite having had publicity about both appearances well before the series started, reminding us in that trailer that we had yet to see either the promised Mondasian Cybermen or Simm Master really ruined the mystery of the episode.

That said, there was a different, truly horrifying sense of tension if one remembered even only the former was involved. And, to be fair, the script telegraphed it pretty hard for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Cybermen of any era. (I'll be interested to see what my daughters make of it, when they see it. I refuse to subject them to this without its conclusion at the ready, though.)

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The Breathers of Fresh Air

Jun
21

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

We're rapidly winding down the time we have left with what has become one of my favorite TARDIS teams of all time, so I really want to love every episode. We're also hurtling towards a Moffat series finale. You may be able to spot my dilemma...

Aside from the TARDIS-interior scene tacked onto the end of the episode, The Eaters of Light could reasonably have come at pretty much any point in Twelve and Bill's adventures after she's come to trust him; e.g., starting from about her fourth episode. (Yes, I know Nardole is part of this crew, but he takes up a Harry Sullivan-shaped slot in my mind. While I've come to like him fairly well, and he even has some sort of role to play in the adventure, he remains an afterthought for me ("oh, yeah—him!") when I envision who is in the TARDIS.) Perhaps that unanchored sense—and, again barring the final scene, the ability mostly to pretend we aren't charging inexorably toward this Regeneration's doom—is what helped me enjoy it more than I have the last several.

Right off the bat, we have the lovely sense of an ongoing friendly disagreement coming to a head. In fact, it felt very like a graduate student holding her own against her advisor in an academic argument about her thesis topic/area of expertise. I cannot say enough about how much I adore this dynamic between the Doctor and his Companion. (Come to think of it, as the other TARDIS team vying for first in my personal rankings is Seven and Ace, there may be a trend.) More, I love that there is a very particular reason that the TARDIS has come to this specific time and place.

Then we get the talking crow. I wasn't sure how to react to that at first. Despite my own personal fondness for corvids that can speak to humans, it felt cheesy and completely extraneous. By the end of course, there's a deliberate, sweet (some would say sickly so) reason for it, and I can't find it in me to begrudge the indulgence.

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The Empire on Mars

Jun
14

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

I heard a lot of positive chatter about The Empress of Mars online even before I had the chance to watch it myself. "Gatiss's best episode ever!" "Another great episode—S10's going to be hard to beat!" "The writing has been so good this year!" That always makes me nervous, because then there are certain expectations going in that can be difficult for an episode to live up to.

As someone who's not a big fan of either Gatiss or the Ice Warriors, I didn't have very high hopes to begin with. I was therefore not so much disappointed as resigned. The more I watched, though, the angrier I got.

Now I want to be clear that I don't dislike either creatures or writer. I liked Cold War well enough, and I loved the Easter egg references to The Curse of Peladon here. But setting a story on Mars and then adding in some Victorian soldiers ended up muddying things so much that I was constantly cringing.

One of the things I've always appreciated about Doctor Who is the way that—when it's at its best—it challenges us to stretch outside our usual point of view and consider other ways of looking at even mundane situations. That is, in fact, one of the things I like best about The Unquiet Dead. Unfortunately, although it's clear Gatiss is trying to do more of that here, he falls horribly short.

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Even the Kitchen Sink

Jun
07

Review of The Lie of the Land
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

For an episode that wrapped up a three-part arc, The Lie of the Land was awfully short on denouement. In fact, the first time I watched I was shocked by the "resolution." In barely longer than two minutes, the Monks bailed, we cut to the Doctor and Bill on campus cheerfully slipping in back into their tutor/student roles, then to a weeping Missy, and BAM!—it's the "Next Time" trailer. My head spun.

It's not just that it was quick, either. While my internal narrative timer was sent waaaay off kilter by the wrap-up pacing, I also got startled by its onset. I suppose we can put a tick in the positive column as I was clearly involved enough to have lost track of time, such that the conclusion seemed to arrive all of a sudden. However, the fact that I didn't feel like I'd been led to a natural endpoint and was instead quite confused that there wasn't any more to it doesn't strike me as a win for either the writing or the execution.

In fact, I think it's safe to say that the rushed ending really put me off an episode that already had me giving it a bit of side-eye. It's kind of a shame, really, as there were some really nice elements, too—but they suffer by association.

As usual, I have nothing but praise for Pearl Mackie's Bill. Her expressions and reactions to the various extremes of emotion throughout were perfection. My only complaint—which was actually a problem with the writing/editing rather than with either the actor or character—was that after threatening to "beat the sh—" out of Nardole, she let go of that well-deserved anger and sense of betrayal too readily.

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