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

I'm not sure I've ever seen a Doctor Who episode with such strong metatextual themes. From the moment the Doctor tells Clara that "old-fashioned heroes only exist in old-fashioned storybooks" and she asks, "What about you?" the ideas of story and reality overlap in ever thicker layers.

Nor is the episode afraid to call back to the pre-Hiatus era—and skillfully enough not to make new fans wonder WTF is going on, I'd wager. Twelve certainly channeled his inner Three, first with reference to a miniscope and then with a carefully timed "Hai!" to chop Robin's sword from his hand at the archery tournament.

Even without any of that context, though, Robot of Sherwood serves as an important milestone in the Twelfth Doctor's tenure: his first "romp."

Writer Mark Gatiss is on top form here. It's certainly my favorite from him since his inaugural outing in The Unquiet Dead. The fact that Clara an active role in sorting out what the Sheriff's plan is, having proved herself the ringleader through the simple act of keeping her yap shut, is refreshing (though I'm not sure that making the Doctor into a petulant twit set on one-upmanship is a great trade-off). Clara and Twelve are settling into a more comfortable relationship, and she's back to happily giving him what-for when he needs it ("Can you explain without using the word 'sonic screwdriver'?").


A Good Dalek (Episode)


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

If you'd told me a month ago that one of the episodes of this series would be The Invisible Enemy meets Dalek, I'd have been, shall we say, dubious at best. Yet that's what we got in Into the Dalek, and I have to say I think it worked.

The very fact that I'm willing to mention this episode in the same breath with Dalek, a personal favorite from the post-Hiatus era, tells you something about how much I enjoyed it. Granted, is was not completely flawless (though to be honest, I doubt such a beast exists), but it was, for me, certainly one of the best since Moffat took over as showrunner.

Yet while the main conceit of the episode—literally getting inside a Dalek's head—is new and therefore interesting, it was not, in fact, the driving force of the story. Instead, it's a character piece.

Most of the character development is for our new Doctor. We the audience are still getting to know him (as is Clara and, let's be honest, he is himself), so this is important stuff for us to see. And I was fascinated to realize both that I like Twelve less than I did in his debut, and that I find him an infinitely more interesting character than most of his predecessors. This distinction is important to me, so let me put it another way to be sure I'm making myself clear: this Doctor is not nice, but I adore him.




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

The new Doctor has officially arrived, and I can release the anticipatory breath. My biggest fear was that Capaldi would not live up to all my expectations. That one, at least, I can put to rest.

As for the remainder of the episode... Well, let's just say the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's a series opener, so we all knew before the list of titles, writers, and directors was released that this was going to be a Moffat story. I had my fingers crossed, but it came out true to form. On my first viewing, I really enjoyed it; certain details niggled at me, but I was able to ignore them and enjoy the ride. On second and later viewings, the flaws started to do more than niggle, and it became ever more difficult to enjoy certain scenes. That, for me, is the classic Moffat signature.

Before I go any further, let me be clear: I thought Capaldi's Twelve was bloody brilliant. I love him already. He was everything I hoped for (with the possible exception of some overly friendly chatting up of a lonely female T. rex), and I can't wait to see more of him.

Clara, however, was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, she really stepped up her game, executing a very Doctor-ly bluff-calling when set against the Half-Face Man (more on that later) and standing up to Vastra. On the other, she—the Impossible Girl, who had saved the Doctor time and again in his many incarnations—couldn't get over the fact that he wasn't the same man anymore. On the whole, I think she came out net positive for me (her improvements outweighing the backsliding), and I'm hoping she continues to grow into a character I could miss.


Confession #64: I'm Nervous About August


This week we finally got a formal announcement that the first episode of Series 8 will go out on 23 August (as several fans had already surmised). While I'm still looking forward to Capaldi as our new Doctor, I'm getting really nervous about what the series has in store.

I'll admit, a lot of it has to do with Moffat remaining at the helm. When the Grand Moff first came on board, I was pretty psyched. I'd really enjoyed his episodes under RTD, and figured we were in for some great storytelling. Three series later, though, I'm long since ready for him to move on. (This week's other news—that Moffat is staying at least through Series 9—thus had me grinding my teeth.) The real question, though, is whether the change in lead will yield any change in either tone or structure of the stories being told.

Capaldi himself has been in the business a long time, and as a life-long Doctor Who fan (like Moffat), has his own ideas about what is or is not Doctor-ish. I can't help but wonder whether or not these two facts will allow Capaldi the confidence to push back against Moffat. Something about Matt Smith makes me doubt he would ever have dreamed of second-guessing the man. I can only hope having someone equally knowledgeable of the Doctor's history might rein in this show-runner.

Because seriously—it's time for some new tropes.


Confession #46: I'm Still Hopeful About Capaldi


Last week the world got its first glimpse of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor at the tail end of what was arguably the worst episode since Moffat took over as showrunner. I've seen comment after Internet comment about how Moffat effectively jumped the shark with The Time of the Doctor, and I can't say I completely disagree. And yet, I still find myself oddly hopeful that the upcoming series with Capaldi's Twelfth* Doctor won't suck the proverbial big one.

Given how many times I've been burned by Moffat (as mentioned last week, my enjoyment of his episodes has generally decreased over time), you'd think I'd learn not to let my expectations get the better of me. Despite experience, though, here I sit, cautiously optimistic that the show will undergo a positive change.

The rumor mill obviously has something to do with this attitude. Once folks started posting I-heard's and according-to's claiming Capaldi's first series would trend away from the "fairy tale" motif Moffat ensured was infused throughout Smith's run and toward a more "gothic" feel, that treasonous spark of hope rekindled.



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