Saturday, October 31, 2015

Doctor Who: The Story So Far....

Hi there! I'm Dave-El and this is I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the #1 blog among ancient Viking warriors. 

And a special shout out to my fellow Doctor Who fans. 


For the last 6 weeks, I've been posting reviews on Sunday of the previous day's new Doctor Who episodes. I thought today I would take a look back at Series 9 so far and rank the episodes from #6 to #1. Yes, they were two parters but Part 1 and Part 2 are not always on par with each other. 

But before we get to that review....

Doctor Who News!!

That's right, I'm going to deliver some of the latest in what's going in the world of Doctor Who and by "latest", I mean stuff I heard about days ago. 

Tennant & Tate - Take Two

We learned this week that David Tennant and Catherine Tate will return in ALL NEW adventures for Big Finish audio as the 10th Doctor and Donna Noble. With apologies to the Doctor-Rose shippers out there, I thought the Doctor/Donna team was the strongest match up of Doctor and companion of the Russell T Davies era and perhaps one of the top pairings over the course of the entire series, classic and new. It'll be great to see...well, HEAR the Doctor and Donna back together again in new adventures. 

And if you really want to see AND hear David Tennant in something. Marvel's latest Netflix series Jessica Jones will be debuting soon with David Tennant starring as Jessica Jones. No, wait! Sorry. Tennant will be playing the evil mind controlling bad guy Kilgrave, also known as...The Purple Man

Movies Go To the (Robot) Dogs

Every once in a while, someone floats the idea of producing a new big screen Doctor Who then someone pulls it right back down. I think the special cinema showings of Doctor Who episodes have satisfied my desire to see the Doctor in a movie theater. Well, if Doctor Who can't make it to the movies with an all new big screen production, maybe a certain robot dog from the Whoniverse can? 

Yes, the word is that K-9 is getting a movie and it will be in theaters in 2017. So that's a thing. K-9 does have a special place in the hearts of Whovians from his time with Tom Baker's 4th Doctor. K-9 also apparently has a special place separate from Doctor Who when it comes to the rights to the character. That's why K-9 has a solo TV series that was not produced by the Doctor Who production team or the BBC. That's why K-9 was relegated to only cameo appearances in the Sarah Jane Adventures. As for the TV series, I have not seen it but I understand that for the most part, it's not very good. And I imagine any movie will be spun off from that series. So the idea of a K-9 movie? Not really worked up about it. Just incredulous that such a thing can exist.  

Don't Call It a Comeback

Since Peter hasn't actually left yet. Reports came out last week that Peter Capaldi is confirmed to return for at least a 3rd season of Doctor Who. Which is a good thing. Capaldi's take on the Doctor has been refreshing and different; I don't want to see him go anytime too soon. What I've read is that he's on board for a 3rd series with an option for a 4th. But given the pattern set by David Tennant & Matt Smith, I would not expect to see Peter go beyond a 3rd series. 

And Peter's commitment to coming back for Series 10 doesn't necessarily mean we're getting Series 10 in the form or schedule as we've gotten in his two previous series. As I wrote here, there are a lot of tea leaves that suggest that Series 10 will be delayed in same way or form. The fact that Capaldi's on board for a 3rd series with an option for a 4th plays into my thought line that Steven Moffat may be making his exit soon. By having Capaldi down as an option for a 4th series, an incoming producer may elect to have the continuity of a Doctor from one producer to another if Capaldi is up for it. Or this new producer may want to go with a clean break as happened when Davies handed the reins to Moffat.  

For now, enough ponderings on what the future may or may not bring. Let us look back on the bounty that has been Series 9. How has this latest season of Doctor Who stacked up so far? (For longer write ups, click the episode titles for links back to my previous reviews.)  

#6 The Girl Who Died

This is at the bottom of the list not because it's a bad episode. It isn't. But there are missteps that pull this episode down. One of the most egregious is the lack of quality time between the Doctor and Ashildr. Since the Doctor is going to do something radical to save Ashildr from death itself, it would help if they had more than just one scene between the two of them. Instead this brings us to misstep two, the blunt shoehorning of "where did the Doctor get his face from" bit from Deep Breath to provide motivation for the Doctor to do what he did. The Doctor's urgent need to not have Ashildr stay dead should've come organically from within the episode itself. 

Otherwise, some good bits: Clara staring down Odin and the Mire and getting them to turn back...well, almost. The Doctor shows his godlike power via his....yo-yo. And the overall take down of the Mire by the Doctor, Clara and the villagers is rather clever. 

#5 The Magician's Apprentice

I'm a little surprised to find myself putting this one so low. The ominous quest of Colony Sarrf. The mystery of airplanes frozen in the sky. The off the hook return of Missy. The Doctor in the Middle Ages....playing an electric guitar...while riding a tank...while everyone calls him "dude". The deadly fate of Missy and Clara at the hands stalks of the Daleks. And the scenes that bookend the episode, the Doctor with the young Davros who will become the creator of the Daleks and the grim choice facing the Doctor. 

At the time, I greatly enjoyed the episode. In fact, I still do. But ultimately I'm putting this at 5th because it's less of a story and more of a getting things in order for the actual story to come in Part 2. 

#4 Under the Lake

As I noted in my original review of this episode, this plays out like a story from the classic series: the TARDIS plops the Doctor and his companion in an unusual place where stuff is going on with mysteries to solve and so, so, so much running. And that's a good thing. It's good to have a solid Doctor Who adventure that's not necessarily there to support some larger story arc or explore the mythology of the show. There are people trapped in an underwater base and ghosts are trying to kill them. How can the Doctor and Clara save the day? There, you have my attention.  

#3 Before the Flood

This two parter was the most consistent from one installment to the next; this is why Before the Flood and Under the Lake are next to each other. Still, I give the edge and the slightly higher rank to the 2nd part because we really get to empathize with the guest cast; this is, after all, our 2nd week with these guys. The clues to mystery provided in part 1 are deftly brought together in part 2. And we get a bit of timey-wimey weirdness brought into the resolution of the plot thanks to the Doctor meeting his own ghost. 

#2 The Woman Who Lived 

For all the hype about Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones being on Doctor Who, I really didn't get the big deal about here from her first appearance in The Girl Who Died. But in the follow up, I was very much impressed with Williams who brings to life an immortal woman both blessed and cursed by her condition. And the story is stronger for focusing on the Doctor and Ashildr while the sci-fi McGuffin played out well enough to keep the story moving but not distracting from the heart of the story. And at the heart was a woman who could not die and the man who made her that way.

#1 The Witch's Familiar  

If the first part was just putting pieces in place, the 2nd part sees the Doctor, Davros, Missy, Clara and the Daleks plunge into the core of the story and never lets up. Even during the quiet moments between the Doctor and Davros, there's still an air of building suspense. Davros is up to something, but what? And how does the Doctor's encounter with Davros as a boy play into all that? And the "buddy" team of Missy and Clara strikes all the right chords as they make there way back to the Dalek city to save the Doctor from the Daleks...or maybe from himself. And it ends on a satisfying note, the Doctor using the Dalek's own cast offs to defeat them. And in the end, the Doctor, as he did many, many years before when he wore a different body, remains true to himself and saves Davros. The Daleks are still coming. But they have a flaw, thanks to the Doctor. They have a concept of mercy. 

Over these 6 episodes, a few thoughts come to mind. 
Typically, the most irritating problem with a 2 parter is that usually the first part sets up everything so well, then the 2nd part is less than satisfying. That is a trap that Doctor Who has deftly avoided so far with the follow up stories being as strong if not stronger that the story before it. 

There does seem to be a recurring theme about time. 

  • The Doctor is faced with a choice to alter time, destroying the Daleks before they're born by stopping Davros while he is still a boy. 
  • The Doctor dares to change time to prevent Fisher King and his ghosts from killing Clara. 
  • The Doctor has to save the Viking villagers from a alien race without those aliens or their allies destroying the Earth nearly 1,200 years ago. 
  • Ashildr gets to live forever but time is a prison; she must walk through her eternity one day at a time and the Doctor won't help her. 
  • The Doctor is particularly concerned about changing time; it's okay "to make ripples...don't make waves." 

A lot of this centers around Clara. Since we know Jenna Coleman has left Doctor Who, then all these actions and decisions are fraught with an uncertainty over Clara's ultimate fate. There's a lot of foreshadowing around Clara not being around anymore: 

  • Clara admonishes the Doctor to not die on her; he can die on whoever comes after but not on her.
  • Ashildr chides the Doctor about how many Claras has he lost. 
  • The Doctor witnesses the Daleks kill Clara but he immediately challenges that when he confronts the Daleks. Is he in denial or does the Doctor know Clara can't die...yet? 

The shadow that extends over Clara's remaining time on the TARDIS is omnipresent and informs almost everything the Doctor does. 

So where are we heading next? 6 more episodes to go. We know the Zygons are up next for a couple of weeks. And we've heard that Maisie Williams is not quite done with Doctor Who yet. More than that, all we can do... is just watch the episodes as they come around for a half dozen more Saturdays. 

Tonight, we watch The Zygon Invasion.

Tomorrow, I will write about it! 

Until then, remember to be good to one another. 

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