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Hello to all!

I just want to write a quick message to let you all know that I've been a little busy over the last year and that has prevented me from interacting on dA as much as I'd like to, and as properly as I should. I didn't even get around to writing my Doctor Who reviews this year (started, then it all fell apart). Anyway, the point being, I'd like to apologise to anyone who feels I may have been rude by not responding or having just forgotten about them. I assure you, it's not the case, and on the odd occasion I get on, I see stuff I should reply to, and then curse the fact I don't do it. So please know I do think of you all...but I don't do what I should :(


Thanks for sticking around, though :D I do appreciate it :D
I can't lie - I was predisposed to love this episode. David Suchet is one of my all time favourite actors (and, let's be honest, the definitive Poirot), with an ability to break free from the obvious stereotype which is to his credit. Creepy old house and David Suchet in Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi. It's difficult to imagine how this could fail to deliver.



And of course, it didn't. Suchet was absolutely wonderful, crafting a fascinatingly creepy character who appeared and disappeared in the house like a ghost. For a while I thought that that was what he was, until we got the revelation there were secret passages and elevators. Bill's line about him not Suchet's character not being wood was a wonderful "it's been staring you in hte face" moment. In short, the episode could have relied on Suchet's performance and it would have been outstanding.



But we have the continuing relationship with the Doctor and Bill which is developing very nicely. I like the fact Bill wants a part of her life separate to the Doctor, but equally I like the fact that's becoming impossible. And of course there's Nardole and the Vault...



What is in that Vault? Knowing that the Simm Master is going to return, it's tempting to think that it's him in the Vault (I mean, who else would play the piano and enjoy Mexican food?), though it could be the Gomez Master as well. Or a Cyberman...At this point, I'm not entirely sure to be honest. I thought I had an idea, but last night changed that, so the mystery has returned. We don't have long until we find out the truth, but Moffat has crafted an excellent arc this season, and one that is really driving the show along nicely.



Now of course, there were other cast members in the show, and for a little bit it felt like a new episode of Class - in fact, part of me thinks they should have taken the opportunity to have Bill be a friend of Ram's or April's, though given how Class ended, I suppose that would have created more questions that may never be answered. The characters were nice enough, but obviously we didn't know enough about them to be seriously invested in their survival, and neither did Bill, which presented a little bit of an issue. Given everything that's happened, and the whole Heather thing, I'm surprised she wasn't a little more concerned about the missing Pavel, but on the other hand, she was trying to keep this part of her life free from TARDIS complications...



Bill Anderson, I think, was perhaps the genuine star of this episode. His direction was very good, creating a suitably sinister atmosphere which permeated throughout the episode. The appearance of Eliza was handled particularly well (I must admit I'm curious to know whether she was a CGI or prosthetic creation).



So, obviously, I loved it. Four episodes in, and I'm being swept along by this season. It feels like it's naturally developed from the previous two seasons, giving us a Doctor that has genuinely made a character journey. When the Doctor spoke of regeneration, there was something in Capaldi's performance that clearly hinted of things to come, and whilst people may have not taken to Capaldi's Doctor initially, I do feel that Moffat and Capaldi have given us a Doctor that is genuinely different to anything we've seen before - be it classic or new Who - and when he's gone, we're gonna miss what we had in a big way.
Frank Cottrell-Boyce's last entry to the Doctor Who canon (yeah, I said it), was the somewhat uninspiring "Forest of the Dead", which wasn't inherently bad, it was just a bit dull. Also, it sort of stretched the credibility factor a little (I'll accept a lot, but forests dissipating into fairy dust was a tough one to reconcile). This time round, he's improved. Unfortunately, it comes after an episode that was pretty amazing, and as such...



Again, there's nothing particularly wrong with the episode delivered. It's not a particularly original concept; the idea of a group of robots misunderstanding a human emotion and killing everyone because of it is a staple of science fiction, really. The use of emojibots is actually quite clever, though it does sometimes come across as having been written by someone who hasn't kept up with emojis on the whole. The yellow smiley face has evolved into such a huge variety of expressions, that the one's we got seemed a little limited - being able to explain the plot of movies with emojis has become a great game online; with the emojibots you'd struggle to explain a fairytale.



And this is probably my biggest gripe about the episode, because there seems to be a fundamental problem with the emojibots. They can convey emotions, and these include sad faces, teary faces and crying faces. So why, exactly, do they - and the Vardi -  not understand grief? At its basic level they must understand sadness, otherwise why have an emoji for it? Indeed, they must understand sadness in order to rectify it. The Doctor says no one every thought of the happiness as a thing, but that's clearly not the case. It seems a bizarre leap for a robot to decide they can't solve the problem so just get rid of it; surely they would just try harder to solve the problem, even if they do think differently. They are programmed to create happiness after all...



Putting aside this annoying obstacle, the rest of the episode is largely quite good. For the most part it's a two-hander between the Doctor and Bill, with both Capaldi and Mackie giving it all they've got and once again showing just how good this new TARDIS team. Matt Lucas gets only a short appearance at the beginning of the episode, but it's fun to see the Doctor with a snooty butler, and it provides a sharp relief for just how much the twelfth Doctor has actually changed from the acerbic traveller he was two seasons ago.



Direction and set design were also on point this week; Lawrence Gough clearly has a firm handle on how to direct Doctor Who, while Michael Pickwoad doesn't appear to be running out of fresh ideas for the series. Indeed, the location for this episode was particularly good and was very different to anything that had gone before (I'm quite fascinated to know where it was filmed, actually, as the field also gave the episode a substantially different feel).



And yet, I can't honestly say I was really fired up by "Smile". Perhaps I was expecting something a little more language based, rather than a fairly traditional sort of plot that I've seen before, and maybe that's my own fault for having false expectations. Either way, next week seems far more interesting storywise than this weeks.
Someone wrote in their review of "The Pilot", 'a black lesbian who serves chips. [Moffat] trying to get the widest appeal possible'. This was a "fan" apparently. Now, let's put aside the racist and homophobic nature of the post (just throwing it out there, but I don't think the population percentage of black lesbians is as massive as this idiot suggests - but let's face it, he's not...he's just a bigot), but this fool is criticising Steven Moffat because of the perception that he is trying to get Doctor Who to appeal to a mass audience...as if that's a bad thing. I'm sorry, but I've got news for you mate, there's not a single production company on the planet who brings in a showrunner, or equivalent, and says "If you could make sure your product targets the smallest demographic, that'd be great". Yes, it's come down to a bigot criticising a man for doing his job.



And let's not play games here, because this twat is genuinely stupid. How many people who aren't Doctor Who fans are reading this? Actually, belay that. How many of those reading this know who the Movellans are? You don't? Well, let me tell you if a better half isn't already lecturing you. Those white garbed chaps fighting the Daleks with the silver dreadlocks and funky handguns...those are Movellans. I know this, because in 1979 there was a Doctor Who story called "Destiny of the Daleks" which was about the Dalek/Movellan war. The Movellans, incidentally, look almost exactly the same.



People ask why I like Moffat as a showrunner, and it's because a) he really does try to target the widest audience, but also b) he's a Doctor Who fan through and through. He puts in this sort of thing for the long term fans, writing it in a way that won't puzzle the more recent fans. And also, he's not a bigot, so he's happy to write in a black lesbian who has a crush on someone. "I can't believe they're making such a big deal out of Bill being a lesbian!" people cried - well Moffat wasn't. She just was. But for people who that was important to, I'll bet it resonated. For everyone who isn't a close-minded hater, it was just another character. For every bigot on the planet...well let's hope they turned off and refused to be part of the Doctor Who legacy ever again. Because we don't want those people.



And incidentally, if you really want to know how much of a fan Steven Moffat is...it's interesting that William Hartnell - or Bill as he was known - was married to...Heather. Coincidence?



But enough about this. Let's talk about the return of Doctor Who, and "The Pilot". Moffat has decided to take a left hand turn with the series this year. The Doctor is undercover for some reason, and has been for a considerable time. He's been accompanied by his latest friend Nardole - who appears to have a robot body for the head that Hydroflax cut off way back in 2015 - and the pair are looking after something in a vault. This is the Doctor as per the last season. He's not grumpy, he's still the aging rocker, and the loss of Clara and River have had an effect on him. He is fascinated by Bill, and so he takes her under his wing, Educating Rita style. But he likes her, and his Christmas present to her is something that's very special. Peter Capaldi is brilliant as the Doctor, and the fact he's evolved his character - whether by plan or reaction - is actually great. He's the House of the Doctors.



Matt Lucas gets surprisingly little to do, but seems to be determined to deliver his best regardless. I didn't like him much in "The Husbands Of River Song", but I enjoyed his character more in "The Return Of Doctor Mysterio". Now, not only do I like Nardole, but I'm interested in what's going on with him. What was the significance of that part falling out? Just to let us know the truth of him, or something more?



Pearl Mackie, on the other hand, has completely shat all over her haters with a very beautiful performance. Bill is instantly likable, and her fling with Heather - passing as it was - was very sweet, and added much to the character. Bill is very Rose, but in a different sort of way. She fits in with the Doctor/Nardole dynamic very nicely. She's curious, intelligent and adventurous. More than that, she does indeed point out the things that don't make sense. Nothing is more telling of that than when she pointedly asks the Doctor to think what it would be like if someone wiped his memories - something a little musical riff tells us the Doctor knows very well. I like Bill a lot, and I want to see more of her.



And, in a way, that's the downside of this episode. This TARDIS team feels right. The fact we know it will end by Christmas this year is a little sad, because I really enjoy the thought of spending time with this crew. Perhaps, though, I'll cherish it more knowing that this is what we have.



The rest of the story is great fun. A time-travelling, sentient oil that can mimic people. Ridiculous, and typically Moffat, but it's a great MacGuffin and directs the story in a fascinating direction. That Bill saves the day makes it even better. That she does it by love...well, perhaps we should have expected that.



Moffat's traditional theme of children is still at play here (though Bill is the child, and she's more grown up, but perhaps that is reflective of Moffat's own family), but there's nothing stale or second-hand about this plot at all. It feels fresh and new. Lawrence Gough gives the episode some punchy direction, and offers some interesting shots along with the fascinating editing decisions (the Doctor's lecture on time is extraordinarily well edited). Even the TARDIS interior feels different this time round (definitely the lighting, but it feels a bit sparser than it has in previous years).



Doctor Who is back, baby, and Moffat and Capaldi are clearly ready for one final round. With this mission statement, it could be one helluva ride.
Getting a "with" credit in the title sequence (only "with"? Surely it should be an "and...as the Doctor"?), it takes about 35 minutes before Peter Capaldi shows up in "Tonight We Might Die", the first episode of new Doctor Who spinoff, Class.

Why is this important, you might ask? Well, it's because I spent about 35 minutes waiting for him to arrive. Now, I'm not sure whether this is because without a new season of Doctor Who this year I'm a little starved for it, or whether Class wasn't really gripping me as much as I wanted to. If I'm genuinely honest, I sort of think it's the latter.

Class is an odd beast, to be honest. It's hard to tell exactly what audience it's aimed at. Definitely not The Sarah Jane Adventures audience, but also not the Torchwood audience. Strangely, though, it doesn't seem to be targetting the Doctor Who audience either, and that makes you wonder, what demographic is actually left? It genuinely feels like this has been made for 15 - 17 year olds, which is a pretty niche market, and means that I'm not really in a good position to make critical comment.

For instance, I didn't particularly like many of the characters. They're all quite well acted, don't get me wrong, but Charlie and Miss Quill - our two nominal aliens - don't really endear themselves very much. The latter is basically an unlikable bitch, while the former is just too remote to care for. Ram and Tanya are OK, and there's some attempt to give them some character depth, but it's a bit flimsy and doesn't really work. Sophie Hopkins' April is the only really likable character, but in the same way the first series of Torchwood wasn't made good by Tosh being the only character you wanted to see live, so too, Class is going to need more than just April to make this show worthy.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the show so far is that it seems to lack any originality. The dialogue makes this a little on the nose, as the school is compared to the Hellmouth and various other gateways in television, which seems less a knowing wink to the audience, and more an unfortunate admission of guilt. It's a bit like that moment in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE where Jean says the third movie is always the worst. That kind of comment doesn't work if it's actually true of what you're making. Equally when Tanya points out that April mentioning a guy makes causes the Bechdel Test to fail, I was hit by how hard the show was trying to do the right thing. From that point on, I realised the show doesn't actually pass the test; even April's chat with her mother is based on her getting a prom date.

The story itself is also fairly generic - alien race invades, our heroes stand up to them, the Doctor arrives to point out there weakness and this is exploited by child genius Tanya. Ram gets his leg cut off, while April loses her heart (a plot point which genuinely makes no sense to me), and the Shadowkin are defeated.

So was there anything to like? The Shadowkin are brilliantl realised and look absolutely fantastic. Special effects are on par, and as I mentioned earlier the acting is pretty good - it's just unfortunate the characters aren't. There's a few Doctor Who references (keep an ear out for the ninth and twelfth Doctor's musical motifs, while the honor board mentions S Foreman, D Pink and C Oswald), and it's probably a good thing the show is embracing it's heritage rather than sidestepping it, the way Torchwood did in the first series.

It's only the first episode, so judging it too harshly seems a bit churlish, and I'll certainly be watching it to the end, so I'm happy to see it improve. But I do feel that improvement is required.
There's a lot of people saying "The Husbands Of River Song" is the least Christmassy of the Doctor Who, though I must admit I'm not quite sure why they say that. There's snow, the story ends on Christmas, and the Doctor opens the episode with antlers. For me, the signs were writ large that this was The Christmas Special, and truthfully I've never really had a problem with this. After all, that's what it is. Why bother to fight it?



So aside from the traditional moans about Christmas specials, this also saw Alex Kingston returning as River Song (and getting her name in the title credits for the first time ever!), which brings forth another round of whinging from a section of Who fans who hate the character, or who hate the idea of the Doctor being in love with her. Steven Moffat, of course, subverts all of that, and as usual it's difficult to know whether he's hitting back against his haters, or if this was always part of the long term plan. After all this time, I tend to think it's the latter. The Doctor is River's sunset, we discover, and she doesn't expect it to love her back. Why would she? But Capaldi plays his part perfectly through all of this, giving us the hint that the Doctor does have some sort of feeling for River, and whilst he doesn't love her the way she loves him, he does try on occasion. The final scenes of this episode are Moffat writing at his very best, balancing the emotion with the drama and delivering both. Though the Doctor's callous attitude towards the dead in the crash seems a trifle harsh. I know they were all murderers, but still...



Alex Kingston was a great double act with David Tennant, but her rapport with Matt Smith was out of this world. Everything about them played so well together, that, in truth, we sort of forgot that River Song ever met the tenth Doctor. Placing her opposite the older, more acerbic twelfth Doctor was going to be interesting, but a bit of a gamble - after all, they couldn't possibly have the same chemistry Kingston had with Smith. And, truth to tell, she doesn't. But that doesn't mean the pair aren't brilliant together. By twisting the story around so that this time the Doctor's the one with all the foreknowledge, and a face that River has never met, nor believes can possibly exist, we get to see how River acts without the Doctor around. And so does he, which gives Capaldi some great opportunities to deliver some humour. The script is, of course, lighter than the season(s) that have preceded it, and we see Capaldi almost getting a Tennant script, and showing just how good he is at comedy. It's a bit like the Hartnell years all over again - those rare scripts that showed us just how good Hartnell was at comedy now mirror Capaldi's run.



Of course, there are two other comedians in this episode. Matt Lucas plays the very straight role of Nardole, which requires him to be scared and obsequieous most of the time, and he does this particularly well, but as a consequence remains somewhat inconsequential as a result. Greg Davies, on the other hand, one of my all time favourite comedians, gets a role he can have loads of fun with. Sadly he doesn't get nearly enough screen time, and I wanted to see more of King Hydroflax and Davies delivering a performance Rik Mayall would have been proud of. Phillip Rhys and Rowan Polonski perform the other major roles (oh dear...look who's failed the Bechdel test again), but both of them are swept away by the higher four cast members. It's a tough gig on Doctor Who, and with Capaldi and Kingston on fine form, you don't want to be billed lower than fourth.



And so, it's Doctor Who as usual, with a fun, rollercoaster adventure, and a rather nice payoff if you care about River Song. Being a romp, you don't have to pay a great deal of attention to what's going on, but the plot is still fun, and Moffat delivers a couple of old favourite moments (everyone in the room turning to the Doctor, for instance, and a half face man), but each with a subtle twist (the man pulling his head open to retrieve the payment was genuinely gruesome), and, as mentioned, there was a great deal of comedy to play. Plus, the episode was in the skilful hands of Douglas Mackinnon, a directing veteran who skipped the last season, but made a welcome return for the special. Mackinnon is excellent at his job, and brings his episodes to life beautifully. Of particular note are the scenes at the end, which are framed and lit perfectly (so special mention to DOP Suzie Lavelle as well!).



Next year will be an interesting year for Doctor Who. If I were a betting man, I'd say it's unlikely we'll get a regular season next year, but hopefully we'll get at least a special before the traditional Christmas feast. Should we be sad? No...2017 will definitely see series ten, so truth be told, perhaps next year will be lean enough to make us remember we shouldn't take the tradition of Doctor Who, let alone its Christmas special, for granted.
More than most television shows, watching Doctor Who is a bit like going on a blind date every week. Remember that gorgeous brunette, a bit crazy who just clicked with you went back on a second date at the begining? Or that hot blonde who was a little mysterious and also warranted a second date, which wasn't quite as great as the first? Then there was that babe who had a sister, and you went on a date with the sister the following week, though she wasn't as interesting as her sister. That redhead, who turned out to have come from the same town as you, and again...second date. Oh, then there was that disaster, so let's not dwell on her too much. And then there was the Goth chick, who showed enormous promise, so you dated her again, and she was just as amazing the second time round, you decided to go for a third...



Every so often Steven Moffat writes an episode where I have to sit there and wonder - what exactly was the story? And after pondering it for a bit, you realise that there's not actually an adventure to be had, but rather this is just a story about characters and it's not something that Doctor Who did before Moffat became showrunner, which makes it a little difficult to wrap your head around. In the past, as well, Moffat tends to throw in a bit of an adventure towards the end to make you feel as though you're justified watching Doctor Who, but this week, that adventure was a little thin on the ground - essentially escape the Cloisters and the Time Lords. The rest was resolution.



One resolution that felt a little unnecessary, not least because Timothy Dalton didn't return, was Rassilon being removed from Gallifrey. "Hell Bent" was afforded extra running time, but in truth had we got rid of the Rassilon bit it would have been a normal length episode and nothing would have been lost. Donald Sumpter's a nice actor, but he's not the furious Rassilon that Dalton delivered, spitting and intoning throughout the episode, just to leave when the Doctor turns up and...what, reclaims his presidency? In truth this whole storyline really did nothing for me. It wasn't necessary, it didn't advance the plot and everything could have been achieved without it.



On a similar note, the Doctor claiming he spent billions of years in the Confession Dial is slightly misleading, surely? He didn't remember being the previous versions of himself - which would have made the story go a lot quicker - and effectively spent little more than a few days, wandering around the castle before getting a few punches into the diamond wall. Then he died, was reborn anew and had to start from scratch. How long has it been since he saw Clara? A week at best, I would have thought.



Meanwhile Steven Moffat stirs the pot a little. When the old white general dies, he regenerates into a black woman, effectively dealing with every argument you can have about regeneration. And is the Doctor half-human on his mother's side? Well, there's a pretty strong implication that he is in this episode. However, in a slight cheat, we never get to find out exactly who the Hybrid is - is it the Doctor or Ashildr? They both argue that it's hardly the point, but given that we've had the question lingering over us all season, it would have been nice to have some resolution to that particular plot thread. The confirmation that the Master deliberately set up the Doctor and Clara to cause a bit of chaos was much more satisfactory.



Ah Clara. I shall miss her. She's been a fun character for the past few seasons, providing a flirty foil to Matt Smith's Doctor, but carving a much more interesting niche opposite the older Capaldi, whom she compliments much better. Strangely enough there seemed to be more love between the 12th and Clara than there was between the 11th and her, which worked really well in an understated way. Because of that you can understand the Doctor doing everything he did simply to save Clara's life. The problem is, it doesn't entirely tie together. The Doctor deliberately going into the Confession Dial to get to Gallifrey is perfectly accetable, but that's not what really happened. We were told that the Time Lords employed Ashildr to capture the Doctor and teleport him away - to the Confession Dial. And that's perhaps where the story falls apart the most.



I've not really enjoyed the Ashildr theme this season, not least because Maisie Williams has been so underwhelming in the role (though, ironically, her best performance was this episode). Her first episode was fine, and her second was not too bad, thanks in large part to Rufus Hound's fantastic performance. When she turns up in "Face The Raven", it's not a problem, until we get to the thrust of the episode, and the fact it's not explained in this episode means that there are two episodes where the plot is just left hanging around. What was Ashildr's deal with the Time Lords? Was she to turn over the Doctor in exchange for a TARDIS? Why were the Time Lords suddenly so concerned about the Hybrid? This prophecy hadn't just appeared, it'd been around for quite some time, and yet suddenly the Time Lords are worried about it, enough to make a deal with Ashildr that both sides just seem to forget about entirely. Even knowing that Moffat tends to write a long game, it's pretty unlikely that either Ashildr or Clara will turn up again in their 1950's diner, so I'll be shocked if we get a resolution to that story.



Outside of that, the character moments are rather brilliant, and the fact that it is the Doctor who has his mind wiped of Clara is a rather brilliant twist, particularly in terms of how the episode opens. It's a beautiful moment between the two when the end comes (though I'm surprised the Doctor isn't more curious about the portrait on the TARDIS door), and handled particularly well by Rachel Talalay. Indeed, I think it's also worth throwing a shout out to Stuart Biddicome who was the Director of Photography. There is some wonderful lighting in this, and the shots are really nicely filmed, especially in the white console room (and, sorry, but I have to say that seeing the updated classic console room was a genuine pleasure; maybe it's just me, but I think it looks better than any modern version we've had so far).



So the third date is over, and it turns out, Goth chick isn't for me. This time round, she was smartly dressed, looked great...and she was nice. That's how I described her to my friends after the date...nice. The brunette, the blonde and the redhead all had a little more staying power than the Goth girl; the ones that were crazy, mysterious, warm and reassuring. Not nice. There was a lot of potential in that third date, but after she faffed around at the beginning, she lacked spark for the rest of the time. Still, there's always the girl in the Christmas hat over there...
Edited on second viewing.

This week Doctor Who tests its format once again, by providing an episode which is - for the most part - just Peter Capaldi talking to himself. In point of fact there are three other characters, but as two of them don't speak, and the third has a few second cameo, it's probably not worth mentioning any of them. Having said that, I will mention the Veil because it's a slightly disturbing vision, more so because of what it's supposed to be; a dead lady swathed in veils, surrounded by flies. Nice.



It surprises me a little the the director of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare has turned out to be such a great fit for Doctor Who, and this week gives her a chance to use all the skills she developed on that previous film to good use. In fact, had she directed that film like she did this episode it would have been much better, I think, because there premise of the Doctor, being confronted by his nightmare and trapped in a building that changes around him isn't a million miles from the ideas of the Nightmare series. If only the Veil had said "Welcome to prime time, bitch!" when it got the Doctor, it would have been a meta-nightmare.



But Steven Moffat was writing the script (which probably indicates why the second non-speaking character was a boy; there's always children somewhere in a Moffat script), and while the Veil may not have been throwing out cheesy one liners, it was certainly a meta-nightmare, particularly for the Doctor, who finds himself trapped in a Groundhog Day type scenario, though rather nicely Moffat doesn't really go down the path of that movie. For the most part of the episode, this is the Doctor trying to work out what is going on, and making himself reach the end of the journey simply to throw a few punches at a wall of diamond. It's probably this last part that is the least successful part of the story; while it's a great idea that the Doctor spends over two billion years punching a path through the diamond-like substance, it stretches credibility a little, until it appears the Doctor has actually punches his way through a dimensional breach, whereupon it actually seems a little silly. Which is a shame because it's really the only part of the episode that is a bit dumb (though perhaps this is all linked to the Doctor's confession dial, and if that's explained in the next episode, we'll give it a free pass). What's perhaps most bizarre about this episode is that it took place entirely within the Confession Dial, and the moment that you realise that is the moment that a lot of other things start to make sense. And that is enormously clever.



Having established it's a Groundhog Day scenario, Moffat doesn't waste time with replaying events with slight variations. Instead we get a very quick montage which establishes that in fact the Doctor will do exactly the same thing over and over again; his only advantage being that he gets to put a little more stress on the diamond barrier each time. It's a very effective and well written script, with some disturbing concepts (the Veil for one, but the fact that the sea bed is covered with skulls which are all, of course, the Doctor's), and to demonstrate his true mastery as a writer, none of the dialogue ever seems like that sort of one-handed script where the character chats to himself for no reason other than the audience needs to hear what he's saying.



And that, of course, brings us rather neatly to Peter Capaldi. I've praised him a lot this series, mostly because he deserves it, but this series has given Capaldi the chance to really take the Doctor by the horns and make it his own. I've said time and again that the rocker Doctor was a nice touch for the character, but interestingly this last trilogy of episodes sees him going back a little to his first series version, complete with the more severe costume he had (though now complimented by a nicer red jacket). Brilliant dialogue and excellent direction will make an episode usually, but not necessarily if that episode has only one actor, and this is where Capaldi's brilliance comes into play. He takes that dialogue and plays it to perfection. This isn't an actor phoning a performance in, this is a man who is taking each line and delivering it with exactitude. His TARDIS scenes are excellent, and once you realise what they mean, you realise just how good Capaldi's choices are. Even though we could probably all have guessed exactly what the last line of the episode was going to be, it still comes across with a shiver, thanks to Capaldi's amazing delivery. He has easily become my favourite Doctor.



The big question on everybody's lips should be, however...is Steven Moffat about to confirm what was stated in the telemovie? Is the Doctor indeed half-human on his mother's side? I mean...Moffat has already said he never understood the upset about the telemovie's kiss...maybe we're about to discover he doesn't understand why people are upset about the half-human thing either. I mentioned above how the discovery that the episode takes place in the Confession Dial suddenly makes a lot of sense of a few other things. Who, for instance, is the Doctor actually talking too throughout the episode? Does he realise he's in the Confession Dial? Perhaps not, but as he holds up the Dial he certainly does, and he clearly believes that the person who last held the Dial can still hear him. The person, of course, who is the hybrid. Because the Doctor doesn't say "It's me"; he says "It's Me". Oooo...somehow I think Steven Moffat is about to upset a very big apple cart.
Gosh but that was good. And in a series that has generally delivered the goods, that's saying something.



Sarah Dollard delivers the first in this three part finale - something the series hasn't tried since the Master trilogy - and this is her first time writing a Doctor Who story. Dollard knocks it out of the park. I can't imagine how it must have been for her to walk into her meeting with Moffat, start pitching ideas, and the get told she has to bring back Riggsy, Ashildr and kill off Clara, as well as set up the remaining two parts of the story. At least for the Master trilogy, Davies wrote the thing himself. Dollard certainly had her work cut out for her, but in spite of that she wrote what was sheer brilliance. A ridiculously simple idea - Riggsy has only a certain time to live, and the Doctor has to save him - was written on a far more emotional level, and moreso, one that continued to develop the character of Clara. This season the Doctor's noted how she is starting to get reckless, but this isn't new. Last season Clara was getting cocky and started to take on the role of the Doctor, but the important lesson all of the Doctor's companions have learnt when they've tried this (and a few have), is that at the end of the day they aren't the Doctor. They can't do what he can and no matter how confident they are, or how prepared they think they are, they can't take the risks that the Doctor does and avoid paying the penalty. For Jack Harkness that meant giving up his grandson, which is probably a more painful punishment than anyone else has had to pay. Donna Noble had to give up the better person she had become. Clara had to give up her life, a tougher penalty than Donna, not as harsh as Jack, but she faced it like Jack...no, she faced it like the Doctor. Ironically, the moment she lived up the Doctor's name came about because she couldn't live up to it earlier.



Justin Molotnikov, fresh from directing the misfire of "Sleep No More", again delivers a well directed episode, though nothing was particularly outstanding. There were some nice shots, and the TARDIS' arrival viewed from the outside of Riggsy's estate was a nice touch, but ultimately Molotnikov has proven himself an efficient director rather than an inspired one. There is, of course, nothing particularly wrong with that, but there are times when you can't help but wonder how an episode such as this one might have been handled in the hands of someone like Hettie MacDonald or Daniel O'Hara. Jovian Wade returns to play Riggsy, fresh from the last season, and in the mean time he's had a child, which is a nice touch to his character, and in some ways grounds him again as a very realistic character, which is perfect because Maisie Williams' return as the immortal Ashildr is as far from realism as you can possibly get. I didn't mind Williams' performance in the last two episodes, but I have to admit this time around I wasn't really blown away by her. Like Molotnikov's direction, Williams is adequate in her part, but she doesn't bring to her part what, say, Matt Smith was able to bring the Doctor - that sense of having lived for a very long time, despite the youth on the face. Slightly annoying as well was the fact that she can never remember her name is Ashildr. She talks frequently about having read her diaries, but did she never actually write her name in those diaries?



One thing that is worth pointing out is how wonderful the effects were for this story. From the flickering of the circuit, allowing us to see the various aliens in disguise in Ashildr's town, to the extremely impressive raven, the effects were top notch. Indeed, alongside Murray Gold's frankly amazing score for the episode, these aspects were pulling out all the stops to deliver the very best they could, and it helped enormously. However, even in spite of how amazing these were, they weren't anything to what made the episode outstanding.



Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. Their names come up on our scream week in, week out, during that title sequence, and they've been around long enough to feel like they are part of the furniture. Coleman first appeared on our screens in 2012! They've taken the TARDIS and made the series their own, and this year they've never been more confident. Capaldi has found the niche for his Doctor, not something slightly forced like the austere version of last season, but a reflection of Capaldi's own personality, which the character should rightly be; after all, wasn't that really what Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Tom Baker were? Capaldi has never been better this season, delivering flawless performance after flawless performance, regardless of what is going on around him. And he's been complemented by Jenna Coleman who knows exactly what Clara is supposed to be. There's been a bizarre hate in some quarters for Clara, with accusations of a lack of character being bandied around frequently. "Born to save the Doctor" - she's nothing but a title fitted to a archetypal Moffat woman; sexy, feisty and flirty - is the accusation of the character, but of course it's completely wrong. Clara has only once said she was born to save the Doctor, and let's face it, Clara is a bit of a drama queen. By simply stating that, however, we see Clara is not archetypal. She likes a little bit of drama, and that's part of her character. She's inherently good, but she's a bit of a control freak. She's quick to anger, but quick to defend. She rarely ever flirts (indeed, the only time she really was, happened to be in "The Bells Of St John", and that did seem to be an attraction to the eleventh Doctor briefly played out) and she's not really feisty, but she can fight back and she can explode. Curiously, she would appear to be bisexual, but we've only ever seen her fall in love once, and that seemed to hit hard. Her relationship with the Doctor is complicated. Her brief flirtation with the Doctor was thrown when she was at the regeneration, and it's interesting that it was this that hit home. She'd already seen other Doctors - including the War Doctor - so she knew age and appearance could change with the Doctor, but knowing it and experiencing are often two different things. Yet she forced herself to be brave, and realise that perhaps her love for the Doctor was deeper than romance. And clearly, his love for her is as well. The last ten minutes of this episode belong to Coleman and Capaldi as they bring Clara's story to an end. You can moan about Clara all you like, but to say she lacks depth is to bury your head in the sand and ignore what is in front of you. To say Coleman isn't brilliant, however, is to simply lie.



Is this the end of Clara, however? There's a quote in Doctor Who Magazine between the Doctor and Clara from the final episode, so one might wonder if the story hasn't quite ended. If it has, however, it doesn't matter, because Dollard's debut script has closed a story beautifully. For that, I say bravo. And to Ms Coleman...I salute you.
When Russell T Davies was showrunner of Doctor Who there was a tonal consistency to the program, and - after "Love & Monsters" proved a bit divisive - each episode was a great, safe action adventure story. Since Steven Moffat has taken over, he's given the writers more freedom (unlike Davies, Moffat doesn't do a final script rewrite of each episode), though this has resulted in a loss of that tonal consistency. Equally, Moffat doesn't deliver great, safe action adventure stories every week. Whereas Davies' Doctor Who was a enjoyable ride through the countryside, Moffat's is more of a rollercoaster, with some huge highs, and a few lows. Truthfully I'm not sure which is the better approach to the program, though the general audience would seem to prefer Davies' approach, but I do think that had Davies remained as showrunner, Doctor Who wouldn't be around today. Moffat doesn't play it safe; he likes to experiment with the formula and takes a very different approach to the series, and that inventiveness keeps it fresh and exciting. Though it doesn't always work...



"Sleep No More", the title of tonight's episode, which you may have missed given the decision to throw away the title sequence (which I think was an excellent idea, frankly...if you're going to commit to found footage, don't ruin it with the title sequence) was one of the most experimental episodes the series has tried from an aesthetic point of view. That said, the story itself was essentially a base under seige story, without the element of an outside agent trying to get in - this time the monsters were already on board waiting to attack. Though we did, of course, get our standard base-commander-gone-nuts character in the form of writer Mark Gatiss' best mate Reece Shearsmith. Shearsmith had a small role in Gatiss' An Adventure In Space And Time, spectacularly failing to convince as Patrick Troughton, but this time round was much, much better. Not quite as effective were the actors playing the four soldiers, none of whom really convinced me that they were trained in any form of military. Indeed from the outset as the commander took the gun from one of her troops, it felt less like a senior officer retrieving a weapon, and more like an actor taking a prop from another actor, which, at the end of the day, it was. It just shouldn't look like that.



The star of this episode, therefore, was neither the actors (though both Capaldi and Coleman were great, they seemed a little on autopilot as well, and at times seemed like completely different characters, particularly in the opening scenes...I'm struggling both with the Doctor's Oliver line and Coleman's circling her face and saying "Not just this", as neither seemed suited to their characters), nor the script, but rather the direction of newcomer Justin Molotnikov. Molotnikov obviously watched Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project before approaching this one, as the monsters first appearance is fleeting, and he tries to never linger to long on them (though this is probably more a horror movie convention than a found footage one). The look and the feel of the episode is very effective, and the found footage aspect doesn't jar with the Doctor Who format, nor does it detract from it.



It does detract a little from the story though. This sort of format requires a simple story, and as I said, Gatiss' script doesn't stray too far from Doctor Who's old fallbacks, but despite that, I have to admit to some confusion at the end. Rasmussen's plan doesn't seem particularly clear, and while I don't necessarily want a complete resolution, a little understanding would have been useful (what was the point of the story exactly?). Perhaps another viewing is required to get it completely sorted out in my head, and perhaps that's a good thing - after all I don't particularly feel chagrined about having to rewatch it, so an episode that begs a second welcome viewing has got to be a good thing, surely?



I'm impressed Doctor Who, despite its age, still has the ability to try something different that will shake the series up a little, and even if it didn't work, we should still be grateful that the creators have the desire and the passion to keep trying to keep the series fresh and interesting.
Last week Peter Harness brought us the highs and lows of "The Zygon Invasion" as the sequel to the fiftieth anniversary saw a group of disgruntled Zygons rise up against a pretty incompetent UNIT. Some nice moments, a neat cliffhanger, but nothing that was worthy of getting tremendously excited about. Steven Moffat joins Harness to write this week's episode - "The Zygon Inversion" - and suddenly we see something quite interesting, and something that's been fairly noticeable throughout Moffat's era; while he has a hands off approach to his writers and they sometimes deliver and sometimes don't, Moffat's work generally always seems to be on the money. He gets his vision of Doctor Who better than any other - unsurprisingly and obviously - but it's never more noticeable than it is in this episode. The allegory of the episode may be as obvious as ever, but Moffat helps Harness deliver a script that is a lot cleverer than last weeks, and a lot more satisfying at the end.



UNIT may be ineffective, but Kate Stewart definitely isn't, ane while she may be a scientist, the fact is she can kick ass pretty well. And by kick ass, I mean execute Zygons with impunity. "Five rounds rapid" is a nice call back to the Brigadier, but Kate Stewart is clearly everything her father was. Not only is she good enough to avoid being killed by a Zygon, but she's clever enough to know what's going to happen next. Kate infiltrates the Zygons far more easily than it should be, but what allows us to accept this is the Zygon commander - Bonnie, sharing Jenna Coleman's gorgeous face - is overconfident. Kate's infiltration works because Bonnie already believes the Zygons have won. Clara, however, is proof positive that they haven't. Jenna Coleman is a great actress, attacked by some fans for the ridiculous reason of being on the show for too long (or is it because she's cocky? Fans seem to have big problems with companions who are cocky. They didn't like that cocky prick Adric, they weren't keen on cocky Rose...you want to be loved as a companion? Be submissive), but the attacks are completely unwarranted. Clara has taken a backseat this season, whether because Moffat has bowed to the fans who didn't like her taking centre stage, or simply because he has other plans for her. Regardless, this episode gave Clara - or more accurately Bonnie - a lot more to do, and by consequence Jenna Coleman's acting was put to the test. Her handling of the Clara interrogation scene was brilliantly done, as she delievered two faultless performances, and one being extremely nuanced. Coleman can show us a shaky Clara without having to go overboard to do it. It's all in the eyes.



However as brilliant as Jenna was, this episode belonged to Peter Capaldi. Given a ten minute speech, Capaldi took it and dominated the final part of the episode delivering a message that may not have been subtle but it was powerful and it was amazing. Don't fight is a simple message, but the Doctor has to convince two people, both desperate to save their races, not only to avoid a fight, but to actively forgive. Capaldi's performance was a masterclass in how to act. But in addition to his acting, Capaldi understands something about the Doctor that not everyone does, and sometimes we are all guilty of forgetting - the Doctor that looks like Peter Capaldi is the same Doctor that looked liked Matt Smith who is the same Doctor that looked like John Hurt (even if he wasn't calling himself that). Capaldi delivers an anti-war message from the man who fought in the Time War. He remebers everything he did and everything he was going to do, and he manages to tie together all the Doctors in one simple speech that is as important to us as it is to Bonnie. I suspect it was Moffat who wrote the speech; it feels like one of his; but Capaldi has taken a brilliant piece of writing and elevated it to something amazing. I'm not afraid to say it - with this episode, Capaldi has become my favourite Doctor.



The rest of the episode was up to Doctor Who's usual standard, which is nearly always at the top of its game. But when you can take something that is normally fantastic, and then edge it up to the next level...well, it deserves an award, frankly. This season has delivered and delivered and delivered, but with "The Zygon Inversion", it's provided us with something new; Peter Capaldi's defining moment as the Doctor. And it's a moment that will live on forever.
Peter Harness is back from last years "Kill The Moon" to bring us a sequel to "Day of the Doctor" (amongst other things), which deals with the fallout of what happened when the humans and Zygons sat down and worked out a peace treaty. Apparently, for the most part, it all went famously, and 20 million Zygons now live among us. Needless to say, there's something of a political analogy here, the Doctor even going so far as to make a joke about how the British would be unhappy with the Zygons taking their benefits. 20 million is a surprisingly large amount of people to allow onto the planet, realistically, so it's perhaps not that surprising that something was going to go wrong. There's a box, which is called the Osgood box, and it is the failsafe should the Nightmare Scenario occur. Of course, should one of the Osgood's get killed then that scenario, it seems, will play out. And we all know what Missy did last season.



I really enjoyed this episode, not least because the return of the Zygons is fantastic, and this time they aren't playing second fiddle to the event that the story they are in celebrates. Don't get me wrong, I loved "Day of the Doctor", but that was a celebration of Doctor Who, not a joyous return of the Zygons. This time the Zygons get the chance to shine, and there's lots of fun to be had with them. The fact that their High Command is two seven year old girls is a great gag that works very well, though it is a little unsettling when they are murdered by the rebel Zygon faction. Both Clara and the Doctor are also given heaps to do, though for most of the episode, it transpires that Clara is actually Bonnie the Zygon, which, in truth, wasn't all that surprising when it was revealed. The Doctor, on the other hand, is definitely embracing his rock idol image, and while I know that there are people out there who have a problem with his guitar playing, frankly I don't understand why. Again, the jokes about Doctor Disco are great fun, and Capaldi has the ability to enjoy himself in some silliness (such as boarding the Presidential jet), while not deflating the drama of the situation (something which, if I'm honest, David Tennant and Matt Smith didn't always get right). The one thing that the episode rather spectacularly fails to do well is UNIT, who come across as easily the most ineffective paramilitary organisation there is. Surely they should be trained to deal with situations like the Zygons potentially adopting forms which could emotionally comprimise them? I mean, even at a basic level, surely they should be trained to simply follow orders. The soldier, Hitchley, asked point blank what his date and location of birth was, which any mother would know about their child, and yet even though she fails to answer, he moves onto another question. Frankly, those soldiers deserve everything they get. Equally, why on Earth did Kate go to Truth Or Consequence without some form of backup? Surely she must have been expecting the possibility of hostile Zygons being present, in which case, going in with some troops would be a pretty straightforward sort of thing. And why didn't the soldiers with Jac actually start shooting at the Zygons when they first appeared? As they floundered around, one had to concede that Kate Stewart could have paid a little more attention to the military precision of her troops.



Admittedly that's a little bit more than a minor quibble, which is a shame because the rest of the episode was done quite well. Jenna Coleman gave the best performance of the episode, but it was huge fun to see Ingrid Oliver back, particularly with an explanation that actually benefitted the plot. Her comments about the Doctor's question marks were interesting, and Harness does a nice job of not denigrating the earlier costumes. Nicholas Briggs' Zygon voices were also worthy of mention, not least because they were a little more "Terror"-accurate than they were in "Day". However, if I was forced to choose, I think I would have to single out the production design and editing of this episode worthy of particular praise. Truth Or Consequences was recreated quite believably, though the light posts did give the game away. I'm not entirely sure why the production team opted to make up a new country (unless anyone can find any evidence of Turmezistan actually existing, because I have to admit I can't), but consequently it was hard to say whether it looked believable or not, but it certainly was well designed.



It's hard, with two part stories, to be fully judgemental of the episode until you've seen the second part. After all, you can hardly sit back and say "it should be able to be judged on its own qualities", because the story remains incomplete, and we can't critcise what seems to be a discrepency in case its supposed to be wrapped up in the next episode. Therefore, the best I can do this time round is say "Yeah, that was pretty good," try and bite my tongue about how terrible UNIT were, and see if the Zygons have anything up their sleeves.  
I've been looking forward to this episode of Doctor Who since it was announced that Catherine Tregenna was writing for the new series. One of the frequent complaints about Doctor Who in general - though Moffat seems to be getting targetted in particular - is the lack of female writers and directors. Those critics seem to overlook the realities of the situation (it's difficult to get female writers if they say no when asked, and according to Rachel Talalay, there aren't an awful lot of female directors who have the special effects experience to work on Doctor Who), and Tregenna is an example of this. Having written a number of Torchwood episodes, she seemed a perfect candidate for Doctor Who, but given she spent a lot of time after Torchwood writing for Law & Order: UK as well as other cop dramas, being busy seemed to be the issue here. Now, however, she's available to supply the second part to the story started in "The Girl Who Died".



It seems pretty obvious that "The Woman Who Lived" wasn't intended to be the second part of any story, and that Steven Moffat's contribution to both episodes was to link Ashildr from one to the other with good reason. I wasn't tremendously keen on last week's episode (and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that a few tweaks to the writing would have solved most of those problems), but I really wanted to like this one more, just because Tregenna's Torchwood episodes were always so good. Happily, it has been the case.



Ashildr doesn't seem shoehorned into the story at all, so I'm not sure whether she was originally in Tregenna's script, and Moffat wrote her immortality into "The Girl Who Died", or if Moffat requested adding Ashildr to "The Woman Who Lived", but a lot of the important themes of this episode stem from the similarities and differences between Ashildr and the Doctor. Clara is effectively not in this episode. She makes an appearance at the end, but part of me sort of wished she hadn't appeared at all. I very much enjoyed the interaction between Ashildr and the Doctor, though I never wanted her to replace Clara. Ashildr is a character in the vein of Captain Jack Harkness, who is indeed name checked at the end of the episode, and when she finally realises she has a mission of her own on Earth, it comes across as very believable. Maisie Williams performance in this episode is, oddly, better than the previous episode, and maybe that's because in "The Girl Who Died", she was just playing a Viking Arya Stark. In "The Woman Who Lived" she is given more to do, and a lot more character to get into. I like that her becoming jaded led to the situation that had occurred, and her betrayal was the trigger to return her to a better life. The Nightmare's voice, however, was just silly, and during that sequence I was beginning to think I was watching the "Amy And Amiability" episode of Blackadder The Third.



Also of note this episode was Rufus Hound, a hugely entertaining comedian, who got to bring Sam Swift to life. Now, I'm no prude, but I have to admit I'm a little uncertain about the "well hung" joke. I know that's an odd thing to complain about, but for some reason it felt a little wrong in Doctor Who. Having said that, Captain Jack's done worse, so perhaps I'm complaining for no real reason. Hound was great, but I think it would have worked slightly better to bring him into the episode a little earlier, and indeed to see him being captured by the troops, rather than being told about it. Minor complaints, but the episode doesn't really have much to really "major" complain.



This was definitely a case where the second episode of the two parter was actually better than the first (oh, did I rave about Leandro, the lion creature? I should have; he looked brilliant and performed marvellously; Ariyon Bakare did a spectacular job under that makeup). Ed Bazalgette again gave superb direction, but with a slightly better script than last week's, he had more to do. Though not as outright funny as "The Girl Who Died", "The Woman Who Lived" did have some great comic moments, helped no end by the brilliance of Peter Capaldi. Indeed, the decision to deliver the old rocker Doctor is the best decision the series has made, giving us a still grumpy Doctor, but one who is a lot more fun. And I have no problem with the Doctor playing that electric guitar whenever he wants (indeed, I'm somewhat at a loss to understand why people do have a problem with it - we had no problem with Patrick Troughton and his recorder!).



A return to form for this season - and given that the form is top-notch brilliance, Moffat, Tregenna, Bazalgette and Capaldi should be justifiably proud of themselves.
What an odd episode.



Jamie Mathieson with his difficult second album, after delivering arguably the two best stories of the last season, teams up with showrunner Steven Moffat, whose most recent outing was the superlative "The Magician's Apprentice" - both parts. On a high with both, it many ways it's difficult to see how they were going to deliver, and in some ways they sort of haven't. There's something a little flimsy about "The Girl Who Died", which is a great title for the episode though it does sort of signpost exactly what's going to happen to Ashildr. There is something annoying about a title that gives the game away, not because the episode delivers a twist that we didn't see coming, but more because you sit there waiting for it to happen. Any "...of the Daleks" story was a matter of waiting for the tin pepperpots to show up, which made it more annoying if the end of Episode One was the reveal. Similarly here, we wait patiently for Ashildr (and, let's face it, who else was it going to be? Surely not Clara this time...) to bite the big one. When she does it seems perfunctory at best. In fact, despite the "To Be Continued..." it feels a little like there were two stories that, a little late in the day, Moffat decided to put together to make two. Good idea? Well, it's hard to tell until we see the next episode, but it has diminished the ending of the first half, to be honest.



There's something a little flimsy about "The Girl Who Died"...it's worth repeating, not least because of the sidetrack to the title discussion, but because there genuinely feels like a wafer thin plot has been stretched out. The Doctor and Clara are captured by Vikings, then Odin comes along and challenges them to a fight. The Doctor wins because he's brilliant, of course. Maybe flimsy is the wrong word; maybe generic would be more appropriate. Mathieson's difficult second album comes from the fact that his first was so original and inventive. "Mummy On The Orient Express" is a clever twist on a familiar theme, whereas "Flatline" was the creation of a brilliant new form of enemy. "The Girl Who Died" is the familiar theme, but without the clever twist. Moffat seems to have come in to add a few bits to tie Ashildr into the two stories, and probably did the bit about the Doctor interpreting the baby - this is Moffat, after all, and virtually ever episode he writes has to have some relevence to children. I suspect he also wrote the bit about the Doctor realising why he chose his thirteenth face, which was really good. As was the baby bit, to be honest - almost poetry. But an episode shouldn't be about window dressing, and in this one, the window dressing is superb, but the actual framework is...well, boring.



As if to balance this, Mathieson (or Moffat) deliver bucketloads of comedy, and the time certainly flies past quickly enough. Ed Bazalgette's direction is excellent, and the performances are brilliant, with Ian Conningham and Maisie Williams arguably being the stand out performances. I'm not entirely certain why everyone was raving about Williams, who is excellent, but not really Michael Gambon. Perhaps it's just Game of Thrones fever. Maybe I should watch it some day. The rest of the cast serve their purpose, which was possibly the motto of the entire production: it served its purpose. The comedy meets new heights when the Doctor trains the village, and the next scene shows it on fire. Hilarious, we all laughed. Then, possibly, we realised that it was mostly filler. Nothing really happens in this episode, and when it finally does, it's quick and efficient. Even the two days it should take the Doctor and Clara to get back to the TARDIS feels like they simply strolled through the woods. Bazalgette seems to have given up in the last few minutes. In many ways it feels a little like "Robot Of Sherwood", except that that story was deliberately played for laughs from the outset. This feels like it was played for laughs after the first read through fell a little flat.



It's not that I'm complaining as such, because I didn't hate the episode. It was fun and frothy, but after the last two stories, the bar was set high for the season, and perhaps it was inevitable that a story wouldn't be able to hit it. And, of course, I'm judging a story based on it's first episode, which is a little unfair. That said, the last two first parters were really good. This one...this one just coasts through.



PS - Apologies for the lack of review last week - life got in the way!
Have I mentioned how I really love the fact that this season they've tweaked the opening theme to restore the 1970s intro to the theme? It adds an awful lot to what was, to me, a fairly ordinary version of the piece. And maybe, after a season, it's starting to grow on me so I don't find it quite as irksome as I did last year. Either way, the prelude that ended with that wonderful howl was just that little bit fantastic, all told. And, on top of that, Toby Whithouse's episode delivers one of the funniest gags the series has ever delivered (ie the Doctor requiring cards to be appropriate in certain situations). Now that the Doctor isn't quite as vitrolic as he was last season, his brusqueness is working for the character, and the new, lighter Clara, works fantastically opposite this Doctor, moreso, I think, than she did off his predecessor. As Sarah Jane was more a fourth companion than a third, so Clara is more a twelfth than an eleventh.



It's a fitting comparison for this episode, which was rather more interested in returning to the series roots than the new version of the series has ever been. Capaldi was doing a combination of Pertwee and Tom Baker, with his own twist on the part (indeed, in his black hoodie and trousers, you can't help but wonder if this is how Colin Baker would have played the part had he been given a free hand), while Toby Whithouse was writing as though Robert Holmes himself were script editing his work. This seemed like a Doctor Who story that could have quite neatly stepped out of 1975, as it flooded parts of Scotland and delivered us genuine ghosts - which weren't, but they were, but they weren't. And of course, the cliffhanger. The return of the Doctor Who cliffhanger can't be praised enough, and as Peter Capaldi stood in underwater mouthing "the dark, the sword, the forsaken, the temple", we got one of the best ever - along with a very iconic image.



Which brings us rather neatly to Daniel O'Hara, the director of this story. O'Hara is making his Who debut here, and limited by the number of effects shots he was clearly allowed to have, O'Hara makes the most of the underwater base he has been given, framing scenes to enhance the claustrophobia and giving us some stunning moments, including the cliffhanger mentioned, but also the rather lovely shot of the Doctor and Clara looking across at each other from across a flooded tunnel. O'Hara concentrates on faces, meaning we get to see the reactions from the cast before we generally get to see what it is they reacting too, which works very well in the case of the cliffhanger, and also the annoying Robert Pritchard's death. The other consequence of this is that this is definitely a character piece more than an action adventure. And rather helpfully, the characters are people we are genuinely interested in.



Casting on this episode includes some interesting choices. Colin McFarlane (who was Commissioner Loeb in The Dark Knight, Batman fans!) is killed off surprisingly early, but becomes the villain of the piece from that moment onwards; wandering around in black and white, muttering and killing and generally being very scary. The rest of the cast is extremely likable, particularly Morven Christie as O'Donnell, one of the many fans of the Doctor, it seems, who is delighted to get his approval and frankly would be a great companion if Clara doesn't make it through this episode (and will she? Who know, people, who knows...). However, let's not avoid the other rather astounding piece of casting - Sophie Stone. Stone is an actually deaf actor, and Doctor Who has cast a deaf actor before (waaay back in 1979), this is the first time the actor is playing a deaf character as well. I have no idea where this came from - whether it was in Whithouse's script (which would seem to be the case as, frankly, Lunn was relatively important to the story), or whether the decision was taken later. Either way, I fully applaud the decision as it gave us a character who was genuinely different to the norm. That said, I would have preferred it if the Doctor actually could read sign language...I mean...why wouldn't he? Regardless of the joke, by the way.



Ultimately, however, this was top notch Doctor Who. A fantastic mystery, a fantastic cliffhanger, fantastic direction, set design, writing, acting, characters...just all round brilliant. Bring on the next episode.
Ahh Steven Moffat. Was ever there a showrunner who was more divisive than you? Well, yes, there was, obviously. Russell T Davies, Philip D Segal, John Nathan Turner to name but several. Doctor Who is at it's best when it's progressive. Moffat, however, manages to be progressive whilst at the same time pleasing the fanboys. Tonight they would have had a coniption...was that Tom in the pretitle sequence? Wait...did Davros just open HIS EYES????? Oh, the fan anger might melt the internet.



Well, I say fan anger. I mean generally those that seem to forget that Doctor Who at its best, has always taken the things that were a certainty, and then pulled the rug out from under us. Think the Doctor is an exile from some strange catastrophe on his homeworld? No, he just ran away because he was bored. Think the program is about a traveller through time and space? No, it's about a guy who helps out a paramilitary organisation from alien invaders. Think the Doctor can live forever, bar accidents? No, he has a limit on those pesky regenerations. Except that he has eight lives before the one we first saw. Except he didn't, cause Davison is definitely the fifth incarnation. Think McGann regenerated into Eccleston? Nope, he didn't...there was John Hurt in the middle.



The problem with Doctor Who - also it's greatest strength ironically - is that it has a very, very committed fanbase. Except that every single one of those fans has a definite idea of what the series is about, and as the old saying goes, stick two fans in a room and you'll get three theories about what Doctor Who is.



Moffat delights in redefining the series, in an attempt to keep bums on seats at a time when the audience isn't really interested in being dictated to by television schedules. In this day and age, the number of people who watch a program when it's broadcast is likely to be less than half the actual number of people who will ultimately watch it. So many people are waiting for a boxset or Netflix before they commit to the entire series, that a week by week viewing is almost nonsensical these days. The only ones who do are those hardcore fans. And when you have in excess of four million of those in England alone, you have to admit Moffat's doing his job. The hardcore fans are watching it in force, and the rest of the audience - more than the hardcore ones, are coming to it in their own sweet time. No wonder the BBC won't let Moffat go.



I was bothered last week in regards to two small points, and as usual Moffat slapped me across the face and said "Just wait, alright? Have some bloody patience!" So, the story arrived this week, and what a brilliant one it was. For so much of the past episode and this one it seemed that the story was essentially nothing more than Davros wanting to see the Doctor to criticise him just before he died. Turns out, of course, Davros is still the ultimate, manipulative bastard he always was. A plan to reenergise the Daleks and himself with a power source better than anything else. What's brilliant about Moffat is something he shares with Davies. People criticised the latter about deux ex machinas, but in truth Davies would set it up elsewhere and not draw attention to it. Moffat did exactly the same thing here - after the episode it was obvious that the Doctor's regenerative energy would rejuvanate Davros. Equally obvious was the multi functional Colony Sarff. And, of course, the sewers or graveyards of the Daleks. A horrible thought, but another piece in the intricate puzzle Moffat laid down to bring the episode to a close.



Moffat is criticise a lot for the fact he uses the TARDIS as a time machine rather than a magic door (and when you write it like that you have to wonder what drugs his haters are actually on), but his writing is very non linear when he wants to do so. He may be marked down by his high school English teachers (in the same way that Stephen King would fail Queensland's NAPLAN exams), but Moffat doesn't write to get an "A" in structure; he writes to be dramatic; to keep those bums on the seat. So, what's an effective cliffhanger? Oh, yeah, that would be a short, out-of-context scene from the end of the next episode. Of course the Doctor wasn't going to exterminate boy Davros...it's patently clear that he was going to explode the handmines, and yet it never occurred to me. Because Moffat's a skilled writer and he drags you into the world he creates. This episode got around to sorting that cliffhanger out at the end of the story, because he had more interesting things to do. Like explain how Missy escaped death at the end of the previous story. I take it all back, Mr Moffat. The explanation was both clever and also neatly explained the Master and Clara's escape from the Daleks.



Before we get onto something else, let's pause a moment and talk about Hettie MacDonald, director of this episode. I really loved Hettie's direction, I really do. Her placement of the cameras is superb, and the zooming closeups of Capaldi bring the entire episode to life. She effortlessly frames the scene to give us access to everything we need to see, and let's be frank here, it's not easy to direct Daleks. But those scenes of the Dalek control room were up there with those wonderful moments in Gordon Flemyng's Dalek movies. Daleks from all throughout Doctor Who history, gliding around the red Supreme. When Clara's Dalek entered and got lost with the rest, it was a clever moment. Everything about the episode was written to keep us second guessing, and MacDonald directed it as though she were of the same mind. Well done, Hettie. More of you, I think.



Then we get back to the acting, which I praised last episode, but I think managed to actually up the ante. I hate to say it, but while Coleman was delivering us a wonderful little performance, Capaldi and Gomez were dancing around giving the performance of a lifetime. It's a credit to Gomez that she has inhabited the Master perfectly, giving us a charming, genuinely funny incarnation, who at the same time is an absolute bitch. Whether she's telling the Dalek Supreme he's secretly her favourite, or encouraging the Doctor to kill the Dalek that is actually Clara, Missy is a perfect incarnation of the Master. And, er, did she mention a daughter...?



And yet, despite those three, it was Julian Bleach who stole the episode. Davros was taken to a whole new level with this story, and even though Davros had this horrible plan, surely everything he said to the Doctor couldn't have been a lie? The tears had to be genuine, surely? And his Darth Vader was perfect. Add Capaldi to the mix, and I genuinely thought the Doctor and Davros might reconcile. As they laughed together it seemed so right. Then Moffat took it one step further, and it seemed even right-er. Who couldn't want more Davros?



Obviously, then, I liked this episode. No, strike that, I loved it. There was nothing about this episode I disliked. Nothing I could criticise, nothing I would even want to. This was perfect Doctor Who. A perfect 10.
SPOILERS

Handmines. Bloody hell, Moffat, I was going to let my kids watch this one!

Doctor Who's back, along with Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez and Steven Moffat. Insert your whinge of choice about any one of those four people. Personally, you'll get no whinge from me, because if "The Magician's Apprentice" has proven one thing, it's that Moffat ain't out of ideas yet. Indeed, he's firing on all cylinders.

If you watched the two previews, like me you were no doubt expecting the Doctor to meet up with Missy for some mysterious final mission, but it turns out that - for a very rare moment in my life - I was unspoiled about this particular episode of Who. I was surprised indeed when Davros the child turned up at the end of the pretitle sequence (cue diehard Big Finish fans tearing their hair out as Moffat throws Davros continuity out the window). I was even more surprised when Julian Bleach turned up as Davros for real, now dying, awaiting the arrival of the Doctor to discuss the old times.

Before that, however, we get some establishing moments. The rather bizarre Colony Straff - one of the most amazing monsters Moffat has created - seeks out the Doctor in a few of his old haunts (apparently - I don't actually remember him chilling too much on Karn or the Shadow Proclamation) while Kate Stewart calls in Clara's help. They have a problem with planes stopping in mid air, but it turns out this is just a greetings card, because someone else wants Clara's help. Yeah, the Master's back.

I have been accused of being a Moffat apologist in the past, but that's actually not true, and by way of proof, I have to say I'm not keen on Missy's unexplained resurrection. I realise that Moffat just enjoyed the eighties when Anthony Ainley would die one story, then pop up the next story with some glib comment about being indestructible, but frankly that sucked in the eighties and it still sucks now. Give us a reason, please, for Missy's resurrection. She can't just keep going around getting killed and then coming back for nostalgia's sake, Steven. It's stupid.

Unlike the character herself, however. Missy goes from strength to strength and has become one of my favourite incarnations of the Master. I loved the fact that she casually dismissed Clara's questions about loving the Doctor, and even more, I loved her outrage when the Doctor claimed Davros was his archenemy ("He's your archenemy now? I'll scratch his eye out..."). Her relationship with Clara is superb, and indeed she happily plays companion to both Clara and the Doctor, before turning on them both and handing the TARDIS over to the Daleks. Sadly, however, the Daleks haven't changed...or at least haven't forgotten they executed the Master. No second chances. They're that kind of Dalek.

This episode was brilliant, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly why it's brilliant. There's an awful lot that happens, but at the same time, it's difficult to wax lyrical on a long, complex plot. Most of the episode is dedicated to wonderful "moments", be they for the various characters (the Doctor's axe war against Bors, Clara's confrontation with Missy, Missy realising they're on an invisible planet), or just fan moments (I twigged fairly quickly that the opening war was the Thal/Kaled war - war of attrition, eh? Only backwards...and Missy's appalled look when she realises where she and Clara are was perfect. And let's not forget the Doctor and Davros' confrontation, complete with clips from the classic series! And classic series Daleks! Doing something!), but the story hasn't really established itself yet.

The cliffhanger is also perfect, and a very welcome return. Cliffhanger's are an important part of Doctor Who, and I've missed them. Ending on this particular cliffhanger - the Doctor apparently going somewhere he never would to save Clara and Missy - was amazing. I can't wait for next week to resolve it.

But what then? Well, we still have to discover exactly what Davros wants with the Doctor, I suppose, and why the Doctor was convinced it was the end and needed to send his last Will and Testament to the Master. I'm hugely intrigued for next week, and I dearly loved this week, but part of me thinks that Mr Moffat has pulled his own magician's trick on us. For that, I guess, all I can do is nod in admiration. Well played Mr Moffat, well played. But can you pull the real rabbit out of your hat?
It may shock people to realise that we are in the tenth of year of new Doctor Who, marked by the tenth Christmas special the series has seen. And, of course, Peter Capaldi's first. Moffat's Christmas specials tend to be a bit divisive, veering away from Davies' big action adventures, tending to wind the focus down to a far more Christmassy affair. Sometimes these hit home - "A Christmas Carol", "The Snowmen" - but sometimes you can't help feeling that there's something missing - "The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe", "The Time Of The Doctor". This year's "Last Christmas" happily seems very much the former.


Moffat has decided to be just a little bit cheeky this year, presenting us a story that ultimately is nothing more than a dream, and yet that Miracle On 34th St feeling seems to be just right. Moffat is clearly throwing a fair few homages into the mix, with Miracle and Alien being the two obvious ones, and rather than shy away from this, Moffat embraces it in his story, even going so far as to have someone mention the similarity. But it's almost because the whole set up is dreams within dreams, you feel you can get away with it.



Paul Wilmshurst - a terrible audio commentator it has to be said - brings his A-game to the special, providing some brilliant direction, matched by Neville Kidd's amazing photography. There's some brilliant framing, and amazing lighting, all of which sees the special start very Christmassy before going very Alien-y. There's a confidence to this production that seems to say "we can get away with anything".



It's helped no end by Peter Capaldi. Now a series away from the hype of the fiftieth anniversary, it feels like we can enjoy Capaldi as the proper incumbent Doctor, and he seems more relaxed in the role for this special. There's a subtle toning down of the acerbic twelfth Doctor, so that he's still prickly and not very huggable, but there's more humour and fun in him this time round. Clara benefits from this as well, as Jenna Coleman gets to enjoy the obvious chemistry the two now share. Moffat ensures that the events of the previous series are not swept under the carpet, and the Doctor and Clara deal with Danny in a surprisingly effective manner, which allows you to believe that the ending makes a lot of sense for both characters. Hopefully Clara is a full time companion now, rather than an "adventure on Wednesday" one.



The cast is filled out by some nice performances, notably Michael Troughton turning up as a professor, but more important is Faye Marsay who is fantastic as Shona. You can't help but think it would be nice to see the Doctor and Clara catch up with her at a later point. But it's Nick Frost that everyone is talking about, because he gets his name in the credits, and he's playing Santa Claus.


And he's absolutely brilliant. For an idea that has every opportunity of going wrong, Frost brings a touch of magic to the Santa, that makes the character very believable, and it completely works in the story. Even the comedy elves - Dan Starkey and Nathan McMullen - add rather than detract to the episode.



Put simply, "Last Christmas" is Moffat's best Christmas special ever. It moves the story of Clara and the Doctor along, while at the same time delivering a fantastic adventure, and still poking fun at the fans who whinge about Moffat every chance they get.



Bring on series nine!
Series 8 of Doctor Who comes to an end with "Death In Heaven" as the Master's insane plan comes to it's ultimate fruition. So...any good?



Let's get the negatives out the way. The Master's appearance is welcome, and I do love the fact that she is getting more and more insane with each regeneration, but her escape from Gallifrey is quite important, I think, particularly given the Doctor is actually trying to find his home. I don't understand why the Doctor didn't push for more, or even why we didn't perhaps get an explanation for why the Master had to regenerate. I don't mind things being unexplained, in fact I think that's quite fun. But some of the big things really need to be given some sort of explanation, especially if it's something that the main characters would want explained to them. Equally, are these Cybermen genuine Cybermen, or some sort of strange amalgam that the Master created using original Cybermen and Time Lord technology. I'm assuming the latter (not least because these Cybermen are the ones from a very future war). I can get past that one, but I wouldn't have minded that being made a little clearer.



Meanwhile, Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Michelle Gomez are superb. Gomez's switching accents because she likes the twelfth Doctor's accent is a nice touch, and Capaldi is suitably grave throughout the entire film. Coleman is fantastic, and the final scene between the two of them is very nicely played, though a little sad, really, as you get, for the first time, the sense that travelling with the Doctor has damaged a companion a little. Truthfully I never fully enjoyed Danny Pink, and I'm not entirely certain why, but ultimately I didn't care all that much when he was converted. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, on the other hand, I find I have grown a deep affection for and was seriously concerned when she was flung out of the plane. Equally I was quite shocked when the Master killed Osgood.


Quite often in this episode, television was really trying to be a motion picture, and more often that not I think Rachel Talalay succeeded in her attempts. The plane scenes were really well done, and Moffat's dialogue sparkled throughout, particularly with his rather incisive notes on humanity ("Cybermen don't blow themselves up for no reason; they're not human" is of particular note).


And of course there's the controversial return of the Brigadier. I've seen fans say this is disrespectful, but I don't really see that's the case. In truth I prefer it - after all we know the Brig has passed, and if all of humanity has been converted, it would seem a little odd not to think of the Doctor's closest friend. It does also neatly tie up the problem of saving Kate and solving the Doctor's final dilemma. It wasn't signposted at all, however, despite some mention of the character earlier on, and I think that's maybe what upset some fans.


However, do I think this episode was brilliant? Perhaps not. It fell just a little short, particularly after what was delivered so well in the previous episode. That's not to say I don't think the episode didn't work, I think it perhaps just didn't quite meet the height it was aiming for.



Nevertheless series 8 has done an incredible job of rebooting Doctor Who, delivering us a Doctor who is a hard pill to swallow, and yet one you can't help but like, while at the same time redefining Clara to become a strong character with no dependence on the Doctor (oh, neat trick with the title sequence, Mr Moffat...I admit I was guessing). It shall be interesting to see if Clara's story truly is finished or if there's more to come.
I knew it was the Cybermen. I'd seen the production stills a few months ago, so I knew they were on the way. And, in truth, someone had speculated on the fact that maybe Missy was short for Mistress and this was a new incarnation of the Master. So neither of these were total surprises (although I wasn't totally sure about the Mistress, so there was an element of surprise in that), and I have to admit I envy those millions of people who don't frequent Doctor Who forums and fansites and went into "Dark Water" with no information other than what we'd gleaned so far in the previous episodes. Lucky sods. I can only imagine how stunned you must have been with the reveals.



Moffat, you have to admit, has big cajones. What he's done this year is nothing short of potential professional suicide, as he's pretty much thrown everything he established over the first four years of his showrunnership away and created an entirely new program. Then, once he'd done all that, he's taken the Doctor's arch nemesis and changed his gender so nobody would know he was coming. It takes some guts to do that. Add to that the casual death of Danny Pink in the opening sequence, and you get an episode that clearly is going to be quite dark.



Quite dark, however, doesn't cover the best of it. There's a sequence in the generally awful Torchwood: Miracle Day where a car is crushed with it's owner inside, and that bothered me as that one eye blinked out from the mess reminding us that because of Miracle Day, that poor woman was crushed in a ton of metal and was still alive. It was an awful thought, and Moffat pulled the same when he delivered the rather casual reveal that we still have a form of consciousness after death, and we can still feel...even if we are cremated. What a horrible, horrible thought.



Of course we don't know the entirity of what's going on. Missy's comment about getting a dying mind and putting it in the Nethersphere suggests that the people who are being converted to Cybermen aren't actually dead yet; just very near. This may be some small comfort for Clara as it does suggest there might be a way of bringing Danny back. Once this adventure is over, however, the Doctor and Clara have some problems ahead. The Doctor's wonderful forgiveness of her betrayal thanks to his caring for her, doesn't really excuse the fact that in order to save Danny she was prepared to destroy the TARDIS keys and effectively sentence the two of them to death. The Doctor may have got over that, but I do wonder if Clara will be able to do so quite as easily. And, of course, Clara has quite clearly stuck her flag as to where her loyalties lie. There's a lot of daylight between Danny and the Doctor in Clara's affections, and that can't help the Time Lord much. The Christmas special may be more tumultous than we think (although given the Doctor effectively died last year, it's hard to imagine how much more tumultuous it can get).



Meanwhile the Doctor still has to deal with the Mistress and the Cybermen. Why Missy has sided with the Cybermen in order to build them an army is yet to be seen - and let's face it, it's not like any of her/his plans have made a huge amount of sense to date - how she escaped from Gallifrey and what her future is, all remain to seen. If Danny does make it back to the land of the living, quite how his confrontation with the boy he shot dead will affect him also remains to be seen. Noone is coming out of this story with a handy reboot button.



This season is a bit odd because it seems very low key and not raved about, yet it has been possibly the most consistent season the series has had to date. The writing and direction has been superb (and let's take a moment to talk about Rachel Talalay's direction for this episode, which is really first rate. This is the woman who directed Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and you can really tell, as there is a filmic feel to the episode that is reminiscent of a horror film. This woman definitely needs to return to the series in the future), and the ratings are surprisingly very similar. Clearly the series is doing well, and yet it doesn't feel as *big* as last year. In fairness, that is probably due to the fact that last year was the fiftieth anniversary. Regardless, this episode is pure brilliance, and with a cliffhanger that rivals a few last year, we're desperately waiting for the next episode.