Heaven Sent Review

Well that was certainly something.

I think it’s safe to say that this will probably be considered the best episode of the Capaldi era so far. The episode is filled with mystery, atmosphere  and interesting imagery that nothing up to this point can really match up. While this three-parter as a whole may not go down as the best story of his era this episode very well could be.

As Moffat is like to do the Doctor wasn’t really alone for the whole episode. We had the veil creature obviously, we had the little Gallifreyan boy at the end of the episode and of course Clara made an appearance in the mental flesh. While it’s a shame the gimmick couldn’t actually go all the way the foreboding is enough to make it significant. Clara’s absence was obviously felt in this episode and her appearance was significant so no one can really argue with that.

I think it’s safe to say that Moffat reused the person in their brain trying to figure out how to survive thing from Last Vow but it was different enough here that you can’t really be angry. The visuals were also quite impressive with Talalay doing another excellent job. The montage of all the Doctor’s various antics was also quite effective. The veil thing itself was also a creepy creation especially with the flies. The music also stood out as being quite good.

The Doctor having to keep dying to do pretty much the same thing over again was a pretty effective depiction of the Hell he thought the situation was. And of course the end result was to enter Gallifrey (which probably would have been a bigger reveal had the synopsises not spoiled it). We also learn that the Doctor himself is apparently the hybrid. Does that mean that the half-human thing is actually true outside the TV Movie (or was he just pondering a guess)?

Capaldi himself should also get credit for handling most of this episode alone. His monologues also sounded pretty cool. This may not be my favourite Doctor but this episode is more than enough proof that he’s got the chops.

Overall this was an episode that might require a rewatch to absorb all the little details. The conceit of the episode is pretty simple (which might explain why I zoned out once or twice) but those details and the general execution is what is make this one hold up. Moffat should definitely be proud of this one and let’s hope he can deliver a satisfying finale.

EDIT: I just realized that the circle thing he was holding at the end was in fact the Confession dial. This makes a fair amount of sense given that thing was asking a bunch of confessions. Now here are questions I have. How exactly was he teleported inside that thing. Were the Time Lords aware of this dial. Did the device actually teleport him or did it kill him to get him in the device? If the latter is true does this mean that the Doctor never intended to get to Gallifrey until he was dead. With all this I guess it basically means that the Dial was a more recent device. I also have to wonder how breaking a wall of diamond for 2 billion years leads to Gallifrey? Was it a metaphor? Also was the Doctor aware of what was in the Dial cause you’d think if he designed it he would have known what was in there and if he designed it a way that would cause him to forget then I guess he was glutton for punishment.

Perhaps some of these questions will be answered in the next episode or perhaps it doesn’t matter either way. Who knows eh? Who knows?

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Face the Raven Review

Well that was a bit of a bummer wasn’t it.

I think it’s safe to say that this was one of those episodes that mainly exists to get to a certain point. Namely to the death of Clara (though Jenna will apparently be making a final appearance in the finale). I suppose the episode gets to it adequately enough though it’s doubtful the episode will be remembered much beyond the end result.

Moffat said that these final three episodes will cliffhanger into each other and that seems accurate based on what we see here. Overall the set-up works here to have the Doctor mostly alone for the next episode as he’s obviously going to be reeling from loss and is going to be rather pissed. If you’ve read the descriptions for the later episodes you’ll know who is behind all this and it’s a doozy (you can look it up yourself, though I found the hints at the enemy to be more interesting when I knew who it was). Though I have to wonder why they decided to leave his bracelet behind since you’d think having that still on him would be useful. I also think that his new coat this episode sets up the change in him that will be seen in these final episodes pretty well.

I appreciated the reference to the retcon drug used in Torchwood. I also thought the smoke exerted out of the victims of the raven looked a lot like the demon smoke in Supernatural. I also have to question why they needed to have the projector thingies make the aliens look human if the humans will forget when they leave and the aliens themselves know who they are (though the idea of the hidden street is pretty creative, even though some likened it to Diagon Alley). Some of the alien cameos were fun too. It’s also safe to presume the light-hearted opening was meant to be a severe contrast to the end.

We see the return of Ishildir here (and I refuse to call here Me). There isn’t really much to say outside of the fact that she’s in more of a villain role this time around, though her regret at Clara’s death at least gives her a bit more depth. It should be an interesting encounter between her and the Doctor next time it happens.

Also returning is Rigsy from Flatline. Not to say that the actor or even the character are really that bad but he wasn’t exactly on the list of characters that I would have really loved to return. Even Craig made a bit more sense to bring back since he had a fairly big role in the episode he returned in and the nostalgia for the Eleventh Doctor worked fairly well in Closing Time. Rigsy in contrast didn’t really have that big a role in Flatline and even in this episode he doesn’t have much character (even Osgood had more character in her second appearance than he does). In fact his rebellious streak from the past episode seems to be more or less ignored and he happens to have a daughter now for reasons (not sure if he mentioned having a girlfriend in Flatline). When you get right down to it the only reason he is here is to give a decent enough reason for Clara to be willing to risk her life (since she knows him she’d have more reason to do it). Also it’s unfortunate that all the stuff Clara tells him about not feeling guilty is pretty much going to be forgotten and in fact he probably won’t know that she’s dead (unless Ashildir pulled some strings or something).

EDIT: I’ve been informed that there was a post-credit scene where we see Rigsy paint a mural on the TARDIS. So that does create some plot holes as I alluded to but is is sad so check it out here if you haven’t already https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdhOtegUSr0

I also feel that the means of getting to the death sentence were a tiny bit contrived and shallow. I mean surely there could have been a means of getting the Doctor where he needed to be without all the elaborate set-up. Sure you could argue that giving Rigsy that death sentence was a sign of the callousness of the players involved but you’d think that once the Doctor and co were trapped on the streets Ashildir could have just strapped the bracelet on him somehow and been done with it. Probably would have saved some trouble. Now I get that she may have not wanted to seem like an asshole in front of the people but they seemed to assume they were guilty anyway and if she was forced into it I don’t see why people would be that mad. And either way the two-faced girl knows the truth so either way the truth is out there that she cheated the system. Anyway the street itself doesn’t feel all that fleshed out in spite of all the aliens. Basically they all want Rigsy dead in order to not have to fight each other which does seem a bit basic. Even the two faced girl isn’t all that interesting either and for this supposed mystery that Ash set up you’d think that talking to this chick would have been the first thing  that would have come to mind once he put two and two together. It also seems odd that Ash has so little control over this raven thing and the transfer set-up at the beginning was really obvious. As a whole it’s hard to give that much of a crap about the mystery or the setting.

Anyway let’s move on to the death itself. Overall, it makes sense that it would ultimately be Clara’s own arrogance that would do her in in the end (much like a certain other companion). It is overall pretty sad that she died for pretty much nothing and because of the larger schemes at play. Her also convincing the Doctor not to go mad with revenge was also pretty good too (though from the material for the final two episodes it seems it will have done little good). Jenna and Peter’s performances were both very solid as well.

So overall this was a decent-ish episode that ended the life of a companion and also set up some interesting threads for the finale. This I’d call it a success though the means via which we got to these points could have been better handled. At the very least the Clara character got off with a solid ending and I’m sure many will be glad that she actually got to die, either due to hate or because people want to see companion death. Props to Jenna and perhaps I’ll have more to say for the finale. Either way see you next week.

 

Sleep No More Review

So this episode encourages you not to watch it at the beginning. Got to say parts of this made it really tempting.

Gatiss is one of those guys you can’t really hate since his work is pretty consistent but he never really reaches greatness all that much. There is usually at least something to appreciate in his episodes though and even this one has stuff going for it.  But unfortunately a lot of it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

Found-footage is as source of contention these days but I can’t really say I hate it like some other people as it at least offers some interesting ways to do things. (check out Supernatural’s Bitten for another TV episode that decided to go for the found-footage aesthetic). And even in this episode it’s not even the biggest failing to be found here. I myself had thought a little while ago that having found footage from eyes (my idea involved robots) made some sense as you wouldn’t need to worry about where the camera was the whole time. Though I have to ask exactly how is the footage taken out from everybody’s eyes anyway.

One thing I definitely like about the episode is the weird future that’s been constructed. It’s been a little while since we’ve had one this bizarre in the show and it allows people to get a bit creative mixing various things in. I also liked the use of the Sandman song (recognizable from Back to the Future) in reference to the enemy but it could have maybe been used a  bit more ominously.

Now let’s talk about the Sandmen. Ya this whole concept is pretty dumb. I’m not sure I can scientifically prove that this concept is a bunch of crap but it really feels like it. Either way I pretty sure that those guys wouldn’t fall about like sand given that the sleep in your eye tends to be made more of crust. As a whole this is probably some the worst science/most dumb concept since either Kill the Moon or In the Forest of the Night (though I’d at least say it’s a bit better than the former since it doesn’t pile as much bullshit on top of itself). And either way the whole concept is so silly that it’s makes it hard to take the rest of the episode seriously with it in the back of your mind.

The characters were OK I guess though they were a bit stock. One miscalculation seemed to be getting someone whose voice sounded eerily like Jenna Coleman’s so I ended up a bit confused about who was talking at points. Speaking of Clara while she got an occasional good line here and there she seemed oddly quite judgey at the future and the people in this episode which came across as a bit mean. The Doctor wasn’t really up to much either and even he seemed a bit judgy of the human race again which fair enough but it’s nothing particularly new with him. Out of the new characters the dude with the glasses probably stood out the most as he had a definite presence about him though him turning into a crazy person in the end was a bit old hat.

I did like how they showed the title of the show in this one, the GLADos-esque voice for the interface thing and the Silurian name joke.

Probably the thing that was most irritating about the episode was it’s sense of smugness intentional or otherwise. The Doctor kept talking about how things didn’t make any sense while the episode itself decided not to give us some answers by the end of it, sure some stuff was answered throughout but pretty much any form of conclusion has pretty much been removed from this one which makes you feel kind of unsatisfied. Also the glasses guy talking about how he made the story all cool and stuff just reeked of arrogance, though him getting all sandy in the end was creepy. I guess the reasons for him making the video make sense though if the Doctor and co were going to solve the situation (Clara obviously isn’t dying yet) then it’s not really that effective of a chilling “you could be next” situation like at the end of Blink.

Overall while this had a few things to like it is probably the weakest episode of the series at this point. There isn’t much else to say on this one so let’s hope the next is better.

The Zygon Inversion Review

Well here we are with the second part of this story.

Much like with the first part I feel that some outside opinions might be necessary afterwards to get a full perspective on whether this story was a success since when your dealing with ethics and allegories a second opinion is usually justified. However I’d like to preserve my thoughts for this episode right now more the sake of posterity (though like the first part don’t consider this to be the end all be all of my views on the tale).

This story has a noticeably smaller scale than the last one. Whereas the latter had far more characters and those characters were spread out far more the focus here is a lot more tighter for better and for worse. It also seems that the parallels to immigrants and ISIS or whatever, as people have noted for the first part, have been toned down significantly and it’s in general more about the sides of war in general. This is also for better or for worse as at times mainly cause I’m not sure at this point whether Bonnie wanted to liberate her people or kill all the humans since it got a little confusing at some point.

With this part it also becomes clear that this story is less a continuation of Day of the Doctor as much as an extension/expansion of the Zygon plot and it’s parallels with the Doctor’s choices in that story. This seems to be the case because when you get right down to it nothing has really changed between the ending of either story. There’s a confrontation in the Black Archive, there’s potential for either war or peace, the Doctor talks about the Time War, the the situation is resolved, the Doctor and Clara go to do something else and two Osgoods hang out. Ultimately the only real difference is that the latest iteration of this tale is a good deal more detailed than the former, which leads to some interesting discussion and arguably will satisfy people more than the somewhat rushed one in Day, but this also causes a problem when you could make the argument that the more simplistic form in Day had more meaning somehow especially since the choice to not blow things up there paralleled the Doctor not deciding to make the choice to use the Moment more effectively, and also because the more detailed explanation leading to as simplistic a solution as before is somewhat frustrating. In the end peace is achieved because apparently that’s the way things are and any conflicts the two side have between each other need to be forgiven or something. I get that apparently the Zygon splinter group is supposed to be ISIS and that we probably shouldn’t give into the demands of terrorists but it feels a bit hollow to have things just go back to the way they were.

I can’t really know for sure if the ethics of the situation are justified but what I do know is that the whole scene of them working this out takes up a good chunk of the episode so having things just return to the original situation feels off-putting. I get that we want to not have a violent ending for the sake of it and I’m not entirely sure how to resolve this problem but those are just my concerns and feel free to voice your own.

Anyway let’s talk about some other things. Jenna Coleman definitely did a pretty good job in this episode particularly in the scene where  the two versions of herself were confronting one another, they definitely had the feel of two different people even if it didn’t quite have an Orphan Black level of immersion. The scene where she was waking up in the distorted reality was also pretty effective and I appreciated the nod to Last Christmas’ dream reading thing (this section is probably the thing I’m most certain Moffat had a hand in, though I’m guessing he had a few other touches as well including some of the writing in the ending (though not necessarily the weaker parts)). Now granted the Bonnie/Clara conflict definitely had shades of Nightmare of Silver and the whole companion in distorted reality reminded me of Forest of the Dead and Last Christmas it was still pretty well done and Jenna can feel good she can have this performance on her resume.

The Doctor and Osgood also had a pretty good partnership in this episode with some pretty good lines (the stuff with first names) between them. Out of all the temporary companions that the Doctor had had this season (Davros doesn’t count and him and Missy didn’t get a whole lot of screen time)  she’s probably the best  and it’s a shame they didn’t have as much screen time as together as they could have. Though hopefully with some version of Osgood still alive we can her interact with Doc and future ones for years to come. On the subject I’m fine with them not telling us which Osgood is which since as the story illustrates in the end it doesn’t matter. As long as she brings the fun I’m cool. Capaldi’s performance throughout was quite good and the confrontation scene in particular (him bringing up the Time War had some good weight behind it despite it being kind of done before). Him pulling out the American accent/game show host was also quite amusing. I also found it funny that the Doctor’s solution to fixing Osgood’s glasses was some tape (let’s hope she can get Emma Watson to fix them properly).

Kate didn’t really get to do much I’m afraid though I think that’s mainly down to the character pretty much being forced into the same perspective she was in Day of the Doctor with her messing about with starting the Apocalypse again or something. Also as a minor note those heels looked pretty dreadful. When Osgood has more practical fashion sense then you you know you’ve got a problem.  Or maybe it was casual Friday which is why we always see Osgood in a cosplay outfit (unless Kate knows better than to mess with Osgood and her daily wardrobe cause she fears what will happen if she inquires into it, sorry other UNIT guys). Also not really sure we needed the solution to her getting out basically coming down to a fan reference (fives rounds…). Though speaking of fan references, outside of the ones we already saw in Day of the Doctor we had the reveal that it was Harry Sullivan who engineered the crazy gas (which is probably going to miff some AV Club members) and what appeared to be a Mire helmet in the background of the big confrontation.

Also an inquiry I have is why no one freaked out when that guy was reverting into a Zygon. I guess the idea is that those guys watching him were part of Bonnie’s crew (like those guys in the taxi apparently) but it wasn’t really explained.

Well anyway this wasn’t a bad two parter I guess but it felt more like an extension of the concept from Day of the Doctor as opposed to being a proper sequel or conclusion. There were some good scenes some stuff that wasn’t well thought out and generally good production values. At the very least I can still say this was still a vast improvement over Harness’ last story (probably cause of the lack of brain-melting science and maybe? because of Moffat’s influence). Any possible ethical problems will probably have to be debated among people far smarter than I am but until then feel free to come to your own conclusions and then join me for the next episode.