Well this is probably going to be the most difficult review for me to write yet given not only that this episode probably has more prominence than some of the more recent ones but also because it’s has two writers names on it and I can’t be 100 percent certain who wrote what.
I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on Mr. Moffat. The man’s name has spread throughout the fandom with love, fear and hatred (though unlike actual Gods he’ll appear at a convention every once and a while ba-dum-tis) so let me instead talk about Mr. Mathieson. This fellow has gotten some prominence recently for writing some well-regarded scripts for last series which like Frozen (2013 and not the 2010 film obviously) have been so overblown in terms of their reputation that you can’t help but kind of hate them and the people who praise them so god damn much (though thankfully their isn’t a song in the two episodes to drive you crazy). By no means were the two stories bad but when people keep considering him for show runner when the latest guy introduced his work to the world with The Empty Child you can’t help but feel a little irritated. Either way it’s safe to say that the reception to this episode was going to be vital in people’s continued fondness of him and if people don’t like it their is going to be a hell of a backlash (unless they blame Moffat’s presence in which case grr). But of course we’ll see what everyone has to say. Anyway it’s gonna be difficult to tell who wrote what in this episode and thus it’s gonna be hard to figure out who to blame for the stuff I wasn’t crazy about and who to credit for the stuff I liked.
But of course Mathieson wasn’t the only thing that got people hyped for this episode. Nope we can also blame young Maisie Williams for bringing up anticipation. Now I haven’t seen Game of Thrones like the rest of the world so I’m afraid I won’t be able to make any jokes in this review or be able to keep her reputation out of it either so we’ll see how things turn out. There was also a lot of speculation from the trailer that she was playing a prominent former character such as Susan, the Rani or anyone basically though I had figured out that she wasn’t going to be one of those given that her reaction to knowing the Doctor could more or less be explained by the fact she was in at least two episodes this season and could recognize the Doctor from the first of these. Now of course the question was thus how the Maisie’s character was going to be able to meet the Doc in these two different time periods but we’ll get more into that later.
While the opening of the episode was a bit rushed and quick I did like that it not only gave us a neat “in the middle of an adventure” opening but also that it set up some of the Doctor’s conflicts in this episode in regards to creating tidal waves throughout the universe. And it did give another chance for Jenna to don that space suit again before she leaves and in combo with that cute hair-do it’s hard to complain. Anyway they are then approached by some Vikings and the glasses haters can appreciate that one of them breaks them fairly easy in a gag.
Outside of my Mathieson problems one of the big hurdles this episode was going to have to get past for me was it’s plot. It’s basically Seven Samurai-esque which has already been done in A Bug’s Life already so they were going to have to do something cool in order for me to get past the plot’s stock nature. Unfortunately this plot is probably the weakest aspect of the episode as it doesn’t really do anything to stand out amongst the other variations out there. This may seem like an odd thing to complain about given all the other stock plots that the show has used over the years but at least in those there’s enough room to add some new spins on it whereas here you kind of need to stick to a more rigid structure.
I can at least appreciate that the Doctor didn’t want to help out due to some need not to be violent or something but rather the possibility that the success of defeating the space vikings could cause the Earth to develop a serious reputation that could endanger the population. It’s an interesting reason to not help these guys out and it provides another case of foreshadowing in this episode as a good reputation will ultimately be the key to staving the space Vikings off of getting Earth into trouble.
I suppose I should talk about the villains while I’m at it. Overall I approve of the suits the soldiers are wearing as they have a very Doctor Who-ey design, very simple but distinct. I even like the alien design as it has a creepy look too it. The main villain himself was apparently meant to be played by Brian Blessed before he was unable to fulfill the role and while he would be the type of person to play a god it was probably for the best that they didn’t get him since the main villain role is pretty throw away and doesn’t really give enough time for anyone really to gain enough of a presence. Also the whole testosterone eating thing is pretty silly and doesn’t even seem to come back anyway so they really could have come up with any explanation for these guys to be galactic dicks. Still at least the head guy choosing his face with the hologram at least introduced another bit of foreshadowing (I had some time to think about these during a car ride between writing this) as it reflected back on the whole Doctor choosing his face thing.
Speaking of that I’m not really sure what to say about that. Apparently Moffat got this concept from or approved by RTD though I have doubts about it myself. Apparently the idea is that the Doctor chose the face of the guy from the Fires of Pompeii because he thought he’d need some reminding of his capability of saving people. I guess that’s all well and good but it’s not like he couldn’t have picked anybody else. And what are we supposed to make of him taking the face of that guy from Arc of Infinity. I suppose it’s not unreasonable that the Doctor could influence what he looks like given that SFDebris has postulated that each incarnation influences the next and perhaps he learned from Romana that you can use other people’s faces no problem but this new bit of canon might take some getting used to…much like a new Doctor I suppose.
Now let’s talk about Maisie’s character cause how she’s written might have been one of my big problems here. The script keeps telling us that she’s meant to be a big deal even right from the off with the Doctor’s premonition (which may or may not tie into the prophecy though I have doubts whether the Doctor could have a hunch about that just from looking at her face) and the her whole spiel about her being different. Now obviously she did become important in the end with the whole immortality thing but before that she really shouldn’t stand out that much given that it hadn’t happened to her yet. Granted we know she’s important since she’s played by Maisie but it’s not like she should know that. I mean it’s not like modern Clara kept having hints about how special she was before she jumped into the time stream (sure the other Claras may have but they were formed afterwards).
Incidentally let’s talk about how she and Clara got up to the ship cause this felt kind of weird to me. So Clara wants to get herself unlocked from her chains and wants to use half of the glasses to do so. She could just ask for Maisie to pass them over on her head for a second since she apparently doesn’t need hands to operate them but instead she decides to explain how they work to someone who would obviously have never used them before which is gonna take a crap tonne of time and possibly endanger her since she’s using tech that could attract some serious attention. Da hell! Also for someone who is begin praised by the episode as being kind of cool you’d think Maisie would have thought twice about messing with some aliens (yah she was emotional at the time due to the deaths of her buds but if she loves the town you’d think she’d think about keeping them safe from wacky invaders).
Since I’ve been a bit negative I’d like to say that Maisie was in fact perfectly fine in the episode (and don’t think I’m saying that since I’ll get a lot of Thrones fans angry at me otherwise). Capaldi and Coleman also have to be given credit for some still very good performances. Capaldi in particular for doing well with his problems and being able to portray the full weight of them.
I also like how they used the Baby-Talk gag in a more serious way this time (though Closing Time had a few more serious scenes too) as the Doc translated the sad cries of the baby in a pretty serious fashion. Though I’m not entirely sure which part of it’s speech was supposed to convince the Doctor to stick around (or was it Clara that helped out with that).
Anyway let’s talk about how the Doc saved the day. I suppose it was inevitable that a non-violent solution was going to have to be used though it didn’t help that the solution was kind of similar to the one attempted in A Bug’s Life. I’m also not really sure how the hologram projection works since I don’t think the big helmets were the ones with the holograms (maybe the glasses caused the holograms or something but it wasn’t really explained very well). Also while the reputation thing was kind of clever as I pointed out it does make me wonder why the main Viking dude didn’t just stab the Doctor before he had a chance to upload it. I also wasn’t that crazy about the Benny Hill thing (though them having a party was kind of fun) I suppose the tone did contrast well with the following scene.
I think it’s pretty clear that this whole plot was really just a means to get us to this Maisie conclusion where she dies and it’s kind of a bummer and than the Doctor realizes he kind of pulled a Waters of Mars and saved someone at the behest of some dire consequences (though at least this time the consequences are more immediate and apparent rather than the more personality driven consequences of Tennant’s story). I’m also not sure whether I approve of all the classic series quoting once the Doctor got into the TARDIS (immortal barring accidents, time will tell it always does, and I guess the ripples thing is a take from McCoy’s speech in Remembrance of the Daleks). Also credit must be given to more foreshadowing (I wonder if I can get a free soda if I use “foreshadowing” enough times) as I recall they mentioned immortality or something prior to the ending.
The ending in general was pretty effective with the Doctor realizing he had created a hybrid that could very well be the one from the prophecy Davros was talking about (him mentioning that was one of those cool “ooooohh” moments you get when you put two and two together). Also while it was pretty obvious that the Maisie 360 was going to end with her being less happy it was still pretty cool to see her pissed off with stuff blowing up in the background.
So overall this was an alright episode with a meh plot but with some pretty decent moments while setting up something that will have consequences for the next episode and possibly the rest of the series. Overall I’m pretty interested to see the fate of Immortal Maisie in the next episode and hopefully the readers will check out my review of it then.