Scriptwriting and Directing Blog Entry #1

5

A long time ago, three war buddies decided to meet up in Jackson, Mississippi  to see each other again for the first time since the war ended. They were all of various ages when they were fighting the war but they had developed a close bond at the time and figured that it would be a good time to meet up again some day.

They met at a diner and relayed their experiences to each other. The youngest one, Frank, had decided to invest some time in fixing computers. The second-youngest one, Jimmy, decided to run a paper manufacturing firm which had been quite successful. The oldest one, Bobby, had invested in some stocks for a future for an at the time new-born technology that allowed him to retire with very little problem. The three men were all happy that they had maintained some level of success.

Later in the day they walked to a cliff that they had all recognized from a long time ago and each of them had seen before departing for the war. They had not known each other when they were each at this cliff but they clearly did now and they all realized the power of this moment. Knowing that they were unlikely to see each other again they asked a passerby to take a picture of all three of them that they could commemorate how their lives had all been affected since they were last at this cliff and the friendships and respect they had garnered for each other.

Hell Bent Review

Well the series finale of Series 9 is finally here and my reaction is…eh.

I suppose it wasn’t too bad but it felt a little overly complicated for it’s own sake.

I guess the whole conquering Gallifrey part only lasted so long apparently but I guess there was still a risk of everything going wrong. At least we seem to know now that Gallifrey is now at the end of the universe and immortals can apparently visit when they’re up for it.

Speaking of immortals I guess a Clara frozen in amber and Me will be travelling the universe for a while until Clara does to her death. So I guess ironically Clara did become the Doctor she wanted to be by having her own TARDIS and a companion and without the risk of dying. Plus Me finally gets to go travel the universe like she wanted so that’s cool I guess.

It was kind of sad that the Doctor no longer knows who Clara is in a reversal of the whole Donna situation. I’m not entirely sure how wiping his memory was meant to help anything (especially if Clara still needs to go back to the trap street) but there you go. His new screwdriver is also pretty nice too. Also got to appreciate the call back with the Impossible Astronaut with the diner.

Despite the build-up we didn’t really get that much Gallifrey action. Oh sure we had Rassilon and that guy from Day of the Doctor show up, plus other Gallifreyians and the barn that the Doctor lived in for a while. We also got some stuff surrounding the Matrix, with a bunch of the Doctor’s enemies attached, and all the Gallifreyan tech looked pretty cool.

I guess the main focus here was the Doctor going all Time Lord Victorious with him trying to save Clara but ultimately things not working out very well and I guess while he did succeed to an extent the price was him forgetting her. Overall the acting by both of them was quite good. I also liked the integration of the Clara theme within the show itself and the “Don’t Stop Me Now” track from Mummy on the Orient Express.

So I guess it would appear that they were both the Hybrid which I suppose is a decent enough explanation. I guess it would make sense that humans and Time Lords would make a dangerous combination. It would also appear that the episode left open the possibility that the Doctor is half-human might be kind of true which I’m really not sure how to feel about. It would also appear that Missy may have engineered this whole thing in order to bring chaos to the universe which I suppose makes some sense. Kind of a shame that we didn’t get any Michelle Gomez in this episode since her presence would have been pretty nice.

Perhaps I’ll need a bit more time to articulate some some thoughts on the episode and the series on the whole. Still I would say that this probably one of the stronger ones on the whole since Series 5 with some effective themes and some high quality episodes. Heaven Sent was pretty much definitely the best episode of the series. I’d go for Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar for best overall story though since the two episodes surrounding Heaven Sent didn’t quite reach that high level (though the 3 episodes on the whole would probably be in second place). The grand stinker award would have to go to Sleep No More would have to go for it’s level of shear incompetence and lack of connection with the series themes (or at least as far as I could tell). The rest of the stories would be somewhere in the middle of these two extremes with those two parterss having their own strengths and weaknesses and ultimately deciding which are better than the others is ultimately going to come down to semantics.

So long Jenna Coleman. You’ve been quite wonderful for these past 3 years and may you continue to do great work in the future.

Well that’s it for this season. Join me for this Christmas for the special where Capaldi continues his adventures with the returning River Song.

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?

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.

The Zygon Invasion Review

Happy Halloween and here we are with another Doctor Who review.

Before we start let’s get this out of the way. Ya the writer of this was the writer of the jawbreaker of shit that was Kill the Moon, an episode that botched science and ethics so badly it’s incredible. Admittedly the episode does have a divided opinion amongst people, kind of making it like the Man of Steel of Doctor Who, but I figured I should state my view on the manner so that it’s clear. Despite the crappiness of the episode however I decided I wasn’t going to hold it against Peter Harness who has apparently done some pretty decent work outside of Doctor Who. Plus just because someone writes a bad story doesn’t mean they can’t bounce back with a strong entry, call it the Helen Raynor effect. And overall it looks like this could very well be the hit that Harness needed at this point even if isn’t a classic at this point.

This story is of course a follow-up to the Zygon-based events of The Day of the Doctor. A lot of people complained about the lack of conclusion in regards to that sub-plot in that story however I find that I’m cool with it since the story at that point was more about the Doctor and how the humans and the Zygons were going to get along afterwards was really besides the point. I mean the main reason they were their story-wise was to provide something for the Doctors to deal with and allow them to interact with one another, provide fan-service and also help the main story with them providing a face-changing allegory to the Doctor as well as the “cup-o-soup” solution. However, it was by no means a bad idea to have a follow-up to this story as there was obviously a lot of potential one could have to play around with such an idea as Zygons on Earth. Plus those Zygons suits can’t have been cheap so using them for another story makes sense. As a result this story’s existence was going to make a lot of people happy just on general principle.

Of course also returning is Osgood (or the Osgoods) who is overall a pretty likeable presence mainly thanks to Ingrid Oliver and definitely memorable for those fan-service outfits (which are less sexual than they may sound lol). There was some speculation that she could be a companion someday and after some thinking I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to the idea as having a fan and a scientist travelling around with the Doc could provide an interesting perspective. Of course their was the question of how she was going to return given that Missy kind of killed her that one time. The obvious answer to that was the Zygon duplicate that could provide a way out. The episode does interestingly still manage to have that death still matter though since it is not only unclear (at this point) which version died but also that in either case it left the other Osgood kind of bummed out (which incidentally also explains why we didn’t see her in Magician’s Apprentice)

We also get the brief return of the UNIT lady that was hanging out with Kate at the beginning of The Magician’s Apprentice. Overall she was a likeable person in an oddly understated way and her return here made me appreciate it more. Unfortunately it seems that she has been killed off and I doubt the power of the fandom nor any spare Zygons are going to be able to bring her back. Kate is there as well and she is still as competent as ever. Though hopefully she’ll have more to do in the second part (cause I highly doubt that she’s dead as evil Clara seems to exist whether I saw that trailer or not). I think one of the problems with Kate so far is that we rarely get to see her do anything that isn’t related to some kind of crisis. One of the benefits of the Third Doctor era is that we managed to have the Doc and the Brig hang out in some more low-key situations which allowed us to see a different side to that relationship and the characters. Unfortunately we don’t really get to see that with Kate so far as she’s usually dealing with some crap. It might be nice to have a scene in an episode where she with or without the Doctor isn’t really up to much (or we can at least hope that her Big Finish audios will provide that).

Regardless of anything one strength of this episode is that is has a very different feel to some other recent stories. It was described as a political thriller of sorts when people were discussing the episode before the broadcast and that’s pretty apt. The darker tone in general is also a nice change of pace with a feeling of dread from the crappiness of this situation. They also resorted to that old chestnut of having creepiness surrounding children which the show is oft to do and it works fairly well. And having those Zygons convincing you to feel bad that you tried to kill them is pretty effective (even if the guy falling prey to his fake mom is a tad silly) I also liked the New Mexico setting as it was a fairly refreshing setting. Though I have to say the name of the town/city is a little silly as I doubt I’ve seen a town in the world actually have an “or” in the name (feel free to mention any if they exist) and it felt kind of forced to get that meme in there. It also seemed like some of the accents were a bit dodgy. Where’s Mark Sheppard when you need him? (probably being the King of Hell somewhere).

EDIT: Apparently T or C is an actual place. Sorry guys.

As a whole the writing was alright. Clara seemed a little off but that makes more sense given what we learn later. I have to admit to being a little confused as to how many Zygons were actually supposed to be part of this gang of evil. Also when exactly the Zygons learned who they were is also an appropriate question as well as the fact that you’d think they would have had better precautions when it came to training the young Zygons. Overall the writing isn’t bad but it also isn’t particular spectacular either, it probably didn’t help that the Doctor wasn’t exactly up to much in this one. However, things do take a turn for the awesome when it turns out that Clara was a Zygon this whole time. Sure you could kind of see it coming by the time that factoid about them not needing the hosts was brought up and not long after we cut back to Clara and UNIT lady but it was still pretty effective. It’s good to see Jenna Coleman in a villain role and it will be fun to see.

So overall this was a pretty solid first part. Not the absolute best but it did at least manage to avoid some of the major mistakes of some of recent stories this season. So we can at least give Harness a thumbs up for this one and hope that the second part is pretty good too.

The Woman Who Lived Review

Time to see what happened to Maisie in Episode 6.

This episode was written by Catherine Tregenna who hasn’t written for the series before but did actually write some of the less bad episodes of the first two Torchwood series (or at least ones with the better moments) including “Captain Jack Harkness” which is appropriate given that he gets a name drop in this episode about an immortal. Despite having a different writer this quasi-second part does manage to feel successfully like a continuation of the first for better and for worse. This includes some decent individual bits but also some tone/comedy issues and a bit of a rushed climax.

People had noted that Clara was not in any of the promotional material for this episode which led to the possibility that this episode took place after her departure. That ended up not begin the case but she did in fact not show up until that epilogue at the end which at least made the advertising more honest than Mummy on the Orient Express. It was probably for the best that she wasn’t really wasn’t a part of the story in this one since a lot of this episode runs on the dynamic between the Doctor and Maisie having Clara there would have made things troublesome. Still it was nice to see her at the end which is a testament to Jenna’s prescence that things really feel different when she finally arrives. Some have noted that this series has been really laying on thick the “Clara departure” and yah it’s kind of hard not to notice it. Whether this is necessarily a bad thing will yet to be seen though perhaps they can cut it down a bit for the next few episodes before her actual departure.

Of the two episodes so far Maisie’s character and performance was definitely better in this one. Mainly cause her character actually has a more definitive reason for why she and the episode feels like she’s special. The characterization in regards to the limited memory is interesting as well since unlike a Time Lord a human brain wouldn’t really be accustomed to having lived so many years. Also felt that the loss of her baby children was pretty sad and well delivered in the book reading. It was also nice to get some flashbacks to what she was up to in the hundred years since we last saw her to give some more scale to how long she’s been around and it gave the episode more variety than just being in the time we were. I also liked that the Doc was kind of keeping tabs on her in some portions of her life and the question of whether or not she should travel with him is an interesting one.

However in spite of all this their are some problems. This one’s a bit nitpicky but it’s pretty questionable how she managed to get her voice to change like that. I’m pretty certain that that deep voice wasn’t coming from Maisie so clearly there must have been some voice-modulating going on that is never given a clear answer. The Doctor can get away with weird tricks like being able to read a whole book in seconds or switching driver seats pretty easily since he is an alien that clearly has abilities and skills that we wouldn’t be aware of (similar to how Spock kept showing up with different quirks in ST: TOS). Despite the immortality Maisie is still human so she shouldn’t be able to pull this kind of crap out of her ass. Then their is the whole “ME” concept. I get what they were going for with the whole identity thing but referring to yourself as Me is pretty stupid. It’s just not very practical and could just lead to a bunch of Abbot and Castello-esque jokes. I’m also a bit confused about how exactly the rules of the immortality are supposed to work since the device was apparently supposed to keep healing her but apparently she can possibly be killed. It seems weird that you can Wolverine-esque healing ability but you can still apparently die some how. At least with the Doc they established at some points that a regeneration can fail or that certain substances can kill him. When you introduce immortality it would make sense to have it be all or nothing. As a whole I’m not sure this episode lived up to that time lapse at the end of the last one though the character could be a lot worse. There was also no mention of the hybrid thing which either implies we’re saving that for another time or we’ll see the true hybrid sooner or later.

The lion guy’s design was cool but unfortunately like the Fisher King he ultimately wasn’t up to much. While his defeat wasn’t as comical as that character’s it didn’t help that the solution to the doomsday plan was one of those on/off switch solutions like in The End of Time. Simplicity can be good but it does make the solutions to problems a bit too easy sometimes.

I also kind of liked the Sam Swift guy. Not all the humour with him worked but I did like his subtle fear of death among the joking around. Though I do have to wonder why we needed a “Sam Smith” joke amongst it all if in fact that’s what that was and with his name being tossed around a lot for “Spectre” the timing couldn’t be more intrusive. I doubt we’ll see him again though despite the immortality whereas with Maisie I believe the opportunity is open to see her again which wouldn’t be a bad thing since the show can always use new supporting characters to play around with ala Paternoster Gang and UNIT: The Next Generation.

The general direction was pretty good and everything looked quite nice. The comedy was OK I guess though I’m not sure it contrasted so well with the talk of Maisie’s lost babies. I did appreciate the reference to The Visitation.

Overall this was decent episode despite some flaws that hold it back. If we were to rank this as a two parter I’d say it was decent though with several problems. Not sure whether it’s worse or better than Under the Lake/Before the Flood though both of them kind of had similar levels of good and problems. At the very least we’re half way through the series and we haven’t had anything particularly bad yet. Any way see you on Halloween where we’ll get the first part of Peter Harness’ attempt to redeem himself but we’ll get to that later.

The Girl Who Died Review

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.

 

Before the Flood Review

I make no qualms that I wasn’t as big a fan of the previous episode as some people were, even though I can’t say it was bad. But even I felt kind of let down by this.

Let us start at the beginning. It seems that Toby Whithouse decided to do another Listen style fourth-wall break where the Doctor talks about something to the audience while also kind of talking to himself. However it wasn’t as effective for a few reasons. One, in Listen we knew that that monologue took place before the events of the story given that LISTEN  was written on the board whereas here we have no clue whether it’s meant to take place before or after the events of this episode, though more likely after. Another is that the Doctor was postulating that there could have been a creature hanging around the TARDIS with him so there’s a bit more reason for him to talk out loud whereas here we have nothing. It also doesn’t quite have the intensity that the previous scene did but I guess that’s going to be the case when this is the second time this scene has been done. With that being said it had some amusing moments, it was cool to notice Magpie on the amp and having the guitar playing with the theme music was pretty cool. And give credit where it’s due that the paradox is an interesting one to ponder on..though I’m not really sure this episode should have necessarily been focusing on that.

One reason why this episode isn’t as effective as the previous week is that that was focused in that one location whereas here we also spend time in the Cold War village. The set is nice and there are some cool shots to be had but being there loses some of the claustrophobia of the first part. Also it seemed pretty pointless for it to be set during the Cold War period except to have all the neat propaganda posters. I wouldn’t mind having a story actually set in Soviet Russia properly cause that story would write you (cricket chirps).

The ghosts also don’t have the screen time they did earlier so they don’t have as much presence as they did in the first part. Also while in theory it seemed kind of neat to meet the ghost of rat-looking dude they made him waaaaaaay more bufoonish than the David Walliams one and not to mention seemed to give his dialogue some needlessly kinky subtext. Overall it took a lot of the menace out of his ghostly version. I also have to question why the scarf-lady’s ghost only showed up right after we saw her die. It’s not like with the Doctor’s hologram where he could have been programmed to avoid an early encounter and thus a paradox. I guess that is one of those narrative problems that time travel gives us (I could have said something similar about the order of the deaths from the Capaldi hologram but given that the Doctor programmed it I’ll give it a slight pass, even though you’d think the ones that died in the past would go first).

But boy did they screw over the Fisher King. I mean the build-up to him was pretty good and the design and voice are top-notch but basically he got easily tricked by the Doctor in one scene  and then comically died. What a waste. Though between his talk of the Time Lords as warriors, Davros’ warrior prophecy and the mention of warrior races in the next time trailer I think we’ve officially stumbled on a theme.

While the side-characters had some decent moments here and the acting is still solid they didn’t get as many as last time and there was just some stupid crap that kept undermining them.  There’s the kind of contrived death of the scarf fan lady (at this point she’s basically Osgood-lite) by setting up that she didn’t want to stay and then she died with the other dude basically having a bitch-fit about it (fair enough he lost his love apparently but I don’t think we can really blame the Doc that much for this one). But even worse is the deaf-lady freaking out over her interpreter leaving. Ok so they finally found out that he is safe because he didn’t look at the words (which was kind of obvious but whatever) and so Clara wants him to go out and get the phone. So even though he’s basically more or less insured not to get hunted down by the ghosts it’s now that deaf-lady decides to freak out and even condemn Clara for being uncaring. What the hell? It’s not like he wanted to use him as bait he would have been perfectly fine. Sure there was the coffin-thing but it’s not like they knew that was going to happen or that it could have contained any danger. It just came across as some contrived bullcrap. Not to mention that old-cliche of having a person tell another person to finally confess their feelings to somebody. It’s a shame cause the having a cool deaf-lady character would have been nice and they really messed up here. That being said I thought the sound editing when she was being chased by the ghosts was pretty cool as was the bit where she used the vibrations to detect it and everything went Daredevil vision.

All right so let’s talk about the whole Doctor-death crap. Why does he think he’s screwed? This is the third time in recent memory (Revelation of the Daleks had an example too but let’s keep the complaining to a minimum) where the Doctor had a hint of his own death happening, thought it was unavoidable and then got out of it. I mean I probably show some concern too if I saw my ghost but for a man whose seen this kind of thing before he probably shouldn’t be making a big a thing about it at this point. I mean with Silencio it turned out to be a fake and with Trenzalore he managed to alter the timeline so that it didn’t happened so why was it so unreasonable to him that one of those things could have happened.  I mean it made more sense in Magician’s Apprenctice even since that was more about him possibly getting killed and not him seeing a premonition. I’m also not sure why the dialogue seemed to make it sound like Clara hadn’t accepted the death of a loved one before given Danny Pink and her own mother dying (granted that’s slight nitpicking but I figured it was worth mentioning). As for him being in the stasis chamber I suppose that was a reasonable way for him to survive though I should note that quite a few people on the AV Club predicted that last week. As for the hologram thing while it is kind of a disappointment at the very least they set it up the week before. Not sure why but the Teselecta being the Doctor in Series 6 seemed less let-downy by comparison (this is putting aside all the character arc crap by the way that’s a whole other discussion). It’s also a shame that we didn’t get to see most ghost-Capaldi since it looked pretty cool in the next-time trailer and probably would have scared some people.

So overall this was a slightly above average two-parter. Granted Magician/Witch also had some flaws but it had more stuff I liked in it. The latter had less stuff I liked and more flaws so unfortunately that adds up to being a lesser story for me. See you next week.