Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Doctor Who - Series 8

Paragraphs containing spoilers are marked.

Episode 1: Deep Breath

The Twelfth Doctor's first episode, and it wasn't a great start. For most of the episode I was with Clara (Jenna Coleman) -- confused by and wary of the new lead of the show. Peter Capaldi's Doctor started out crazy -- I mean complete bonkers -- and it was almost too much, though I finally decided I approved right around when he discovered he was Scottish, so he could complain about things. Still, at the end of the episode it didn't seem like he'd fully discovered himself yet, (though being a complaining Scottish grump seemed to be his defining characteristic) and I know now that was because this whole season was about his figuring out who (you know, WHO) he was.

(Mild Spoilers)

As far as the plot for this episode, it was convoluted and overshadowed by The Doctor's confusion -- or maybe the confusion rubbed off on it. The nod back to Ten's "The Girl in the Fireplace" and the Clockwork People was interesting though, and the gimmick of them having to hold their breath to hide from them made it sufficiently creepy. But I can't for the life of me remember what the dinosaur had to do with anything.

2 stars.

Episode 2: Into the Dalek

If the first episode didn't make it clear enough (which it didn't) then this episode's sole purpose was to establish that The Doctor doesn't really know himself. A Dalek tells him he'd be a "good" Dalek, and the look on his face clearly says he's considering it as a possibility. The rest of the episode was rather boring, as it all could have probably fit into 25 mins, instead of 45. Even Danny Pink's (Samuel Anderson) highly anticipated introduction was slightly marred by him and Clara hitting it off on the entirely wrong foot.

2.5 stars.

Episode 3: Robot of Sherwood

This one I was actually looking forward to, and hoping it would be the beginning of an upward climb for the series, but instead I felt it sink even further. Basically, this story, with all its potential, was completely uninteresting. The most enjoyable part was The Doctor sparring with Robin Hood (Tom Riley) at the beginning. Then there was way too much of the same two bickering, and Clara is again on our side wishing they would just stop and concentrate on the plot. Unfortunately, there wasn't much plot to focus on, and it was almost unbearably hokey (I'm thinking of the archery contest right now...).

3 stars.

Episode 4: Listen


After all the wind going out of my sails from the week before, the terrifying premise of this episode was a wonderful surprise, and in the scary moments, I began to think that this may be the freakiest Who ever. But when the plot twisted, the number of holes matched the number in my newly sagging sails. I still don't understand what in the world they were thinking with this. If the villain was just The Doctor projecting, then WHO WAS HIDING UNDER THE BLANKET? And don't tell me some kid playing a prank -- that's baloney. Also who was the last-man-on-Earth dude who looked exactly like Danny? And Clara's part on Gallifrey was weird and also didn't make sense -- how was it possible for her to even go there? This whole episode twisted around awkwardly to try and develop The Doctor's continually confusing character, and it wasted a pretty cool and creepy idea. I've never been one to be afraid of "something" under my bed, but now, getting up in the middle of the night never fails to remind me of this episode.

3 stars.

Episode 5: Time Heist

Finally -- this episode I really, actually, properly enjoyed. It wasn't near perfect, but was significantly better than the previous four, with mind-bending, timey-wimey (if predictable) twists, and a nice, classic stand-alone (and timey-wimey) plot. What really set it apart for me though, was the addition of two characters (Jonathan Bailey and Pippa Bennett-Warner). Both of them felt as fully developed as Clara and The Doctor and they fit in perfectly -- I even found myself wishing they could be permanent additions. It did revert back to slight triviality near the end, but it didn't keep me from happily concluding that "I liked it."

4 stars!

Episode 6: The Caretaker

(Mild Spoilers)

AKA, "The One Where Danny Finds Out About The Doctor." And this one was only bothersome because I really, really, REALLY wanted Danny to hit it off with The Doctor so he could start traveling with them, and then everything would be wonderful and hunky-dory. Instead they hate each other even more than Danny and Clara did at first, and Danny mean-spiritedly accuses The Doctor of being a soldier, something The Doctor despises. This was annoying, because Danny is mean for no good reason, and because I'm really tired of The Doctor hating soldiers. Otherwise the episode wasn't particularly memorable, but not bad either.

3 stars.

Episode 7: Kill the Moon

THIS was the bad episode. The rest of them in comparison were downright masterpieces. I don't even want to get started because I'll take up too much space with explaining everything that was wrong with this episode. Let's count as many as I can: 1. Random little girl travels with Doctor and Clara instead of Danny. 2. Spiders -- what were they again? 3. The Doctor leaves. 4. Clara has two choices-- except she has three. 5. The Doctor had a (stupid) plan all along. 6. (And this is the killer) The moon is an egg. 7. Two seconds after hatching the moon-monster lays a new moon -- which is just as big as it is. 8. Clara tells The Doctor to "Leave! Now! And never come back!" (Actually, I rather liked that bit.)

1.5 stars!

Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

Instead of leaving and never coming back, Doctor and Clara go on a farewell tour on The Orient Express -- in space of course. And besides the terrible drama and tension between the two of them, this was not at all a bad episode. It was nice and creepy, had a nice mystery to it, and I liked the gimmick of the countdown clock in the corner of the screen. The twist was a little hokey but worked, and it was all resolved simply and neatly. My only complaint was that with the title, I was expecting "The Unicorn and the Wasp" Part 2, with more Christie/Poirot references, and did not get it. The, "Are you my Mummy?" was good though.

3.5 stars.

Episode 9: Flatline


This was the most consistently scary of this season, and an overall a very solid episode. The villains were very frightening and original, and actually had evil intentions, which is becoming rare for Who these days. Plus, the list of seemingly harmless things for Whovians to be scared of continues to grow with the addition of wall murals. Fantastic. I loved all the classic building suspense up to the "blam! this is super creepy and scary" moments. Like when you realize the dude is probably a mural with how still he is, but they make you wait for a second before panning the camera over.... and then you know. The stuff involving the miniaturized TARDIS was occasionally silly, but in a more fun way than typical. There was limited drama in this one too, and I appreciated the break.

4 stars.

Episode 10: In the Forest of the Night

(Mild Spoilers)

Another episode with an intriguing premise whose ending failed to live up to the promise. I suppose they painted themselves into a corner with this one, but the fact that the world being saved had almost nothing to do with the actions of The Doctor and co., after focusing the entire episode on their efforts was underwhelming and disappointing. Also there were a number of plot holes, mostly caused by time fillers, which doubles the offense. Also, environmental "morals" annoy me to no end.

2.5 stars.

Episode 11: Dark Water


After a weird and falter-y beginning (seriously, what was it with the volcano stuff? Was that really necessary? No, it wasn't, and it was out of character for Clara, even if her one true love did just die. We all know he'll show up again.) This episode picked up in the middle which we all wondered where they were, where Danny was, what was going on, and what was the significance of those skeletons sitting in water tanks. And just after all those questions were answered it plunged back down again. I could talk about how disappointed I am at the identity of Missy (Michelle Gomez), or how even if she wasn't a woman how her trite and petty behavior would still annoy, but in won't. Instead, let me ask this: why in the world didn't they use the Dark Water more?? They used it to conveniently hide Cybermen, and then forgot about it? The Doctor should have used it in a twist to his own advantage!

2 stars.

Episode 12: Death in Heaven

It is amazing with how much I disliked the first part of the season finale that I liked the second part as much as I did. It did not start out well, with the climax of stupidity being (Spoiler) where Missy escapes on the plane SO easily. That was so contrived, oh my goodness. (End) But then, then ending made up for it all, and it surprised me into not only liking the finale enough to be excited for the Christmas Special, but it also made me look at the season overall with general approval; because The Doctor's character arc is finally resolved, and he remembers who he is. Even as I despised some parts of this season I never blamed Capaldi, or even his Doctor for the failings. I thought I could see a good (in both senses of the word) Doctor in there somewhere if only the writing would allow it to come out. Well, I say it was 11 episodes late, but better late than never.

Best of this ep:


When The Doctor and Clara are lying to each other to comfort the other, not knowing that telling the truth would bring the most comfort, but also seeming to find comfort in thinking that the other is happy...

"Love isn't an emotion, it's a promise."

"I'm not a good man, and I'm not a bad man! I'm not a hero, I'm definitely not a president, and, no; I'm not a officer. You know what I am? I am... an idiot! With a box and a screwdriver, passing though, helping out..."

"Never trust a hug; it's just a way to hide your face."

3.5 stars, sir!

Here's to the Christmas Special seeing Twelve continue along this upward-turned path with confidence and pizzazz! And complaining, and frowning eyebrows!

Here's how I rank this season, best to worst, with their ratings:

1 -- Time Heist (4)
2 -- Flatline (4)
3 -- Death in Heaven (3.5)
4 -- Mummy on the Orient Express (3.5)
5 -- Listen (3)
6 -- The Caretaker (3)
7 -- Robot of Sherwood (3)
8 -- In the Forest of the Night (2.5)
9 -- Into The Dalek (2.5)
10 -- Dark Water (2)
11 -- Deep Breath (2)
12 -- Kill the Moon (1.5)

Saint Nick Frost. Should be interesting!

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