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Doctor Who Review: Demons of the Punjab *Contains Spoilers*

I freely admit how pessimistic and skeptical I have been about season 11. However, I do believe that this week’s episode, “Demons of the Punjab”, is the best we’ve seen so far–best but still not perfect. As always, spoilers await all who venture further.

This week’s premise was certainly tantalizing–after Yaz receives a broken watch from her grandmother, she convinces the Doctor to take her to her grandmother’s past and discover why her grandmother won’t talk about the watch’s previous owner and how it got broken. The TARDIS arrives on the eve of young Umbreen’s wedding only to find she is engaged to a man who is very much not Yaz’s grandfather. Tensions are already running high because of the Partition, but things really reach a boiling point when the Vajarians, a race of assassins, are spotted in the forest by the body of the man who was supposed to officiate at Umbreen and Prem’s wedding.

Like I said, tantalizing premise…which was let down by the fact the Vajarians aren’t assassins anymore; they are witnesses. After their own planet was destroyed with no one to mourn it, they decided to dedicate their lives to remembering those who die alone and unmourned. It sounds nice, but I can’t help but feel let down at the lack of actual threats or stakes in this season. Pretty much everything can be resolved simply and nicely with no risk whatsoever. About the only time where I actually felt that lives were at stake was last week.

In spite of my disappointment on that front, I still think this was the best episode we’ve seen so far this season mainly because it had a strong mystery element that pulled you in and made you want to learn more. Also, it was pretty much the first time so far where Thirteen began to display a personality of her own. It didn’t last very long, but there were about five minutes where, for the first time in a long time, I felt as if I was seeing the Doctor again. And it felt great. I hope we have more moments where the Doctor finally shines through.

I’m not sure how I feel about next week’s episode, “Kerblam!”, about the galaxy’s largest retailer. Both the title and the premise seem a bit silly to me. I guess we’ll know in a week.

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Doctor Who Review: The Tsuranga Conundrum *Contains Spoilers*

We interrupt 30 Days of Gregorian Chant to bring you a review of the latest season 11 Doctor Who episode, “The Tsuranga Conundrum”. I have to admit, it was interesting to watch this episode in light of the rumors that there might not be a Christmas special this year. That particular bit of speculation has certainly caused season 11 to be viewed with more scrutiny, and with everything that happened in tonight’s episode…I can’t say I blame people one bit.

The Doctor et al. get separated from the TARDIS after being injured in a sonic mine explosion and finding themselves aboard a hospital ship. Naturally, an alien threat finds its way onto the ship as well. Except it’s not a huge threat like the Daleks; it’s a little threat known as Pting…little as in size; in reality he’s quite dangerous due to his propensity to eat anything and everything mechanical. A lot of people compared him to Stitch from Lilo & Stitch, and I have to say the comparison is apt. I actually kind of liked it because it reminded me of Stitch, but I have to admit he’s no Cyberman.

If I’m being honest, this episode felt kind of meh. It was better than I had expected but still kind of meh. Nothing really grabbed my attention or made me go “Wow!” and after five episodes, that’s a problem. And Thirteen felt so weak in this episode; Astos and General Cicero had more commanding presences than she did. Why is she so flaky? Why are these episodes not good? Mind you, I did like the introduction of the alien species where the males give birth to other males and the females give birth to other females. And Ryan’s backstory about his troubled relationship with his father definitely shed some interesting light on his character. I think Graham could help fill that father-figure void if only Ryan would let him.

Overall impression–this series is going downhill. I don’t like saying it, but Chris Chibnall lacks the same creative, passionate spark that Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat did, and the show is suffering because of it. Next week’s “Demons of the Punjab” looks interesting, especially with Yaz coming face to face with her grandmother, but I really don’t know what to expect anymore.

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Doctor Who Review: Arachnids in the UK *Contains Spoilers*

And we are rolling into the fourth week of Doctor Who‘s eleventh season with a modern-day episode investigating some mysterious spiders. Needless to say, spoilers await all who venture farther into the post.

This was an episode I honestly thought I would hate, but it turned out to be the one I’ve enjoyed the most this season. Lots of other people hated it, and I can’t blame them; the spiders’ fate was basically ignored–how are the people of Sheffield supposed to sleep at night if there was no real conclusion to what happened to the spiders? But the overall plot of bizarre things happening to spiders, as weird as it sounds, actually grabbed my attention. The pacing seemed a lot better this week than it has previously.

Robertson felt like the first legitimately threatening villain we’ve had this season. The Stenza and Krasko were quite “blah” in my opinion, barely feeling villainous at all. But Robertson felt like an actual threat; he has the money to pull off any plot he chooses. Of course, we’ve already seen the Doctor take down Harriet Jones just by whispering in her aid’s ear, so Robertson probably wouldn’t be too hard to topple if it came to it.

Still not feeling Whittaker as the Doctor, but I have to admit that Bradley Walsh’s Graham O’Brien is becoming my favorite part of the season. Of all the new companions, I like his character arc of the grieving widower who’s trying to put his life back together the best. Don’t get me wrong; Ryan’s struggle to overcome his dyspraxia and Yasmin’s desire for a greater life are stirring, but there’s something about Graham that makes me go, “Yeah. This is a good guy.” As for Thirteen…when will she develop her own personality!?

The improvements in this episode have made me hopeful for what “The Tsuranga Conundrum” has in store next week. Time will tell, I guess!

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Doctor Who Review: Rosa *Contains Spoilers*

My apologies for the tardiness of this review–my internet and TV service went offline Saturday night and wasn’t restored until this morning, so I didn’t get a chance to watch the latest episode of Doctor Who until recently. Was “Rosa” worth the wait? Spoilers below!

Right from the start, I could tell the writing in this episode was definitely better than “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” and “The Ghost Monument”–probably because Chibnall had a co-writer, Malorie Blackman. It still wasn’t perfect–had the long, dragged-out pacing and lackluster dialogue–but it was a definite improvement over the previous weeks’ episodes. Whittaker didn’t feel quite like she was struggling as much in the role, but Thirteen still lacks a definite personality of her own.

The episode had an interesting premise of someone engineering events to prevent Rosa Parks’ arrest, but the motives for that didn’t get fleshed out very well. All we really got was that Krasko, recently released from Stormcage, wanted to eliminate Rosa’s role in history because…he’s racist. I hope he pops up in a later episode and gets a better backstory because “he’s a villain because he’s racist, and racism is evil” just feels like lazy writing. At least let him say why he thinks he’s justified in doing the wrong thing. Davros did it several times, and each time it painted what a cold, heartless monster he was.

Things started to look up a little bit for season 11 in this episode, but can “Arachnids in the UK” maintain the momentum? I’m extremely doubtful because the title reminds me of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” too much and what a poor episode that was. Still, I’ll be giving it the benefit of the doubt.

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Doctor Who Review: The Ghost Monument *Contains Spoilers*

And we are rolling right along with our season 11 Doctor Who reviews. Having made no secret of my disdain for “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, does “The Ghost Monument” fare any better? Spoilers await all who continue past this point!

The long and the short of it is…the writing was definitely better, and I think the new title sequence is the best thing about the new season. The pacing for this episode was much better–as was the lighting; it was glorious to actually be able to see what was going on–and I loved how the mysterious Ghost Monument around which an alien had built a grueling race was really the long-lost TARDIS. But Whittaker…I’m sorry, Whittaker is still not very convincing as the Doctor. When I heard early reviews comparing her to Matt Smith, I was hesitant because, in my opinion, Smith struggled a lot in his early days as the Doctor; he had trouble projecting the Doctor’s authority and really feeling as if he was control of the situation. I see many of the same problems in Whittaker’s performance–no real projection of authority or command of the situation. A lot of times it just seems as if she’s pleading with her companions to like her, which is very off-putting.

We got our first look at the new TARDIS today, and I have to say I am not impressed. It’s very sterile and depressing. And those weird crystal pillars just look freaky; there’s nothing warm or inviting about it at all. Perhaps it will go through another redesign like Eleven’s interior did.

Next week’s “Rosa” sees the Doctor et al. visiting 1955 Alabama and ensuring no one interferes with Rosa Parks’ role in history. Who could possibly be stopping her? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

And just so you don’t think I’m completely negative about the new season, I’m sharing the new title sequence. I don’t much care for the new composer’s work yet, but I do like his arrangement of the theme.

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Doctor Who Review: The Woman Who Fell to Earth *Contains Spoilers*

Did you really think I would let season 11 go by without posting my weekly review? Never fear; I am here to the bitter end–or unless I get totally fed up with what Chris Chibnall has done to the show and throw my hands up in frustration. As indicated in the title, spoilers await anyone who ventures beyond this point.

Still here? Okay, here we go.

It. Was. Awful. I can see why BBC America didn’t air any of Capaldi’s episodes directly before this; it would have made the lack of quality blatantly obvious. I was of the “wait and see” opinion when Jodie Whittaker was announced as the Doctor, and after waiting and seeing, I’m not impressed. Nothing really jumped out as being particularly Doctorish about her; it all felt like an empty copy.

The episode itself was SO SLOW! I was starting to wonder if there was even a plot! There was nothing exciting or attention-grabbing; it just plodded along at a snail’s pace. It was a stark contrast to the high stakes plots of “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eleventh Hour” or the intense cerebral games of “Deep Breath”. It was a pretty standard “alien hunter comes to Earth, targets human, gets stopped by the Doctor” although we did have a new alien species, so that part at least was interesting. What little I heard of the new theme doesn’t sound bad, but it seems a bit odd to call it “new” when it mostly seems like the 1960s theme.

Overall impression: worst regeneration episode ever (and I’ve seen all of them, so I have lots of basis for comparison). If this is the best Chibnall can do, I’m severely disappointed. It no longer felt like Doctor Who; it felt like an empty shell. Here’s hoping “The Ghost Monument” next week is massively better.

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Preview of the Thirteenth Doctor

A couple of days ago, the BBC released a preview of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, the first episode of season 11. This clip was actually part of a leak several months ago, but it was quickly scrubbed, so this is my first time getting to see her in action.

I don’t feel quite as skeptical after that clip, but I find it very suspicious that the BBC America Doctor Who marathon is not showing any of Peter Capaldi’s episodes directly before her debut, not even “Twice Upon a Time”, which leads directly into “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”.

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