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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World” *Contains Spoilers*

I’m back at (more or less) my usual time! And, boy, was there a lot of stuff that happened in this week’s episode. And that cliffhanger! Ugh! A week feels like a long time to wait for a resolution.

We see the Doctor return in his role of President of the World when the UN comes to him (well, comes to Bill, actually, in the hopes she can persuade him) for help in dealing with the 5,000-year-old pyramid that appeared in the middle of a war zone overnight. It turns out that the Monks from last week’s episode have determined it was time to make their move in the invasion of the Earth, but they’re not invading in the usual way. They will not take over by force; they will assume control of the Earth only if they are asked. And the motivation must come from love, not from fear or strategy or anything else. This naturally doesn’t sit well with the Doctor, but hardly anyone listens to him–not even Bill, who is the one who ultimately makes the deal for the Monks to take over the Earth. They can have the world so long as they restore the Doctor’s sight.

I’ll be honest; I was a little disappointed in Bill for making the deal. Time and again she refuses to listen to the Doctor, and now the entire planet will pay for it. It’s sad to see just how little she trusts him, especially after everything they’ve already been through. Her stubbornness may well prove to be a point of contention between her and the Doctor in future episodes. Then again, she is more of a student-figure than we’ve seen in previous seasons, so a lot of this, too, plays into her learning curve. She must learn when to listen to the Doctor and when to make her own choices. Undoubtedly Bill will turn out stronger and wiser for this moment, but that doesn’t necessarily make it less disappointing at first.

Is it too early to put in a request for a new companion for the Thirteenth Doctor? Because I liked Erica, and I hope she gets to travel in the TARDIS either with this Doctor or the next one. She was cheerful and clever–even the Doctor thought so, and when the Doctor says someone is clever, there’s a good chance that’s true.

Just when I think I’ve accepted the fact that Capaldi is leaving, he goes and plays his guitar and does insightful monologues, and I get sad about his departure all over again. I’m going to miss our Doctor Disco. Maybe they’ll bring him back for the 60th anniversary special or something.

Next week, we see how Bill’s deal with the Monks has altered the rest of the world in “The Lie of the Land”. Missy’s back! We learn whether or not Nardole survived! And it looks as though we’ll get an answer for that regeneration scene shown in the trailers!

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Extremis” *Contains Spoilers*

First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this review. I usually watch Doctor Who on a site that streams TV shows from all over the world, but today the BBC feed decided to die smack in the middle of the episode, so I had to rewatch it on BBC America. Never come between me and my Doctor Who. Never. Grr…

As shown in the last week’s trailer, the Pope seeks the Doctor’s aid with the Veritas, a short document that drives everyone who reads it to kill themselves. The Vatican officials hope that the Doctor will be immune from this effect and be able to tell them exactly what it contains–it’s a document that’s older than the Church itself, and it clearly contains something important, but it’s hard to know what exactly that something is because everyone keeps dying! Needless to say, it’s not a truth that anyone is expecting.

We also get a subplot this week to showcase who is in the vault and why the Doctor is guarding it. Surprise, surprise–it’s Missy! Her criminal past has finally caught up with her, and she is held prisoner on Carnathon waiting for execution. According to the customs of that planet, she must die at the hands of another member of her species, and, of course, the only other Time Lord they can locate is the Doctor. Missy pleads for her life, begging the Doctor to teach her how to be good…and always willing to believe that his oldest friend can be redeemed, the Doctor chooses not to kill her, but he does vow to guard her in a quantum fold chamber for a thousand years. So there you have it, folks, the story of who is in the vault and why the Doctor is guarding it.

I have to admit, Moffat knows how to write a good twist when he sets his mind to it, and the Matrix vibes we got in this episode were pretty awesome. It truly was mind-bending, and you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the characters as they realized they weren’t real. Bill’s reaction was especially memorable, insisting to the last that she was real.

Nardole proved that he has really grown as a character, and we learned in part that it’s because River told him to keep the Doctor on the straight and narrow. Honestly, I think he’s had some of the best character development we’ve seen in nuWho (along with Mickey and Rory). It’s a shame that so many people seem to hate him; I rather like having him along, and it’s nice to see the Doctor have another male companion again. It changes the dynamic, yes, but sometimes it’s a welcome change.

As a Catholic, I feel it is my duty to point out the following two items:

  1. There was no secret female pope.
  2. There is no such thing as the Haereticum. We also don’t have the secret monster fighting laboratory that’s shown in Van Helsing, either, which does make me a little sad because I think that would be awesome. But, again, no Haereticum. Also, Van Helsing was a strange movie (but when you’ve got Wolverine and Faramir hunting vampires, can you really be surprised?).

This has been your Catholic Public Service Announcement.

The Doctor did make an interesting statement when he temporarily restored his vision, saying he was borrowing from the future and stating one of his future regenerations might be blind as a result. It will be interesting to see if they follow up with this in a future episode, but I imagine it will be several years before they do–if they even remember, that is.

Next week, the aliens running the simulations in “Extremis” move their plans into the real world in “The Pyramid at the End of the World”. The Doctor asks Missy for help! It looks as if UNIT is returning! The Doctor finally tells Bill he is blind! Lots of stuff is gearing up to happen!

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Oxygen” *Contains Spoilers*

We have a massive, massive mauve alert after this week’s episode, but I suppose I should go over the details of what happened in this week’s episode first. The Doctor may like to do things in timey-wimey order, but I think my reviews make more sense if I go linearly.

We start off we a lovely little tribute to Star Trek (“Space…the final frontier. It’s final because it’s trying to kill you.”) that probably would have made Kirk and Co. think twice about boldly going where no man has gone before, especially after the Doctor starts lecturing his class on how space kills us when he was supposed to be talking about crop rotation (as an aside, I would love to be in the Doctor’s class). In spite of these uplifting insights of his, he still manages to talk Bill into exploring deep space with him; Nardole tags along mostly out of protest, still upset that the Doctor wants to leave Earth and leave the vault unguarded. But when they arrive at a station with spacesuits that control the oxygen, their “camping trip” becomes more dangerous than ever–so dangerous, in fact, that there are actual consequences that will have lasting ramifications in future episodes. No last-minute saves here, nope. We’ve got actual consequences, people. Actual. Consequences.

What’s the consequence? The Doctor is blind. When Bill’s spacesuit malfuctioned and forced her to remove her helmet, the Doctor gave his helmet to her. But he was exposed to the vacuum of space for too long; although he didn’t suffocate (thanks, no doubt, to his respiratory bypass system), he went blind. I was half-expecting a secret-inner-eyelid save a la¬†Star Trek‘s “Operation: Annihilate!” and was pretty certain that’s what we were going to get when the Doctor said he could fix his eyes in the TARDIS, but then the end came–and he’s still blind! The procedure didn’t work! He’s currently disguising it with the sonic sunglasses! And whoever is in the vault will get very cross if the Doctor’s blindness is revealed because it means the Doctor broke his promise to remain on Earth!

What’s interesting to see is the increase of Nardole’s role as the Doctor’s conscience. In many ways, the companions are supposed to be his conscience, but Nardole really seems determined to hold him accountable. Whatever happened, it certainly made an impact on Nardole. I really don’t know why everyone is hating on Nardole so much; I think his character as grown a lot since “The Husbands of River Song”, and rarely do we see a companion stand up to the Doctor as relentlessly as he does.

Next week, the stakes are higher as the Doctor struggles to conceal his blindness, and we head off the the Vatican in “Extremis”! Have to admit, the Catholic part of me is stoked to be visiting the Eternal City in Doctor Who–two of my favorite things in one (hopefully) glorious episode. Oh, and Missy’s back next week. Sorry, got too fixated on Rome.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Knock Knock” *Contains Spoilers*

Before I get into the review for this week’s episode, I want to go ahead and mention the Doctor Who chat bot that’s available on Skype. It’s an interactive adventure where you and Twelve work together to reassemble the pieces of the Key to Time (although there’s no explanation for how it got disassembled after Four and Romana put it together). You basically get to be the Doctor’s companion. It’s only AI, but it’s the closest most of us will ever get to being a real companion, and for awhile we get to pretend that the Doctor really did tell us we were brilliant (not going to lie, that felt good).

Anyway, this week’s episode saw Bill and her friends renting a house from an extremely sketchy landlord, and it turns out the walls eat people (considering this is the same house where Sally and Larry encountered the Weeping Angels in “Blink”, I’m not too surprised at the weird things that are happening). And then the Doctor discovers the alien lice that live in the wood of the house, but that’s nothing compared to the secret the Landlord has been keeping for nearly seventy years.

I admit, I got a chuckle out of Bill introducing the Doctor as her grandfather–and the Doctor’s indignation at being considered so old. He had the same complaint in “The Caretaker”, insisting that he and Clara looked the same age. There was a meme that remarked how Twelve must keep forgetting that he doesn’t look like Eleven anymore, and I’m starting to think that’s true.

I’ve always loved David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, and watching him here, I was forced to ask myself, “Why has this man never been the Doctor?” Seriously, he’d be great at it. It’ll probably never happen, but it’s fun to speculate. And I really loved the twist about how he was the son all along, and Eliza was his mother. But how did Eliza forget? I don’t think they really explained that part. Of course, with it being seventy-some years, her memory may have slipped up.

Last week I said I didn’t think the Master was in the vault, but it was probably the Valeyard. This week I take it back; I’m starting to suspect it’s the Master in there. It’s difficult for me to imagine the Doctor being so casual and comfortable around anyone else that dangerous–plus, they implied that the prisoner was interested in the deaths the Doctor encountered during the episode (even though they didn’t really die). That totally strikes me as something the Master would want to hear about.

Next week, the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole face off against deadly spacesuits in “Oxygen”!

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Thin Ice” *Contains Spoilers*

Okay, it turns out I was wrong about this week’s episode. It’s set in 1814, which is not considered Victorian times. My bad. But it does give us a wonderful chance to see Twelve dressed as his alternate Ninth self from “Scream of the Shalka” (let us pause for a moment of silence to mourn the fact that they did not cast Richard E. Grant in the 2005 revival). Bill also had an awesome outfit, and I think she’s really starting to come into her own as a companion.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Doctor and Bill find themselves at the last great Frost Fair of 1814 (and per “A Good Man Goes to War”, Eleven, River, and Stevie Wonder are around here somewhere), and Bill is having the time of her life (so’s the Doctor; we rarely see him look so happy). But, of course, the TARDIS brought them to the Frost Fair for a reason, and they soon find themselves right in the middle of an investigation of the myriad disappearances surrounding the fair. There’s something underneath the ice, and that something is very, very hungry. But the hungry creature is under the control of a ruthless businessman who thinks only of the profits the creature brings and cares nothing for the people who get hurt in the process.

So far it seems as if the episodes are getting progressively better, which is a good thing. But it also has the side effect of making me realize the many different reasons I am going to miss Peter Capaldi. For instance, his interactions with the orphans in this week’s episode were so perfectly Doctorish. People talk about how well Eleven interacted with children, but I think Twelve’s interactions are…better, somehow. I can’t quite put my finger on it. And I liked the callbacks to Martha’s first trip in the past.

Any theories yet as to what’s in the vault? A lot of people have suspected it’s the Master, but I’m not sure it’s him. Valyard, maybe? I would totally love to see Twelve face off against the Valyard before he regenerates.

Next week, David Suchet guest stars! Hercule Poirot, hooray! It’s weird seeing him without the mustache.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Smile” *Contains Spoilers*

It’s Week 2 of Doctor Who‘s tenth season, and it sees the Doctor taking Bill on her first proper trip in the TARDIS. Spoilers await any and all who venture further.

Even though Nardole reminds the Doctor that he took an oath to remain on Earth and guard the mysterious vault we saw in “The Pilot”, the Doctor offers Bill a proper chance to see the universe, which she eagerly accepts. The Doctor takes her to the planet Gliese 581 D to see an offworld human colony…except there are no humans there, only robots that communicate through emojis. And those robots seem awfully interested in whether or not the Doctor and Bill are happy…and then it starts to turn into Soylent Green (well, just a little–hey, if people are being turned into fertilizer, I’m going to draw comparisons, okay?).

I admit it; I thought the emojibots were going to be stupid, but I thought the way they were utilized in the episode actually made sense. Think about it–if you want robots that can communicate with the entire human race, it makes more sense to program them to communicate in universally-understood images than worrying about programming them to communicate in every single known language. I also liked how this ship was related to other ships from classic Doctor Who episodes that were evacuating humans from Earth due to massive solar flares that were going to render the planet uninhabitable. I think the concept was first introduced in “The Ark” from 1966, but we didn’t learn about the solar flares being the cause until “The Ark in Space” in 1975. I believe there were a few other episodes based on that concept in subsequent seasons, but I can’t remember what they were off the top of my head.

On the whole I felt this episode was much better than last week’s. The plot was more intriguing, and I think Bill’s personality is starting to develop. I think what helped was having just her and the Doctor for the majority of the episode. With just the two of them interacting, there was more time to get to know Bill as a person instead of the new companion. I’m still getting used to her, but she felt more substantial in this episode. And Capaldi as the teacher-Doctor is shaping up to be better than I ever anticipated.

Next week, Victorian London awaits us in “Thin Ice”, but no word on whether or not the Pater Noster Gang will be putting in an appearance.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Pilot” *Contains Spoilers*

Well, folks, Doctor Who‘s tenth season is upon us, and that means the return of my Doctor Who reviews! I’ve got to admit; I missed writing these last year. The only new episode we had was “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” at Christmas, so it’s nice to get back into the swing of things. As always, spoilers await those who venture further.

“The Pilot” sees Peter Capaldi return as the Doctor (for the last time, unfortunately) and Matt Lucas return as Nardole, and we finally get a proper introduction to Pearl Mackie’s new companion Bill Potts. Bill is a university canteen worker with an unrelenting thirst for knowledge, which leads her to sneak into the Doctor’s lectures. The Doctor admires her passion for learning and offers to tutor her. Bill’s not quite sure what to make of him, but she jumps at the chance to indulge in the learning she loves so much. But when her friend Heather turns into a watery apparition that starts stalking her night and day, Bill quickly learns that the Doctor is the only one who is able to help both of them.

I’ll be honest–this was surprisingly low-key for a season premiere. I was expecting it to be energetic and manic in true Moffat fashion, but instead it was very quiet and kind of subdued. If this was supposed to be a brand-new jumping on point for new viewers, I’m not sure if they would have found anything to get them excited and wanting to see more–expect maybe Capaldi, who gets some excellent Doctor-y lines in this episode (things like poetry is the same as physics because of the rhyming and that awesome dissertation on Time and Relative Dimension in Space). The more I see of Capaldi, the more I’m going to miss Twelve.

I was a little bit disappointed with Bill as well. There wasn’t really anything about her that reached out and grabbed me, but I’m going to wait a bit before passing judgement on her. After all, I didn’t really start to like Clara until season 8, but I hope it won’t take me as long to like Bill, especially considering the rumors that she’ll only be around for one season. I will say one thing I like about her, though–they’re setting her up to be a pupil-style companion like Ace, and I am excited to see how that turns out. I think some of the Doctor’s best interactions with his companions have been with him in the role of teacher. Seeing Capaldi in the role of teacher-Doctor will be the perfect way to end his run on the show.

And I’m just going to get this out of the way now–Bill lives with her foster-mother Moira since her birth mother is dead. We don’t know who her father is, which means he’s either not important or the Master, who we already know is returning in the persona of John Simm. I have literally nothing to base this on except the fact that this is Moffat’s last season, and after seven years of him as showrunner, I put nothing past him anymore. Nothing.

We did get to see the Movellans from “Destiny of the Daleks” again, but it wasn’t nearly as long as I would have liked. Perhaps they’ll be back for a longer period of time later in the season. I don’t think they would have hyped the Movellans’ return so much if they were only going to be back for ten seconds.

Next week, “Smile” takes us to a human colony that has emoji robots. Not being a fan of emojis myself, I hope this doesn’t turn out too stupid.

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