And so begins the second series with the Twelfth Doctor who will be accompanied by Clara in her (confirmed) final year in the TARDIS. While the storylines last year were a little bit hit and miss, this Doctor has grown on me and watching him play opposite Missy (The Master) was a hoot. Great dynamic. With the exit of Danny Pink and the return of Missy, I'm looking forward to what's coming this series. From what we know, there will be more two-part episodes which will allow more in-depth storylines.
Episode 1 - The Magician's Apprentice
Wow. Wow. Wow. What a cracker of an opening episode. There was so much to absolutely love about it. Drama, horror, tragedy and humour all packed into 46 minutes. The episode is the first of a two-parter and mainly focuses on known characters, which means we can jump straight into the story. But the twist, the glorious twist in this episode....mind-blown. As a time traveller your future can affect your past and oh my what has The Doctor done.
I was so excited after the first 5 minutes. The clip before the title sequence shows a war where a child has gotten stuck in a field of hand mines (totally creepy hands that rise up from the muddy ground each with an eye in its palm). The Doctor arrives to save him and tosses his sonic screwdriver over. But then he asks the boy his name. Davros. The creator of the Daleks. This boy, this boy The Doctor sees trapped in a field of hand mines is the same Davros who will go on to create the Daleks that will lead to the Time War and the loss of his people. What will The Doctor do?
The episode later plays an audio clip from the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) from 'Genesis of the Daleks' that sums it up beautifully - "Well, the final responsibility is mine. And mine alone. You see, if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives... could you then kill that child?"
The answer it seems is no. But neither can The Doctor bear to save him, and he leaves Davros the child behind. Davros, now, remembers. What happened for The Doctor three weeks ago happened for Davros millenias ago. And as he sits there dying, his final wish is to see The Doctor one last time. But The Doctor has gone to ground because he knows what is coming, he knows what he did, he knows he needs to face Davros and he's trying to put it off. So nobody it seems can find The Doctor. Not even...Missy, who returns in all her evil and witty glory. She is so much fun. She gets the attention of the world (and more importantly, UNIT) to set up a meeting with Clara. The Doctor has given, in accordance with ancient tradition, his last will and testament to his best friend. It's quite funny when Missy (the best friend) points out to Clara that in this relationship, Clara is the pet dog.
They finally surmise that he's in 12th-century England and drop in just as The Doctor makes his grand entrance in the arena...on a tank...playing heavy metal...with an electric guitar. It's a sensational entrance. Peter Capaldi does know how to play the guitar (a lifetime ago he was in a punk-rock band). I'm not sure how much of it was really him playing but in any case it was electrifying. It was also great to see a sillier side to the Twelfth Doctor. There's lots of witty banter before we get to the serious side of things. Davros' messanger arrives with a message...The Doctor's sonic screwdriver, the one The Doctor threw onto the battlefield to child-Davros. After all these years, Davros still has it and The Doctor know what it means. He must face his past. Missy and Clara don't understand what is going on but they see shame on The Doctor's face. Is it shame for running away? For leaving the boy behind? It's harder to hate an enemy you've seen as an innocent child.
The trio are taken to what at first appears to be a space station but turns out to be a re-created Skaro (the home planet of the Daleks) where The Doctor meets Davros. In a short space of time Missy and Clara are exterminated and the TARDIS is destroyed, leaving The Doctor with nothing left to lose. And that's a dangerous position to be in....."if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives... could you then kill that child?"
The episode ends back on the battlefield with child-Davros only this time, The Doctor is holding a gun and preparing to exterminate him. Push a man to his very limits and he may do things he never thought he was capable of.
What's to love: Missy, The Doctor riffing on his electric guitar, the time loopiness of The Doctor meeting Davros as a child.
Cannot wait to see what happens next week.
Episode 2 - The Witch's Familiar
If last week was an action-packed episode this one is more contemplative with a lot more talking and reflecting. Part 2 of the opening episode of Series 9 begins with Clara and Missy seemingly gone and the Doctor alone and stuck in a room with Davros (I guess that battlefield end shot will come later). Well, we know there's no way Missy and Clara can be dead and the intro explains how they escaped. Remember the vortex manipulators Missy strapped on them both? Essentially it used the Dalek's energy beam to recharge and teleport them out. Missy explains that's what the Doctor once used eons ago to escape a similar situation. Not entirely sure how that makes sense as in the Doctor flashback he channeled the beam through the sonic screwdriver into the teleport while with Missy and Clara they were hit in the body with the beam....but in any case they're a-okay albeit back outside on Skaro. The duo are pretty funny while they attempt to get back to the Doctor with Missy being her usual crazy self. They make their way through the sewers/dalek-graveyard (gross).
The Doctor doesn't know they're alive yet (and actually spends most of the epsiode separated from them). There's an emotionally charged scene when the Doctor confronts the daleks, daring them to confirm that Clara is dead...but he does so while rolling around in circles in Davros's chair which is pretty funny. The Doctor and Davros end up have a bit of a heart to heart and it almost appears as if Davros has changed. But throughout it all I was thinking - Davros has a plan, there's no way he's changed. Davros calls on the Doctor's compassion and in doing so he tricks the Doctor in using a bit of his regeneration energy to give him a health boost. But by touching the central cables, the Doctor is trapped as his regeneration energy is drained and fed into Davros and every other dalek on the planet. The Doctor of course is always one step ahead and the energy is filtering to every dalek on the planet, every dalek on the planet, and the 'dead' as they say, outnumber the living. So goopy old daleks ooze out of the sewers to destroy their contemporaries.
Meanwhile in order to break in, Missy had Clara climb into a dalek-shell (still not sure how this works I mean seriously? there's a whole humanoid empty space inside??!). It's now chaos and in the scramble to get out the Doctor runs into Missy and Clara-dalek. Only the dalek vocabulary is limited so while Missy tries to convice the Doctor to kill this dalek Clara desperately tries to communicate who she is to the Doctor. Everything Clara says comes out wrong but when the Clara-dalek manages to say 'mercy', he realises this is no ordinary dalek. Clara saved! Missy told to get lost!
And so we have our happy ending, but what about what happened on the battlefield with child-Davros? Wasn't the Doctor going to exterminate him? Well, no of course not! The Doctor actually goes back in time to save him, and uses the gun to exterminate all the hand-mines.
Fairly good episode. The conversation between the Doctor and Davros was a bit weird and never entirely believeable. But there were interesting tidbits such as the supposed prophesy of a new dalek-Timelord species (not the first time it happened - 'Daleks in manhatten' in Series 3), how speech translates in daleks (a lot of things convert to 'exterminate') and how daleks never really die but just get old and fall apart and become slime.
Oh and the Doctor's new sonic item is his sunglasses?! It's been a cracking and different start to the new series.
One question I still have - what's with the name of the episode? Or the last epsisode - The Magician's Apprentice? The Magician is the Doctor and I'm guessing The Witch is Missy. One thought - perhaps Clara is both the apprentice (to the Doctor) and the familiar (Missy certainly treated her like a pet).
Episode 3 - Under the Lake
The third epsiode and part one of this two-parter brought us back to Earth and introduced us to the first deaf character in Doctor Who which is fantastic. Cass also assumes leadership when their leader dies within the first five minutes and the crew are a good mix of characters - Moran, the original leader who dies saving Cass; Cass who is, as the Doctor says, the smartest person in the room when he's not there; Lunn who signs for Cass and is the youngest of the group; O'Donnell who is a huge fan of the Doctor; Bennett who is the scientist and most the cautious ; and Pritchard who is a class A profit-driven-jerk. On the ocean floor in the near future, a military crew have picked up a spaceship, empty save for some strange markings not even the TARDIS can translate. All are soon being hunted by homicidal ghosts, intent on turning them into more ghosts.
It was funny when the Doctor offended the crew by making light of their leader's death and had to resort to flipping through flash cards to find the appropriate response. Made funnier when he doesn't adapt it to the current situation and ends with "your friend slash family slash pet". There was a great chase sequence to catch the ghosts and it was actually quite spooky seeing them repeat the lines "the dark, the sword, the forsaken, the temple" over and over. I'm not convinced about HOW these words are supposed to guide the alien's friends to this very spot on the planet but anyhoot.
The conversation between the Doctor and Clara was a bit weird and awkward but I guess the Doctor always gets a bit weird and awkward when feelings and whatnot get involved. I think he was trying to make sure Clara was okay because she's becoming a bit like him - taking risks, running off on adventures and looking for trouble. Which is fun but often the Doctor needs someone to also ground him.
A nuclear problem leads to Clara and the Doctor split with half the crew each. Clara is stuck on the base with the Doctor needing to travel back in time to before the ocean floor became the ocean floor, back to when the spaceship first landed. But if you go back in time, you can change the present and it was rather scary seeing the Doctor as a ghost in the ocean coming towards Clara at the very end.
So how will the Doctor die then not die? (because clearly he is coming back). What is actually in the hibernation chamber? (is it the Doctor?) Who will survive next week?
The "Next Time" previous looked really interesting and I can't wait to see what happens next.
Episode 4 - Before the Flood
A time loopy episode tinged with a bit of sadness. The epsiode begins with the Doctor telling a story about Beethoven to describe a bootstrap or ontological paradox. If the past caused the future that caused the past - what caused the first loop? As the Doctor tells it, a time traveller loved Beethoven and so travelled into the past to meet him. Problem - nobody had ever heard of him. The time traveller couldn't imagine a world with no Beethoven and so copied out all of Beethoven's music and had them published, essentially becoming Beethoven. But he had copied it from music he already had and knew and since he was the one who copied it out in the past...where did it actually originally come from? Hence, a bootstrap paradox, a loop with no beginning or end.
But back to the present and the ghost Doctor. The ghost Doctor is slightly different to the others because he's saying a list of all their names (except Lunn) - Moran, Pritchard, Prentis, O'Donnell, Clara, Doctor, Bennett, Cass. Clara lets the Doctor know about the ghost Doctor and it gets a bit emotional with Clara demanding that he change history and not die on her because she needs him. And then the Doctor 'talks' to ghost Doctor which is a bit surreal.
The Doctor however is in the past and still very much alive. There's a couple of funny shoutout moments with O'Donnell as she mentions Rose, Martha and Amy and some past (and future-for-us) events. She is clearly a fan of the Doctor and it was funny to see her wait for the Doctor to walk off and then jump out and down squeeing about being in the TARDIS and then acting cool about it. So it's doubly sad when she dies as I would have loved to have seen more of her in the episode. Her death gets Bennett riled up because he realises at this point the order of the names the Doctor was repeating and confronts the Doctor because the next name is Clara. He's angry because the Doctor knew O'Donnell was next and let her die to test his theory, but will do anything to save Clara. Only, the TARDIS won't let the Doctor leave and sends them back 30mins. It was a bit like in Harry Potter when Harry and Hermione trace their steps and follow their "previous selves" around for a bit. The Doctor eventually confronts the Fisher King and kills him by blowing up the dam with the energy capsule. Bennett is in the TARDIS by now and Security Protocol 712 sends him back to the underwater base while the Doctor as I suspected stows himself in the hibernation chamber. Geez he had a good 150 year sleep!
On the base, the trio eventually get chased by the ghosts into the bay with the chamber which opens revealing...the Doctor. He draws and traps the ghosts in the faraday cage and then as Clara earlier mentioned....they listen to the Doctor explain how he saved the day. Turns out the 'ghost doctor' was just a hologram similar to hologram Clara. It activated when they brought the chamber onto the base. The other 'ghosts' are also just electromagnetic projections that were out of phase with the base's day mode. Everything Clara told the Doctor over the phone gave him the information he needed to set things up in the past to happen in the future.
So...happy ending...kinda. Because O'Donnell is gone so that's sad. Bennett stands outside the Faraday cage looking in and asks what does he do now. The Doctor doesn't understand but Clara does. Clara's been through the exact same thing with Danny. She tells him what he needs to hear and then Bennett tells Lunn that he needs to tell Cass that he loves her now, before it's too late. So sweet.
Great episodes. I liked all the characters, the two time periods 'running concurrently' and affecting each other, the Doctor playing the electric guitar, Cass figuring out she was being followed by the floor vibrations, did I mention all the characters. I feel having a double episode gives us more time to get to know the characters better, which is always a good thing. Admittedly the character-centric episodes mean the main 'bad guy' the Fisher King, gets a little short-changed and although he looks brilliant, he isn't all that scary and we still don't know much about him. One thing it's made me realise though...bad guys move really sloooow - the Fisher King, the cybermen, the daleks (well...usually), the scovox whatever, the mummy, the clockwork droids. Bad guys move robotically slow!
Episode 5 - The Girl Who Died
There was a lot of hype about this next two-parter as Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones fame was starring in them. Having never seen an episode of Game of Thrones I can't say I was more excited than usual. But it's always fantastic when two fandoms collide :)
The episode starts off kind of weirdly with the Doctor running about the TARDIS console trying to save Clara who's floating in space with an alien spider crawling in her spacesuit. They eventually land in the Vikings era where they are captured and the Doctor tries to pass himself off as Odin the norse god. He utterly fails when "Odin" appears in the sky in a much more awe-inspiring manner. As part of a race that feeds off warriors, the town soon finds themselves without their warriors and declaring war on the Mire (allegedly one of the most terrifying forces in the universe).
I don't know what it is but the monsters have been a bit rubbish. Once again they are extremely slow and this time, clunky. You sort of wonder how on earth could they be so terrifying and victorious if they just amble about rather stupidly. But I suppose technologically they are far superior than the Vikings.
The Doctor's plan to save the people involves the use of electricity ("fire in the water") and Ashilder (Maisie's character). Ashilder conjures up a story to trick the Mire into believing they are being attacked by a snake monster when really it's just a wooden contraption. The whole thing is filmed with Clara's mobile so there's the blackmail to send the Mire packing. But the victory came at a cost....in creating the visual trick, Ashilder was "used up" by the machine.
And here we find out why the Doctor bears Caecilius's face - it was a reminder to him that he can save someone, even when according to the laws of time he "shouldn't". Not really what I was expecting so it felt just a little bit underwhelming but it was nice to have the flashbacks to the tenth doctor, Donna and The Fires of Pompeii. The face apparently reminds him that the Doctor saves people and that yes, he can bring Ashilder back from the dead. Interestingly the epsiode doesn't hark back to The Waters of Mars and the "Time Lord Victorious" when the tenth doctor decided to defy the laws of time and save Captain Adelaide Brooke although she subverts his actions by killing herself and thus preserving the timeline.
Anyhoot the Doctor brings Ashilder back to life with the Mire technology but in doing so makes her immortal. While Clara and everyone is thrilled, the Doctor is not so sure. As he says "Immortality isn't living forever. That's not what it feels like. Immortality is everybody else dying. She might meet someone she can't bear to lose. That happens. I believe."
So it will be interesting to see how Ashilder lives her life (as we'll see in the next episode). As an immortal, she will be around for a very very long time (like Captain Jack) so it's feasible for her to pop up in more than just next week's episode.
Overall I found it a bit of a meh episode. I'm not sure what it was, there were some insightful lines but the comic relief just didn't quite work, the whole village seemed a bit of a joke.
Episode 6 - The Woman Who Lived
If you could live forever, how would you change? Will you be anything like who you are in 50 years time, 100 years, 500 years? Would you recognise yourself or remember your past? These are the questions we grapple with in this episode. We know the Doctor is 2000 years old (a bit of a shock when reflecting on Series 1) but it's interesting to see it's effect on others. Captain Jack Harkness didn't change much except that he had loads of experience and was much more serious. But he came from a much more technologically advanced future and didn't have too long to wait to be reunited with the Doctor (in Utopia). Ashilder however, has lived 800 years through a much more difficult era.
The Doctor stumbles on Ashilder and he's shocked and disheartened by what he finds. Ashilder no longer remembers her first life as a daughter of a Viking and now goes by the name of Lady 'Me', a robber and one of the most feared ones at that. She's killed so many she no longer remembers but has volumes and volumes of journals that record all that she's done. She's seen so many deaths, including those of her children, that she no longer cares for the people around her. It's been a lonely experience, a life of heartbreak that no one else understands, no one else shares. As the Doctor said last episode, immortality doesn't feel like living forever, immortality feels like everyone you care for around you dying. So when the Doctor stumbles back into her life, she wants him to take her with him to the stars and beyond.
The Doctor says no and then the rest of the episode centres on them retrieving a jewel that happens to open a portal that the alien of the week wants. Ashilder is working with this alien as he's promised her transportation to the stars but as all evil plans turn to dust, so does this one and in the end Ashilder realises her folly and uses the second healing pack to close the portal.
There's again a lot of kind of stupid jokes in this episode but a lot of deep reflection again. As the Doctor explains, they can't travel together because it wouldn't be good. Living this long, things stop mattering and that's why he needs Clara, perspective. Those with short lives live in the moment because life is precious and fleeting, every life matters. But Ashilder is also up with the Doctor's modus operandi...save the world then run away and leave the fallout to others. She's lived long enough to already hear whispers of the Doctor's prior Earth visits, seen the aftermath and she vows to protect the Earth from him. But they are not enemies as enemies are easy, it's your friends you have to watch out for.
That's another interesting reference to enemies and friends and who is the real danger. Missy told Clara that she and the Doctor weren't enemies but 'best friends' and yet Missy is always trying to thwart the Doctor. And here Ashilder stands apart/against the Doctor not as enemies but as friends. It's all a bit odd. Clara is missing from this episode until the end as she's taking her class to Tae kwan Do or something but when the Doctor picks her up she shows him a photo taken at school and guess who is in the background but Ashilder! Hard to imagine but she would have been 1200 years old by now!
There's a cool reference to Captain Jack Harkness as another immortal - who knows, maybe they will run into each other one day! And the Doctor helping one of Clara's students with homework. This season has had a more subtle arc. Unlike last series' 'Missy/Paradise' theme which was in-your-face obvious, there hasn't really been anything like it this series. The only consistent (but somewhat subtle) hints are that Clara needs a new hobby and the Doctor appears concerned about how Clara has changed since her time with him (becoming more like him). We know that Clara is leaving at the end of the series so the Doctor's concerns will probably tie into it somehow.
The next time segment shows the return of UNIT, Kate Stewart and Osgood...yay. But also the zygons so is Osgood really back since she was apparetly obliterated by Missy?
Episode 7 - The Zygon Invasion
Osgood returns in this epsiode...whoa hang on a sec...didn't she die in last series' finale? Well...sorta. This epsiode ties in very nicely with the 50th aniversary special which re-introduced the aliens the Zygons. The Zygons are shapeshifters and in the special, took on the form of Kate Stewart and Ingrid Osgood (among others). There were some nice flashbacks to set the scene as we remember that in the end, a peace treaty was brokered between the humans and zygons, allowing for the peaceful settlement of 20 million zygons on Earth. Not quite sure how that works since zygons copy the form of humans so surely this means there are a lot of 'duplicates' out there - doesn't anybody notice?
But back to Osgood. So there were two Osgoods and they ended up getting along. In fact, they got along so well that nobody knew/knows which Osgood was/is human and which zygon. So when Missy killed Osgood last series, we don't actually know which Osgood was killed off. Normally a zygon requires the human host alive to keep the imprint but apprarently they've evolved and are now knocking off the humans as they finish imprinting. The Osgoods were the Doctor's 'backup/alert' in case anything went wrong. So when a faction of the zygons decides that yes, they actually do want to take over the planet and live as zygons rather than hiding as humans, the remaining Osgood (who won't reveal whether she's human or zygon) alerts the Doctor. Then gets kidnapped by the rebels.
The majority of the episode has the Doctor, Clara and UNIT spread out across the Earth trying to find out what is going on and how bad the situation is. UNIT is trigger happy but the Doctor wants to negotiate. That's going to be pretty tough because the episode ends with UNIT pretty much decimated, the zygon revolution well underway and zygon-Clara shooting an RPG at the Doctor's plane. Uh huh...zygon Clara shoots down the Doctor's plane. The reveal of zygon-Clara is done well and looking back, there are a few clues that Clara's not quite Clara. But she's been acting a bit recklessly, a bit bolder this series so her behaviour isn't completely out of the ordinary (except maybe the bit with the gun). And a side note - there are a whole lotta female leaders/protagonists in ths episode.
So I loved this episode. It was nice getting a monster that was a bit more fleshed out and a proper threat. The zygons are clever enemies because they can take on the appearance of a loved one and in that way undermine any attack (could you shoot a being wearing the face of your mother/father/sibling/child? - so far this episode - no). Loved Osgood and UNIT returning (even if UNIT seem a little underpowered...like seriously what exactly do they do?!). Loved the twist at the end with Clara turning out to be zygon-Clara and the mastermind behind the whole operation. Loved the original zygon high command taking on the appearance of 7 year old children. Loved the Doctor's electric guitar making an appearance. That looks to be his thing this series/Doctor. Loved the flashbacks to the 50th episode and the tie-in with Missy in the finale Death in Heaven as well as the references to the zygon adventures from the 70s/80s. Loved the Doctor loving his presidential plane.
Some quibbles - Kate Stewart going to Truth and Consequence on her own with absolutely no back up at all; Kate not being just a little bit suspicious that the sheriff alone survived and stuck around in an empty town and the lack of any US military/intelligence presence; The Doctor just standing there as the drone narrowed in on target (and as if the drone would get close enough for facial recognition - in any case, how does the zygon read the operator's mind to copy her family?!); The complete capitulation of a seemingly elite military force (UNIT) - I understood how difficult it would be to shoot your 'mother' but seriously, a whole band of soldiers walking into a known enemy stronghold?!
The episode continues a number of themes that have run throughout this series - Clara once again spends most of the episode separated from the Doctor; there were flashbacks to past actions and the idea of how the past impacts the present/future (the Doctor and child Davros, going back in time with the not-there were ghosts, Ashilder, Pompeii, the zygons); and hybrids (Davros and the "prophesy", Ashilder, Osgood).
We're heading to the pointy end of the series so it'll be interesting to see if any of these threads mean anything and impact the finale and Clara's departure. But so far, it's been a pretty solid season and I think some part of that is down to the two-part format which has allowed for better storyline and character development.
Episode 8 - The Zygon Inversion
I had mixed feelings about this epsiode. There were some great moments but some moments also felt a bit over the top. We ended last week with zygon-Clara shooting an RPG at the Doctor's plane. We begin this epsiode with how the Doctor escapes. Human-Clara wakes up and moves about her apartment but in a dream-like sequence realises something is wrong. She's trapped in her own mind. But she is able to influence zygon-Clara and so manages to mis-aim the first RPG shot. The Doctor and Osgood parachute out before the second RPG hits the plane. Human Clara is able to subtley alert the Doctor that she's alive before zygon-Clara realises what's happening and then goes to interrogate her human self.
The Doctor and Osgood work together to figure out what's going on and where the Claras are before everyone meets up at the place it all started - the Black Archives at UNIT HQ under the Tower of London. The Doctor makes a very big dramatic speech and manages to convince both Kate and zygon-Clara (or Bonnie as she calls herself) that war is not solution and peace is restored. Oh yes that Kate was the real Kate pretending to be zygon-Kate. She might not have had backup in Truth or Consequences but she had her handy pistol with her.
One thing that really really bugged me - the Doctor putting on an American accent like a game show host. Don't. Just don't. Really...don't. I know it was comic relief but it just felt weird. In his speech the Doctor compares them to children throwing a tantrum but not really knowing what it is they want and not understanding the full consequences of war. They want war, but the Doctor has fought in an actual massive war and he doesn't want anyone to go through the loss and guilt he's been through. It was epic that speech and harks back to the difficult choices the Doctor made in the Time War. Rarely does new-Who comment on current world situations so it was interesting to have an episode that speaks about terrorism and the ways to deal with renegades and factions and the topic of war and peace.
The Osgood box, or should I say...boxes because of course there are two of them, are initially set up to be weapons of mass destruction with two buttons for each side - zygons: unmask all zygons or render all zygons 'human', and humans: kill all zygons or blow up the tower of London. Fifty-fifty chance of getting what you want.....or not. But in the end the boxes are revealed to have been a bluff, just two boxes with two buttons. But now that they know that, what is to keep the peace? Well as the Doctor reveals, this is the 15th time they've been through this and he's wiped their memories. Which kinda begs the question...is this the best solution? It looks like it's only been a few years (at most) since the 50th special and this is the 16th time they've been through this?!
Zygon-Clara doesn't get her memory wiped though because the Doctor has been in her position before and knows that she will now do anything to keep the peace. But she can't go around as zygon-Clara so she becomes zygon-Osgood! Two of them again! Which maybe means that it was zygon-Osgood who was killed by Missy since I don't know if zygons can take on the human forms of other zygons. In any case there are now two Osgoods again. The Doctor does ask Osgood to come with him in the TARDIS (before he finds out there are two of them) but as much as she would love to travel the stars, she's staying on Earth to monitor and maintain the peace.
There wasn't much in the way of hints in this epsiode about what this series' finale will be about but we did see that Clara has a very strong mind, strong enough to influence zygon-Clara. The Doctor has mentioned concerns about Clara's mental state several times this series and other characters (Cass) have also made comments about Clara's willingness to take action and becoming Doctorish. There's also been a few episodes concerning hybrids (actually, there have been quite a few hybrids in previous series too between different species). But this series Davros mentions a prophesy concerning 'a hybrid creature' and asks whether the Doctor plays a part in its 'creation'.
Spoilers - we do know that Maisie Williams (Ashilder) will be back in episode 10 (the next two episodes are stand-alone episodes) and we know she's been hanging about Coal Hill and that Rigsy (the kid who was 'Doctor-Clara''s side-kick last series) will be back in the episode as well. We also know that the following epsiode, the first part of the finale will feature the Doctor going solo (and by solo I mean as the ONLY actor at all in the episode) so there's speculation that something might happen in episode 10. From what we've been told Clara's departure will be a twist we don't expect, very sad and sad over a number of weeks. So I think something will happen in episode 10 that will result in the Doctor travelling alone in episode 11 and Clara's final episode will be in episode 12 (Hell Bent). Maybe the Doctor will try to save Clara but ultimately fail.
But before epsiode 10 there's episode 9! And this one takes us back into space on a space station and looks like a spooky-horror episode. I've just realised we haven't visited any foreign planets this series (discounting Skaro). There's been a distinct lack of foreign civilisations as the Doctor has been Earth-bound.
Episode 9 - Sleep No More
This is one of the few stand-alone episodes this series and left more questions than answers. It was very much in the style of the Blair Witch Project (shaky cam) which means much of the "story" is from various camera views. They get around the lack of actual cameras by saying the dust is acting as a visual input (which is still sort of odd but anyhow). It kinda works because it's a horror story but it's a lot less effective than the Under the Lake and Before the Flood epsiodes and really - we already had monsters on a station/base this series so it's a little disappointing they couldn't go with another setting. We still haven't truly gone to another civilisation this series (excluding the daleks).
Like the title, humanity has modified the sleep process so people don't need to sleep any more. They can get into machines (Morpheus) for cat naps which compact an entire night's sleep into five minutes so there's less time spent sleeping and more time spent working (....yay...). But of course there are side effects. The episode doesn't really explain how it works but somhow the crust that we get in our eyes from sleeping have turned into sandy-mucous monsters that want to consume us. It still doesn't really make sense, but everybody runs around trying to escape the monsters and figure out what's going on. Bottom line, the monsters want to get off the space station and to civilisation (Triton) so they can consume the people there.
The episode starts, ends and is interspersed with narrative from the Morpheus-machine creator who initially tells us not to watch the footage he'd cut together and then ends by telling us that he'd cut all the videos together to create a compelling story so we would be compelled to watch. Compelled to watch because the monsters are spread by electronic signals and...we've just been infected by watching the video. Right. But because he'd cut the footage from the space station, we don't get to see what the Doctor, Clara and Ngano (rescue crew captain) do once they get into the TARDIS. So in a way the episode ends sort of hanging in the air. The space station is blown up but does the Doctor go to Triton to destroy the other Morpheus machines? Does he fix Clara (who temporarily spent some time in one of them)? How are the monsters created in the first place? Like I said, more questions than answers.
It was great to see a mix of races amongst the rescue crew who was led, again, by a female. But we never really got to know or connect with any of them before they inevitably died. All in all it was a scary horror episode using a different and interesting technique, but it was a bit meh because we've already done the base/station storyline this year. I am looking forward to next week's episode which will be back on Earth but it looks like we'll be taking a trip down Doctor Who's alien equivalent of Diagon Alley. We'll see the return of Rigsy and Maisie Williams as Ashilder (who may have changed her name again). And the next episode will also be the start of Clara's goodbye as she only has two episodes left.
Episode 10 - Face the Raven
Clara Oswald is dead.
That was a bit of a shock. I knew it was coming but it was earlier than I expected because there had been pictures that she would be in the finale. I think she still will be but it'll be as a memory or hallucination or something similar as Clara is well and truly dead with no way of coming back (I know, famous last words on Doctor Who but her death was pretty final).
This episode is the first in the three-part series finale and I loved it. There were all sorts of aliens, a mystery, the return of Rigsy and Ashilder and of course, it was an emotional rollercoaster. One of the themes this series has been Clara's growing recklessness and her acting more and more like the Doctor. Her willingness to take risks in order to save people and trying to be clever and manipulate the system before she knew the full picture was her undoing. Although I had been spoiled yesterday and knew this was Clara's last episode, it still all happened so fast. But even she in a way saw this coming, saw her growing risk taking and willingness to almost flirt with death after losing Danny Pink. Clara's parting words to the Doctor were filled with emotion and an order for him not to seek revenge. Because she knew, particularly after part two of the series opener The Witch's Familiar, that the Doctor would tear the universe apart in fury. The Doctor's line to Ashilder "You'll find that it's a very small universe when I'm angry with you" sums it up.
So what happened? Well in very Harry-Potter-esque fashion there are alien/magical streets tucked away in London. Rigsy (back from last series' Flatline) calls Clara when he discovers a tattoo counting down on his neck. Counting down the minutes he has left to live. He's been given a death sentence for allegedly murdering one of the alien inhabitants of this refuge, this trap street. The Doctor and Clara and Rigsy investigate and discover that Ashilder (or Mayor Me as she calls herself) set up this refuge and enforces very strict rules. Break them, and you pay the price. And that price is death. Death by raven, which is actually a quantum shade that takes a person's soul. Being an alien refuge there were lots of cool returning and never seen on new-Who aliens. Loved the cobble-stone street setting and the mix of new London with old alien London.
The Doctor realises however, that Mayor Me is hiding something and that this 'murder' and death sentence was just an elaborate trap for him. Mayor Me made a deal with some unknown entity to capture and hand over the Doctor and never intended for Rigsy to die. Only Clara, trying to be clever, meddled with the plan. See you can transfer the 'death sentence' to a willing volunteer. The Doctor had extracted 'absolute' protection from Mayor Me for Clara earlier so Clara arranges for Rigsy to transfer the tattoo to herself, believing that Mayor Me will have to lift the curse. Minor glitch, she can't. You can pass death on but you can't cheat death. Mayor Me could have lifted the mark/curse off Rigsy but now that it's been passed to Clara...her fate is sealed. It was heartbreaking watching that fact sink in with Clara realising that the Doctor can't save the day this time and the Doctor realising that he is powerless to save her. Powerless to save her but so filled with both grief and an anger hell bent on destruction.
He feels the weight of responsibility both because he gave Ashilder immortality (kind of creating this situation) and because he's seen Clara's growing recklessness and not stopped it before it was too late. We learn from Clara that the Doctor has been surveilling Ashilder ever since their last meeting when he realised how damaged (and dangerous) she'd become. She's such a complex character, not quite the villain but sometimes lacking in compassion. In any case she's working with "them" and I look forward to finding out who "they" are next week. It's someone who knows about the Doctor's confession dial...hmmm. That's popped up again. The episode ends with the Doctor teleported to an unknown location to face his greatest fears, the TARDIS left back on Earth with Rigsy decorating it as a memorial to Clara. On a side note - what on earth happened with Clara's body? The Doctor just stares at her on the street after she dies and then goes inside to be teleport out. Clara's still lying dead on the street?!
A truly emotional episode. It is always heartbreaking when a companion leaves and this was no exception.
Next week is "Heaven Sent"...not sure what that might refer to since it seems like the Doctor is in serious trouble but the one after is called "Hell Bent". I think the Doctor is going to wreck destruction (or plan/try/want to) on whoever it was that worked with Ashilder and lead to Clara's death. Sure, he kinda promised Clara he wouldn't destroy Mayor Me/Ashilder and that trap street but these other guys, they are going to face the fury of a Timelord.
It's going to be difficult but I'm going to try to avoid any (more) spoilers about the next two episodes. It's already too late as I read one very exciting spoiler but from now on...no more.
Episode 11 - Heaven Sent
My brain is still spinning from this week's episode which was a bit of a mind bender for so many reasons. It's possibly one of the weirdest episodes ever. Coming off last week's episode where Clara died, the Doctor has been transported to essentially his own personal interrogation torture chamber for reasons we are still yet to discover. Which means that the episode essentially featured Peter Capaldi and only Peter Capaldi who put on a fantastic solo performance.
There were many shout-outs to matters mentioned earlier this series from 'the hybrd' to the confession dial to the return of Gallifrey. The Doctor is trapped and the episode consists of him trying to figure out where he is and how to get out. It's his own personal nightmare, he's being followed by a shady slow-shuffling creature in a castle that resets and rotates and shifts every time the creature is stopped, and only stopped by a confession from the Doctor. We also get to see the Doctor's thought processes when he works out how to escape death. The Doctor goes to his mental palace (similar to Sherlock) and his version is of course, the TARDIS. Clara's gone but she lingers in the episode both in his mental TARDIS (the Doctor speaks as if she is still there listening to him and gives him feedback on the chalkboards) and in a portrait that is in one of the rooms. A very old portrait. The castle is situated in the the middle of the ocean surrounded by skulls, seemingly from previous prisoners who died.
Well, we soon figure out how wrong the Doctor is about that. And the reason why the stars are 7000 years out of sync. It's because the Doctor, when we join him has been there in the castle for 7000 years already. That's right 7000 years already. Aw man. And that's not all, by the end of the episode, he's been trapped for 2 billion years!
Let's pause for a moment to reflect on that. The Doctor has been trapped, alone, afraid, dying and being reborn over and over and over again in a groundhog-day loop for 2 billion years. The only saving grace is that each time he's 'reborn' he's back to square one so he doesn't actually remember being stuck there for that long. So...why and how?
The Doctor finds the way out is hidden behind a block of material (Azbantium(?)) that is 400 times stronger than diamond. But he realises this too late and can only try to break it with his own fist before the creature kills him. Seems impossible but like water eroding rock, in time, the rock gives way. Yes well in this case, two billion years' worth of time. So the 'first' Doctor who gets transported here figures out the puzzle and leaves clues about what to do with the block. Because he's not willing to confess his secrets to the creature, he lets it kill him. But Timelords take ages to die (remember the Tenth Doctor and the radiation regeneration) so he manages to drag himself back to the teleportation room. The teleporter has a 'copy' of him in the hardrive in his original just-teleported state and by activating it, he can bring in another version of himself to go through the whole exercise again. To activate it though, it needs power and the only source available is by burning himself up...hence all the skulls...creepy right. So he dies, another copy is "transported/created" in the teleport and the cycle begins all over again with the Doctor needing to figure things out again from scratch. Each time a little bit more of the block is chipped away.
Let's not go into why the block doesn't reset like the other rooms but wow, this is the longest game ever. But does this mean the Doctor at the end is not the same Doctor as last episode but a copy? Something to ponder. Essentially though I guess he's the same Timelord.
So the Doctor breaks through the wall and steps out of a portal into a desert planet. The portal closes into...his confession dial. So he's been trapped inside his confession dial that has been transported to...Gallifrey. That's right, the episode ends with the Doctor looking upon Gallifrey and telling a boy to go tell the others that he's back. Back and since Clara's death to this him is not that long ago, ready to find out who to blame and who should pay for her death. As the Doctor says earlier, Clara may have told him not to take revenge, but he doesn't always listen.
The series arc about 'the hybrid' is also expanded on because the 'hybrid' that the Timelords so feared, is not a melding of dalek and Timelord but the Doctor himself. He quips that he is the one mentioned in the prophesy. I guess we'll find out how next week but the Doctor has always been a more fearsome force than either the Timelords or the daleks. He did after all almost single handedly bring about the end of the Time War.
My brain is still trying to make sense of everything but this was a real puzzle episode with a lot of things not making sense until the truth slowly was revealed. I do have to say that I am not a huge fan of the Moffat era's scale of time. The first five series spanned only a fairly short time-span in the Doctor's life passing through around 10 years (ending at less than 920 years old), the next five series has spanned over 1000 years of the Doctor's life with the Doctor now over 2000 years old. Add 2 billion years in the confession dial and...yeah. This has partly been because in the Russell T Davies era companions lived on the TARDIS and so time cannot pass that quickly while in Stephen Moffat's era the Doctor has only popped in every now and then to take the companions on adventures (with hundreds of years between visits). I know time is wibbly wobbly for a time traveller but it would be nice to slow things down a little.
But back to the episode...a very unique experience. Still puzzled by the episode title 'Heaven Sent' since the Doctor is in his own personal hell.
Episode 12 - Hell Bent
Okay so that was a weird but fascinating episode with so much happening it's hard to know where to begin...
The Doctor is back on Gallifrey. Gallifrey! He didn't reveal the secret of the hybrid (which the Timelords believe the Doctor knows, hence the trap) in the confession dial because he wanted to reach Gallifrey. Once there he was able to trick them into using Timelord technology to pull Clara out of time just before her final heartbeat. Much of the episode is then him trying to escape with Clara and breaking all the rules in the process. It's never stated but he clearly has very very strong feelings for Clara as he's willing to go through four-and-a-half-billion years of torture just to physically save her. Physically because he was going to have to pull a Donna and remove all of Clara's memories of him. In the end it's bittersweet because he loses his memories of Clara and Clara kinda still has to die. This was needed otherwise he would never move on. As Ashilder notes - if he's willing to break all the rules and risk the universe to get Clara back, the whole universe will always be in danger.
The hybrid - not sure if this notion is ever really answered because several options were floated around by the Doctor and Ashilder. The hybrid, who threatens the very existence of the universe could be Ashilder (part human, part mire), the Doctor (part Timelord, part human), or two people (the Doctor and Clara). In any case it was the Doctor who heard the prophesy in the Cloisters on Gallifrey back when he was a student and it was this prophesy that propelled him to run away. The idea of the Doctor being the hybrid fits quite well as he certainly had no problem with destroying everything to save Clara.
Ashilder is back and still around all alone at the very very end of time itself. She hitches a lift in the second TARDIS the Doctor steals and so at the end of the episode, she has her very own TARIDS to fly around in. A TARDIS that currently contains both her and Clara! In a 50/50 game of chance it is the Doctor who loses his memories of Clara. So after they set things up for the Doctor to continue travelling on without her, Ashilder and Clara prepare to take Clara to Gallifrey to be placed back into her fixed-point-death. But, who's to say they can't have an adventure or two before going back. Now there's a spin-off waiting to happen.
The diner scene was fake, generated within the TARDIS for when the Doctor wakes up from losing his memories. He tells a story to Clara who he doesn't realise is Clara because although he can kinda remember discreet events involving Clara, he can't really remember what she looks like or what she meant to him. Shout-out to Amy and Rory as he remembers being in the diner with them.
This stolen-TARDIS has the exterior of a diner as Ashilder, perusing the operations manual can't work out the chameleon circuit.
The General, last seen in the 50th Anniversary special returns and is shot by the Doctor (showing just how far the Doctor is willing to go). The regeneration seen in the previews is of him. He regenerates into a woman and it's stated her previous incarnations bar the one just passed were all women.
The soldiers, many of whom would have served with the Doctor in the Time War refuse to kill the Doctor on the President's orders and instead lay down their weapons and stand beside the Doctor. The Doctor is considered a war hero by ordinary folk.
The classic white-round-TARDIS returns as the Doctor steals another TARDIS on Gallifrey.
A confession dial is a Timelord's last chance to make amends with their past, face their demons and unburden their mind before they are uploaded into the Matrix to join all the other 'ghosts'.
The Doctor is effectively President of Gallifrey (and Earth)...interesting. It appears Gallifrey is now out of the time lock.
That was an interesting twist, the Doctor losing his memories of Clara but it makes sense. He'd become too swallowed up in grief and rage in losing Clara but by forgetting how much she meant to him, he can return back to the joy and lightness of being the Doctor. It was great having Clara (real Clara and not a holographic/subconscious Clara) back in this episode and as Peter Capaldi said, her departure was very sad, sad over several weeks and not what you'd expect. This is one of the saddest departures because the Doctor himself forgets her and because she knows she has to die and has to face death - twice! She'd walked out in Face the Raven and has to once again, having been given a slight reprive, face the raven once more. I liked Clara, she had spunk and she wasn't afraid to tell people (including the Doctor) off but Ashilder and others have remarked on her growing similaries to the Doctor and her willingness to head towards and spur the Doctor towards danger. Then again, who's to say she can't have a few adventures with Ashilder before facing death.
The scenes in the diner, at the end, were heartbreaking. She remembers everything about him. And he remembers nothing personal about her. The most important and personal things, he's forgotten. And that is heartbreaking.
Farewell Clara, you will be missed.
Christmas Special - The Husbands of River Song
River Song is back! And it was both a hilarious and sad return for her. I thought this episode hit all the right notes with bits of fun, adventure, meaning and sadness. Series 9 has included a lot of reflection and call backs to previous series, which might fly over the head of infrequent Doctor Who viewers but has been a minefield for fans. This episode was no exception as it closes the story-loop of Professor River Song, and it was a very fitting goodbye.
She's been one of the most complex characters in the new series and a good example of the wibbly-wobblies of time. She and the Doctor have crossed each other's time-streams many times but often out of order and somewhat backwards (which the Doctor jokes about in this episode). The first time we met Professor Song was back with the Tenth Doctor in the Series 4 episode Silence in the Library. He had no idea who she was, but she knew everything about him because for her, that episode follows this Christmas special. I mean just think about that. She goes from meeting a 2000 year old him who knows everything about her, to dying for a 900 year old him who doesn't have a clue who she is. Previous episodes have followed in a similar vein so there has always been a bit of a power imbalance between the two. So admittedly she hasn't been a character I've particularly liked. This Christmas however, they're more or less on the same page. The Doctor is post-Clara and River is post The Angels Take Manhatten, the last episode we see her in when her parents, Amy and Rory are zapped back into the past. In this episode The Doctor gives her the sonic screwdriver she'll take with her to the library and he finally takes her to see the Singing Towers of Darillium, something he's kept putting off because he knows it will be the last time they meet. River's now met three incarnations of the Doctor and I thought this match-up worked really well. Partly because for most of the episode she had no idea he was the Doctor but also because the balance between them feels just right - his natural seriousness and sort of ancientness offsetting her craziness. He finally saw her for who she is to him and she finally gets her chance to really be with the Doctor, one who knows her and is more than her equal.
The Doctor brings his dry humour with him in this episode and it was particularly funny because River didn't recognise him. He got to see what she gets up to when not with him (like stealing his TARDIS). He also got to be the companion, getting to 'pretend' to see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time and 'do it right'. It was endearing to see his jealous reaction towards all the 'husbands' River had but he also got to hear no holds barred what she thought of him, which was both lovely and also sad ("you don't expect a sunset to admire you back"). One thing Peter Capaldi does so very well is his ability to show in a subtle understated way so many different emotions. Often it's these little expressions that give an insight into his thoughts, much more than words ever could.
There were aliens, robots, flying spaceships, crashing spaceships, fancy restaurants and we were most decidedly nowhere near Earth. Brilliant.
Overall I really liked series 9, more so than series 8. I thought the double episodes worked well and hark back to the classic era where multi-episode arcs were common. The two-parters allowed a deeper exploration of one-off characters and more empathy towards them as it hasn't been just running around saving the day, there's been time for more meaningful dialogue. We had the terrific and very relevant to our times Zygon episodes, and there have been deeper themes explored this year - war, immortality, choices, consequences and morality. There have been a lot more ripples with events in past or present episodes affecting present and future episodes. But the Doctor has also been a lot of fun and more light-hearted this series with his shades, electric guitar and jokes. For me this has been one of the most enjoyable series in the new series and I think the Doctor has been well balanced. He reminds me of the ninth Doctor, who was my first and still holds the place as my favourite Doctor - northern angry gruffness mixed with child-like joy and awe of the universe. Only now, it's Scottish gruffness (which is even further north!).