Tag Archives: Eleventh Doctor episodes


Doctor Who Re-Review: S07E07 – The Bells of Saint John

doctor who bells of st john 600x337 Doctor Who Re Review: S07E07   The Bells of Saint John When reviewing The Bells of Saint John for the first time my takeaway was that this was a solid but unexceptional episode that used a lot of familiar elements.

After a re-watch I think that’s still broadly true. It’s certainly not the strongest episode of the season and the Spoonheads with their revolving head gimmick are clearly very similar to The Winders in The Beast Below, only not quite as effective.

There’s not a lot of depth to the story either. It’s very much a reintroduction to The Doctor and what he does. Which obviously isn’t going to be incredibly appealing to long time fans. But I think we sometimes forget that the show is not being produced and broadcast exclusively for us. That in fact the target audience skews towards the children/family mixture and that it needs to stay very accessible.

doctor spoon 600x337 Doctor Who Re Review: S07E07   The Bells of Saint JohnIf you accept that that was the intention here with this episode: re-introduce Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor; introduce Clara as regular companion; set up the season. Then you could call this successful in that it achieved those goals. Still doesn’t make it a favorite episode though and I don’t think it’s the best example of what it was trying to do. On the other hand it was better than Partners In Crime with which it shares a lot of common elements.

I said it was a stand alone episode and you certainly don’t need to have every seen an episode of Doctor Who for it to work, but for those of us who have there were subtle references. I was a little slow on the uptake about the name of the episode for example (referencing the ringing phone on the TARDIS with it’s St. John’s Ambulance logo). Then we have the Great Intelligence putting in an end of episode appearance and of course there is the ongoing mystery of Clara.

But when looking at the episode as a whole, the Macbeth line: It is a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. Is a little more apt than it should be.

It’s fun. It’s fast moving. It’s witty in places. And there are certainly some big action moments like the aircraft and the motorbike ride up The Shard. But because the pace really never slows down, there is no time to reflect. And because there’s no time to reflect there’s no time to actually wring the emotional punch from scenes that have that potential. Which is a shame because there are a couple of scenes here (the second time Clara gets uploaded, and right at the end with Miss Kizlet) which deserve further exploration.

doctor who the bells of saint john ratings 600x336 Doctor Who Re Review: S07E07   The Bells of Saint JohnThe same can be said for a number of the ideas that this show throws out. The paranoia factor of an omni-present wifi and camera network. Hacking people and tweaking their memories and personalities. People lost in cyberspace. This are all good concepts that could be explored further. But not here.

Steven Moffat has a habit of doing that. Just throwing out ideas and not fully exploring them. It is one of the more frustrating elements of his writing style. Admittedly, in some cases, Doctor Who just isn’t the place or format to explore them, but still.

So perhaps my less than ringing endorsement of The Bells of Saint John comes down more to missed opportunities than anything actually wrong with what I was watching. Because, in truth while I was watching it I enjoyed it just fine. The nit picks and if onlys didn’t really arrive until afterwards.


Doctor Who Re-Review: S07E06 – The Snowmen

3110853 high doctor who christmas special 2012 Doctor Who Re Review: S07E06   The Snowmen
Season 7’s Christmas special was the official introduction of the new companion Clara as played by Jenna Coleman. Of course she had appeared previously in the show but this is where her story really begins. And her interaction here with Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, just like the previous verbal sparring in Asylum of the Daleks is the high point of the episode.

The core of this particular story is the Doctor finding himself again. He’s essentially moping after what happened with the Pond’s (okay I’m not being very sympathetic… but it’s true) and he’s largely cut himself off from interaction with the world. Not completely though, which is the first hint that this isn’t really what he wants.

This is also the point in season 7 where the emphasis on the series history really starts to become noticeable. Watching it again I’m reminded how much I like the latest version of the title sequence which incorporates so many elements from the past. But that’s just the start. Here we get the Great Intelligence and references to the London Underground (The Web of Fear). We get a new TARDIS interior, my favorite from the new series, which while not the old style console again has more elements in common with that than we’ve previously seen.

3110733 high doctor who christmas special 2012 600x400 Doctor Who Re Review: S07E06   The SnowmenAs with much of Doctor Who during Steven Moffat’s tenure as show runner this story is more about atmosphere and the feelings it evokes than about logic. Those who prefer a more science fiction approach probably won’t like it. Clara’s death gives the story its heart. Yes it’s another power of love storyline of the type that some hate.

And yes you can pick at the details pretty easily here. It’s a story that relies on a fair amount of coincidence, all be it wrapped up in the notion of the universe as an entity. The larger story arc of the season will eventually address some of those coincidences, but you don’t know it while watching this.

Moffat was pretty clear when he took over that his vision of Doctor Who is heavily influenced by the feel of fairytales. And it’s that, more than science fiction which gives us these sorts of stories. I’m very happy with that, others not so much and I think that’s one of the big sources for the criticism that his run receives.

So here we have lots (and lots) of faux-Victoriana. Basically it’s Victorian England as we see it in our heads rather than as it may actually be. We have blatantly incongruous elements like Madame Vastra and Clara herself and yet the resulting mixture, for me, is highly satisfying.

The acting across the board is great here. But Richard E. Grant as Doctor Simeon deserves special attention for being able to so effortlessly move from arrogantly supercilious while in control and then seeming old, scared and cowed when the Doctor challenges his core belief in what is happening.

1s8zD 600x337 Doctor Who Re Review: S07E06   The SnowmenI don’t think this is an episode that’s going to wear well on multiple repeat viewings however. The story itself is really quite shallow. And while it sets up a lot of things, there’s not much depth here. It’s fun and Christmassy and has me looking forward to re-watching the rest of the season but I’m not in a rush to watch this particular episode for a third time.


Doctor Who Re-Review: The Power Of Three

2319952 doctor who series 7 600x400 Doctor Who Re Review: The Power Of Three When I posted my original review of The Power Of Three I called it “almost a great Doctor Who story.” Has my opinion changed with a fresh watch?

It certainly starts strong with a very distinctive hook. The mysterious cubes raise lots of questions and there’s no immediate answers. And then we get some solid character building scenes between Amy and Rory. There’s been a running theme this season about the Pond’s slow departure from the Doctor’s life.

The introduction of Kate Stewart (daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) is another high point early in the episode. Jemma Redgrave plays the role with appropriate authority and it’s always nice to see UNIT return.

Then we get some really cool looking and very Moffaty aliens (creepy weird shaped mouths seems to be one of his things) along with the first hint that yes as we had assumed the cubes are up to no good. But then it goes off the rails with some irrelevant side trips that serve to hamfistedly reinforce what we already know and provide some rather goofy comedy moments. It wouldn’t be that big a deal except this is a single episode story so time is at a premium.

And that’s the pattern for a lot of the episode. We get moments of tension and forward momentum then everything comes to a screeching halt to make it clear to us… again… that the Ponds will be leaving soon. But we already know that. It’s so over the top that it has me eager for their departure instead of sad to see it happening.

power of 3 4 Doctor Who Re Review: The Power Of ThreeAnd it’s frustrating because the idea here is great. A slow invasion. People just accepting something strange as normal over time. And I have lots of questions about both the how and the why of it.

But all that good stuff gets crammed into a few minutes towards the end of the episode and while it’s hardly uncommon for a Doctor Who story to rely on unlikely convenience, in this case (being right next to the hospital that’s one of the 7 key transmission points, and Rory’s Dad being kidnapped by the aliens) really makes that very obvious.

The Shakri are also quite an interesting concept. The pest controllers of the universe.  It’s something that deserves exploration it really doesn’t get here.

And then there’s the cop out ending. Sure it was obvious they weren’t going to leave all of those people dead. But really… we just restart their hearts and there’s no brain damage or other consequences?

So yeah. Almost a great Doctor Who story. Chris Chibnall came close here and if he’d been able to write an entirely stand alone episode he might well have succeeded. In the end though, I wonder how many elements he was asked to incorporate to fit the larger arc of the season.


Doctor Who Dominates Hugo Nominations For Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

 Doctor Who Dominates Hugo Nominations For Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)And I do mean dominates. Of the six nominees in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category, four of them are Doctor Who related. Which is pretty impressive. Although it does lead to a real risk of splitting the vote and either Orphan Black or Game of Thrones winning (not that they aren’t deserving themselves).

Anyway, here’s the list:

Nominations Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Source: Hugo Award Nominees 2014


Doctor Who Re-Review: Season 7 Episode 1 – Asylum of The Daleks

2161226 doctor who series 7 1024x647 Doctor Who Re Review: Season 7 Episode 1   Asylum of The Daleks

When Season 7 of Doctor Who aired, I posted (generally short) reviews of the episodes which made up my initial impressions. Now that the season is available in its entirety on Hulu+ I thought it might be interesting to do a re-watch and see how my opinions have changed or not. I’m also interested to see how well the season progresses thematically and otherwise given the criticism it’s received.

My original review of Asylum of the Daleks can be found here and I was a bit negative about. And a lot of my issues seemed to be with the pacing.

On rewatching most of those pacing issues seem to have gone away. I’m not sure whether that is because I now know the plot or because after a season of it, the pacing has just become the new normal. There are still some problems that I noticed, but first lets point out some highlights.

  • DW 7x01 Asylum of the Daleks 247 600x337 Doctor Who Re Review: Season 7 Episode 1   Asylum of The DaleksI love the childish glee of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor and it’s here in spades in this episode.
  • Souflle Girl/Oswin/Future Clara as played by Jenna Coleman is wonderful. All her dialogue sparkles and her interaction with both the Doctor and Rory is great
  • The dialogue throughout this episode is just plain fun to listen to.
  • The insane Daleks really are incredibly creepy. Extra points for the scene where the Doctor is genuinely terrified by them.

Plot wise I still think the pacing is off a bit, but that’s mainly in the B story of Amy and Rory’s relationship. The acting by both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill somehow sells the significance and emotion of their relationship. But that is despite a complete lack of build up in the script to support it.

You could reasonably nit-pick a bit here and ask why the Daleks of all creatures would have a Parliament, but it’s not actually that crazy given how they’ve been presented over the years. Oswin says they have a hive mind but we’re always shown them either chatting to each other or or chanting in large numbers. If that’s how they like to communicate a Parliament sort of makes sense as a talking shop.

My other nitpick would be, who puts the chains on these Daleks and why do they keep using chains that won’t actually hold them?

And the exploration of the the Doctor’s relationship to the Daleks. The idea that he is their predator, that he makes them stronger is a good one and links into a larger theme for the season. Also the notion that Dalek’s do have a sense of beauty (just a really warped one) was a strong note for me.

All in all then the good easily outweighs the bad here and my second viewing was much more enjoyable than the first it seems. This sets the season off on a strong note and points us to the thematic echoes we’re going to see repeating as things go on.


Doctor Who Cosplay : Silurian Warrior

Silurian 400x600 Doctor Who Cosplay : Silurian Warrior

The Silurians first appeared in Doctor Who back in 1972 in a face off with the Third Doctor. They came back a couple of times in Classic Who before their appearance against the 11th Doctor, for which they got a pretty major redesign.

And it’s that redesign that this cosplay is based on. It’s a pretty impressive recreation too. the face makeup alone is very complex.

You can see more photos at the link.









Source: http://www.superherophotos.com/#!featured/cixd


Doctor Who Review – The Day of the Doctor

Doctor Who Day of The Doctor Preview Doctor Who Review   The Day of the Doctor
Writing an anniversary special is something of a poison chalice at the best of times. Writing a 50th Anniversary special for a show that has to appeal to all ages in prime time and has a rabid fan base who have memorised every detail of the shows inconsistent continuity and will pick it to death is and all of those people expect references to their memories of the show…. Well Moffat was the script writer on the day it wasn’t possible to get it right really wasn’t he?

No, The Day of the Doctor is not the perfect Doctor Who episode. It can’t be, because it has too many roles to fill. But that said, it does a lot of things right.

So let’s just get the weaknesses out of the way at the beginning.

– The Zygon plot is pretty much by the numbers for modern Who and it doesn’t get what you’d call a satisfactory resolution.
– This is a giant honking retcon. If you care about such things.
– OCD fans are going to be foaming at the mouth about numbers
– There are a good number of big ideas that are thrown out there without explanation or follow through.
– The Time War remains largely unseen and while what we do see is an epic battle, it also lacks any actual… you know.. time elements.

All of the above is true and lets be honest somewhat typical of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who in general. The show was in fact packed with Moffatisms both good and bad. ALthough the longer running time does help to alleviate the over-compression that I’ve felt about recent episodes

Unlike previous multi-Doctor stories, time travel was actually central to the story-telling here and threaded throughout. There are mirror constructs throughout the story as well. Moffat knows his story structure. The story is also meta-commentary on the show itself, another thing that Moffat is fond of.

It’s All About Matt Smith

This is an 11th Doctor story (no I’m not wasting my time on the stupid numbering debate and neither should you) and it follows the emotional beats of Matt Smith’s Doctor as we’ve been exploring them since his arrival.

Other Doctors are present, but it’s made very obvious that this story changes nothing for them. It does however change the current Doctor’s perspective.

By introducing The Curator at the end Moffat both signals a new theme/direction to pursue in future seasons and also (don’t forget the meta) winks to the audience and says.. but guess which actor won’t be there to see it through.

Mirror Structures Everywhere
Right from the beginning we have references and mirror structures. The opening sequence directly copies that of the very first episode. Then Smith hanging from the TARDIS mirrors his first episode The Eleventh Hour.

But that’s just the start of it.

We learn about the Omega Arsenal. And just how bloody were the Ancients of Gallifrey anyway? Later on we learn about UNIT’s Black Archive. Similar anyone? It could also be seen as a direct replacement to the defunct Torchwood.

The structural mirroring goes beyond that though because we get The Moment from the Omega Arsenal and we discover there’s a nuke under The Black Archive. The parallels are obviously not accidental. This is a direct mirror to the Doctor’s intention to destroy Gallifrey. Murdering millions to save billions as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart puts it. But as Tennant responds:

“This is not a decision you will ever be able to live with.”
“What I did that day was wrong. Just wrong.”

There has to be a better way right? After all. This is Doctor Who. There’s always a better way. It’s a central tenet of the show.

And of course there is. In fact the final solution is another bit of structural mirroring being the exact method they used with the Sonic Screwdriver earlier on.

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Nicely done Mr. Moffat.

Meta… Meta… Meta…

Being a Doctor Who anniversary special you have to address the fans directly and The Day of the Doctor does that in spades. In fact there are so many little references I can’t even attempt to catch them all.

-The clock near the beginning that showed the exact time the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast
– Ian Chesterton as school governor
– Tennant not liking the changes to the TARDIS
– Osgood and her scarf (two for one)
– The way when menaced by Zygons people press themselves back into a corner

But there are much bigger meta-discussion and structures at play here. The direct reference to The Three Doctors is not accidental as this episode is clearly partially patterned against that. Certainly far more so than The Five Doctors.

Here John Hurt (fabulous in the part incidentally) taking a similar role to William Hartnell as the crotchety old man while Matt Smith is clearly The Clown (Patrick Troughton) and yes David Tennant is The Dandy notice how they played up his tendency to woo the ladies? Hurt even gets a Hartnell line near the end when he regenerates.

Hurt serves another purpose here as well. A purely meta one. He acts as an old-school Doctor and directly lobs some of the criticisms that long-time fans have had of nu-Who:

“Am I having a mid-life crisis?”
“They’re screwdrivers. What are you going to do? Assemble a cabinet at them?”
“Timey what? Timey Wimey?”
“Are you capable of speaking without flapping your hands about?”
“Is there a lot of this in the future?” – Referencing Tennant kissing Queen Elizabeth.
“Oh for gods sake! Gallifrey stands” – Referencing Allons-y and Geronimo.

But he also serves as notice that…. it’s changed okay. Nu-Who is not the same as old Who. But that doesn’t make it worse. Throughout the episode he is the odd one out. In several places Tennant and Smith’s Doctor’s are showing working in unison. Clearly parts of the same whole. Hurt stands apart. A different era. Someone whose experiences have shaped him very differently.

And yet in the end he respects the newer Doctors:

“How many worlds has his regret saved to you think?”
“Then all things considered. Time I grew up.”

Yes thats directly referencing the on-going plot but it’s also talking about how the show has changed. In the old days the Doctor did save people. But it was almost by accident. He stumbled into situations and did the best he could. With perhaps the exception of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor he wasn’t trying to save the world.

Snappy Dialogue

What would modern Doctor Who be without the witty banter hmm? Well we got that in spades and here I think Tennant got some of the best material:

“It’s a machine that goes ding”
“You are basically just a rabbit aren’t you?”
“We’re confusing the polarity!”
“The round things! I love the round things! What are the round things?”

I also, incidentally love and miss the roundels. They’ll come back eventually.
We also discovered that when you put the cleverest person in the room in the room three times over they all miss the obvious solution. The door isn’t locked.

Who Is The Doctor

If you were to ask me what this episode was really about, I would say it was an exploration of what it means to be The Doctor.

While fans are busy wasting their time arguing over whether we call him 8.5 or 9 or Theta Sigma they are sadly missing the far bigger points that were being made. Bad Wolf Rose’s dialogue hits the nail on the head when talking about the arrival of the TARDIS:

“That sound brings hope to anyone who hears it. Anyone Doctor. Even you.”

What is the Doctor? According to this episode he’s a promise:

Never cruel or cowardly
Never give up. Never give in.

But above all he is the bringer of hope. He makes things better. And there was one point in his history when he himself had no hope. And the only person who could bring him that hope… was himself.

“You were the Doctor on the day it wasn’t possible to get it right.”
“You don’t have to do it alone.”
“Either I destroy my own people or let the Universe burn.”

Physician heal thyself.

Yes it’s a retcon. It’s a giant stinking retcon. But Doctor Who doesn’t have continuity. It never did. That’s a fan construct. It’s ever changing ever evolving. And while the battle damaged Doctor made an easy entry point for new fans and gave depth to the character for those who didn’t already know his whole history… Well the behavior it really never did sit well with the Doctor’s core character did it?

Stop Sweating The Small Stuff

Fans have a tendency to fixate on the small and largely unimportant details. LIke the correct number of Doctors and the regeneration limit. In this episode Moffat basically tells us to stop wasting our energy. It will all get squared away.

First we have the thirteenth incarnation of the man who calls himself The Doctor showing up. And at no point do they feel the need to actually assign numbers to themselves. Then we have what it’s strongly hinted is a future incarnation re-using a favorite face put in an appearance basically telling us the regeneration limit is no big thing.

“In years to come you might find yourself revisiting a few. But just the old favorites eh?”

Moffat also has Smith explicitly say both that he doesn’t remember how old he is and that he might be lying. So can we stop worrying about exactly what age he is at various stages? It doesn’t matter.

A Few More Thoughts

I really wish we’d had this version of Rose in the Tennant era. She was so much more appealing than the character we actually got.

John Hurt is wonderful as an older and war weary Doctor. As much as I love Paul McGann his Doctor couldn’t have pulled that off. And no… neither could Eccleston’s.

Speaking of which.. really Chris? You couldn’t have come back to give us the 1 minute of footage we needed for a proper regeneration?

The Doctor Is Going Home…. Eventually

So let’s wrap this up in a bow. We get a big celebration of what came before. A re-tuning of where we are going next. Oh and lots of fun along the way.

No it’s not a perfect story, but I don’t think you could make an anniversary special that got any closer.

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/1cafNAZ