Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO – 2013 Christmas Special

"The Time of the Doctor"

DOCTOR WHO - "The Time of the Doctor"

As I've already discussed at some length, the 50th Anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor," which aired just a few short weeks ago, was the culmination of everything executive producer Steven Moffat had set out to do in his first three series of Doctor Who. That episode was not perfect, but it was a triumph: a satisfying fulfillment of what I've called the "Moffat Masterplan," and a bold reinvention—or restoration?—of the series as a whole. Without disrespecting everything that previous showrunner Russell T. Davies had done to not only resurrect Doctor Who but to turn it into a massively successful worldwide phenomenon, Moffat had spent three years carefully addressing some of the more problematic aspects of Davies' legacy. "The Day of the Doctor" was the final bit of major rejiggering, and it succeeded in undoing the darkest moment in the Doctor's personal character arc, rescuing some key elements of the classic series that Davies had jettisoned, and bringing all 50 years of Doctor Who into glorious agreement. History, I believe, will remember Davies as the man who salvaged Doctor Who from the scrapyard of television history, and it may well remember Moffat as the man who lovingly restored the show's engines to their original specifications. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO – 50th Anniversary Special

"The Day of the Doctor"

Billie Piper, David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith, and Jenna Coleman

Warning: Contains spoilers for this and previous episodes of Doctor Who.

It seemed almost inconceivable that "The Day of the Doctor," the long-awaited 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, could possibly live up to the hype and expectations it had generated: it simply had to do too much. There were too many elements to interweave, too many themes to address, too many audiences and interests to satisfy in order to pay proper homage to the five-decade history of this insane, beloved institution. How could it be anything other than a disappointment?   Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E14

"The Name of the Doctor"

DOCTOR WHO 7x14-The Name of the Doctor

Welcome back, Mr. Moffat. My, how I've missed you.

I've made no secret of the fact that I've been disappointed with Series 7 of Doctor Who. By my count, it's given us a couple of very good episodes ("The Snowmen" and "Hide"), far too many fairly terrible ones ("Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," "The Power of Three," "The Bells of Saint John," "Cold War," and "The Crimson Horror"), with the rest falling comfortably in the middle. Opinions vary, of course, but by my arbitrary reckoning this makes this arguably the weakest season since the show returned in 2005. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E12

"The Crimson Horror"

DOCTOR WHO 7x12 - The Crimson Horror

Okay, let me say at the start: this isn't going to be pleasant for any of us. I really don't enjoy being this guy: just as there's nothing I love more than analyzing and raving about (at obscene length) an episode of Doctor Who that rises to the considerable heights of which this show is capable, there is nothing I hate more than trying to squeeze out even a few hundred words about the infrequent and unfortunate lows.  Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E11

"Journey to the Center of the TARDIS"

DOCTOR WHO 7x11 - Journey to the Center of the TARDIS

Somewhere within the wreckage of "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS" there was a great episode of Doctor Who to be found, but writer Steve Thompson didn't quite find it. Like the Doctor (Matt Smith) himself, Thompson kept journeying further and further into the legendary, infinite recesses of the famous craft, searching for the salvage of a lifetime: there were many pleasures and wonders to be discovered along the way, but, ultimately, what they both found was just a big old mess in desperate need of a do-over.

Wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey: is it too late to go back to the beginning, and try this hour again?

Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E10

"Hide"

Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in "Hide"

Well, that was more like it. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E09

"Cold War"

DOCTOR WHO 7x09-Cold War

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but I really do very little reviewing in my “TV reviews”—at least of the shows I cover regularly. I’m not interested in assigning grades, and I presume that if you’re reading these posts you’ve already seen the episode in question, so you don’t need me to recommend it. I wouldn’t watch these shows—let alone spend hours writing about them—if I didn’t assume a basic, baseline level of quality that can usually go unremarked. So, in general, I’m much more interested in discussing the episodes than reviewing them. If I find myself reviewing an episode, it usually means something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

So, with apologies to all concerned, welcome to my review of “Cold War.” Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E08

"The Rings of Akhaten"

DOCTOR WHO 7x08 - The Rings of Akhaten

New and casual fans of Doctor Who may not know that the show was originally conceived largely as an educational program, one commissioned by BBC executives who had a fair amount of disdain for science fiction. An internal BBC memo from May 1963 contains a mandate that the show be "neither fantasy nor space travel nor science fiction:"

"The only unusual science fiction 'angle' is that four characters of today are projected into real environments based on the best factual information of situations in time, in space, and in any material state we can realise in practical terms…

"Using unusual exciting backgrounds, or ordinary backgrounds seen unusually, each story will have a strong informational core based in fact…" Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E07

"The Bells of Saint John"

Doctor Who 7x07-The Bells of Saint John

Last year, Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat famously (and controversially) quit Twitter, amidst much speculation that he had tired of the steady stream of abuse from his alleged fans. This year, we get an episode dedicated to the proposition that the internet is going to suck up our souls, one in which the villains are ultimately brought down because they foolishly expose themselves on social media sites. I don't blame Moffat a bit for escaping the online pecking party, but I'm afraid his antipathy towards the internet feels like a fairly thin metaphor on which to hang a story. We get it: the internet is the enemy. What's next? Are animated GIFs really miniature time loops? Does a Pinterest page of an angel become an angel? Shall we brace for the Attack of the Cybermemes? Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E06

"The Snowmen"

DOCTOR WHO - The Snowmen
One must have a mind of winter…

Just today, it happened again: this time it was during a phone call with my mother. She mentioned that—thanks to my bad influence—my youngest niece is now an obsessive fan of Doctor Who. For Christmas, my brother's teen-age daughter had hung a string of TARDIS lights in her bedroom—the strand draped so that it cast a smile-shaped shadow like a crack on the wall—and last week she spent an entire afternoon making Weeping Angel cookies.

Needless to say, I couldn't be prouder. But my mother—her grandmother—doesn't get it: she's watched a couple of episodes, and doesn't see the appeal. "I get why she would like it," my mother said to me. "I just don't get why you do."

It was bafflement, not judgement, but the implication was clear: Doctor Who is not a show for grown-ups.
Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E05

"The Angels Take Manhattan"

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Amelia Pond.

Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E04

"The Power of Three"

Due to some unavoidable travel this week, I'm running behind on my posts, and so I'm going to keep my review of "The Power of Three" short and sweet.

I didn't care for it. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E03

"A Town Called Mercy"

"It would be so much simpler if I was just one thing, wouldn't it?"

That question—asked towards the end of "A Town Called Mercy"—underlines writer Toby Whithouse's deliberate subversion of the Western genre. Westerns—and particularly the straight-up, old-fashioned Hollywood Westerns that this episode intentionally evokes—are all about good guys and the bad guys, heroes and villains, White Hats and Black Hats. What Whithouse presents here is a situation that appears to be that simple—the kindly town doctor menaced by a monstrous, black-hatted gunslinger—but then the situation and the characters all grow increasingly more complicated as the story unfolds. No one is "just one thing"—least of all our hero—and nothing is simple. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E02

"Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"

Well that was a bit of a mess, wasn't it?

On paper, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" should have been the perfect lure to attract new young viewers to Doctor Who. Kids like dinosaurs (to an almost fetishistic degree), and kids also like spaceships, so: Look, kids! Doctor Who is the show that can deliver both, simultaneously! Throw in some historical figures (for educational value), a couple of quirky homicidal robots (for comic relief), a sub-plot about parental approval (for emotional resonance), and a truly dark villain who meets a truly dark end (for seasoning), and you should have the quintessential episode of Who. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S07E01

"Asylum of the Daleks"

The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Oswin (Jenna Louise-Coleman)

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Doctor Who. I'll be reviewing every episode of Series 7, the first five of which will air Saturday evenings at 9/8c throughout September on BBC America. (My goal is to post each review within 24 hours of airing.) As with all my TV reviews, I assume you've already watched this episode and the ones before it, so spoilerphobes beware: discussion of anything that has aired to date is fair game.

In the words of Amy Pond, "Is is bad that I've really missed this?"
Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO – 2011 Christmas Special

"The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe"

I have been a staunch supporter of executive producer Steven Moffat's fairy-tale approach to Doctor Who; I've also said, again and again, that the show's greatest strength is that it can tell any kind of story for any kind of mood. So I suppose it would be rather churlish to complain when Moffat delivers a Christmas Night episode that errs more than slightly on the sugary side, and not only oozes fairy-tale elements but functions on fairy-tale logic. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S06E13

"The Wedding of River Song"


Note: Contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of Doctor Who

Bow ties are cool. They are also legally binding. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S06E12
"Closing Time"

It says a great deal about just how very brave this season of Doctor Who has been that, for a moment near the end of "Closing Time," I actually thought this episode just might dare to abruptly shift tones: from light, comic-relief respite to dark, thematically-heavy tragedy. After repeatedly berating himself for not leaving well enough alone, and after confessing that he is a "stupid, selfish man" who puts people in danger, the Doctor watches in horror as a Cyberman helmet closes around the head of his friend Craig (James Corden).

I can't help but wonder if there isn't somewhere—perhaps locked away in a drawer in Steven Moffat's office—a version of this script where the Cybermen actually kill funny, lovable Craig, orphaning baby Alfie and reinforcing the idea that the Doctor brings death wherever he goes. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S06E11
"The God Complex"

Note: Contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of Doctor Who.

Where do we go from here?

I've been arguing all season that Steven Moffat has been working towards a substantial sea change for our 909-year-old Doctor and his 48-year-old show. It occurs to me now—oddly, for the first time—that Moffat foreshadowed his agenda in this season's opening story, in the largest and most obvious way possible: he killed the Doctor. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S06E10
"The Girl Who Waited"

Note: Contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of Doctor Who.

Most of my friends and family, I think, understand why I do what I do, but I suspect that a few of them might take issue with my choice of subjects. It's not that television itself is inherently unworthy: I think everyone is on board with the fact that Deadwood is worthy of serious attention, most people accept that Game of Thrones is well worth my time, and way too many people have asked me when I'm going to get around to doing The Wire.

But Doctor Who? So far, no one has actually said anything to me like, "Why do you waste so much energy on a silly sci-fi children's program?", but I know for a fact that there are people who just don't get the Doctor Who thing. These are the people who never mention my Doctor Who reviews, and probably assume that I'm just going through some kind of geekily obsessed second-childhood. (Which, of course, I am—and thoroughly enjoying it, thank you very much.)

But I wouldn't put so much work into Doctor Who if I didn't think it was worth the effort to unpack. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S06E09
"Night Terrors"

Note: Contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of Doctor Who.

One of my all-time favorite Doctor Who moments comes in the 2008 episode "Silence in the Library," written by current executive producer Steven Moffat. A little girl, living a seemingly normal life with her father, keeps having nightmares about a spooky, futuristic library full of shadows that eat people. Throughout the episode we see her talking about these scary dreams to a kindly physician, Dr. Moon, and at one point he takes her aside to tell her something in confidence: Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S06E08
"Let's Kill Hitler"

Note: Contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of Doctor Who.

No one is more excited than I am to be returning to Doctor Who after a hiatus of nearly three months, and I think we can all be forgiven if the occasion feels like a major event. However, I do think it is helpful to remember that "Let's Kill Hitler" is not the premiere of a new season: this is, in fact, the eighth episode of Series 6, occupying the same position in the overall story that "The Hungry Earth" occupied in Series 5. We just had a bit of an intermission.

You may not need that reminder, but I do: I find it helps me keep "Let's Kill Hitler" in perspective. In a sense, I think splitting the season into two parts did it a bit of a disservice, and unfairly altered my expectations. Doctor Who re-invents itself so often, and so thoroughly, that we're trained by now to expect the show to head off in a whole new direction each season. As a result, I found myself forgetting that "Let's Kill Hitler" was simply Episode 8 of Season 6, and rebelling a bit against it for continuing so stubbornly in the same vein as Episodes 1–7, without resolving much of anything. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS

DOCTOR WHO S06E07

"A Good Man Goes to War"

And that's how good this show can be.

Ladies, gentlemen, and others: when you get a moment to catch your breath—when you come down from some seriously understandable geeking out, and recover from the adrenaline rush of having watched what felt like a full-length epic movie concentrated into 50 minutes of near perfection—take a moment to consider that what we have just experienced is not only one of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever, but also one of the most important. (And then—if you haven't already—take a moment to appreciate just how fucking good Steven Moffat really is.) Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO S06E06
"The Almost People"

Warning: Spoilers for this and previous episodes. And, due to the Memorial Day holiday, BBC America is postponing their broadcast of "The Almost People" in the States until next week. So if that's how you're watching, don't read this yet.

It is tempting to skip over most of what happened in this episode and jump right to the final two minutes, but let's restrain ourselves, shall we? I'm not going to spend a lot of time recapping the story, but—even without the cliffhanger— "The Almost People" is a strong conclusion to this two-parter by Matthew Graham (who has certainly redeemed himself for 2006's series-nadir "Fear Her"), and reinforces some themes that Steven Moffat has been seeding since he took over the show—or even before. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO S06E05
"The Rebel Flesh"

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Do fleshbots dream of elastic sheep? 

The central ideas of "The Rebel Flesh" are as old as science fiction itself. Writer Matthew Graham (Life on Earth) described this story as a cross between The Thing (an isolated crew unable to trust one another) and The Name of the Rose (spooky monastery setting). But "The Rebel Flesh" (like most science fiction) has a lot of Frankenstein in its blood, from the central questions it asks (What constitutes life?), to the primal fears it plays upon (the idea of our creations turning against us), right down to the electrical surges arcing across a stone laboratory to bring the creatures to life. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO S06E04

"The Doctor's Wife"

Spoiler Level: High

November 23, 1963 saw the premiere of "An Unearthly Child," the first episode of Doctor Who. In the very first scene, the viewer's eye moved along with the camera through the gates of a spooky junkyard at 76 Totter's Lane in London, past scrap metal and abandoned objects, to finally settle and linger on a strange and incongruous thing: a police telephone box, standing silent and solitary and full of mystery. That was our first glimpse of what would become the most consistent and iconic element of Doctor Who: the TARDIS. Even before the Doctor or any of the dozens of companions who would travel within her, before we even knew what it was or what it meant, we saw this mysterious blue box that promised to be the gateway to all the stories to come.

And last night, after more than 47 years, in yet another junkyard just beyond our universe, we finally met her.

Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO S06E03

"The Curse of the Black Spot"

This is the worst trip I've ever been on...Spoiler Level: Low, because I really can't be bothered to spend much time discussing this one.

When you go around evangelizing for an underrated genre show like Doctor Who, telling all your friends Oh my god, oh my god, you have to be watching this incredible show, you live in dread of one unfortunate, uncontrollable confluence of events: someone actually listens to your advice, and tunes in for the first time, and happens to catch a weak-assed episode like "The Curse of the Black Spot."

So, on the off chance that any of you happened to watch Doctor Who for the first time ever this week, based on my repeated recommendations, let me just get this out of the way:

Yes, it sucked. I'm sorry. Please believe me when I tell you that the show gets much better than this.

Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO S06E01–2

"The Impossible Astronaut" & "Day of the Moon"

Spoiler Level: Medium, because there are too many big things to spoil them all properly.

Last year's Doctor Who season opener, "The Eleventh Hour," was—by coincidence and design—a good jumping-on point for the series. Season 5 began with a perfect storm of transition, simultaneously ushering in a new Doctor (Matt Smith), a new companion (Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan), and a new creative team (led by executive producer, head-writer, and evil-genius Steven Moffat). It was an unusual situation: fans with more encyclopedic knowledge will no doubt correct me, but I think this is only the third time in 48 years that Doctor Who has begun a season with such a totally clean slate; there is usually a familiar hand at the helm, a familiar Doctor to welcome a new companion, or a familiar companion to reassure viewers that the latest madman is still the Doctor we know and love.

Moffat rose to the challenge and used the opening to good advantage.  As I discussed last week, he cleverly gave us a brand new companion, Amy Pond, who had somehow known the Doctor all her life; in the process, since both the 7- and 21-year-old versions of the character were on hand, Amy served as a surrogate to whom children and adults could relate. And the story itself was good for all audiences: clever without being confusing, scary without being traumatizing, funny without descending into farce. It wasn't the best episode of Doctor Who ever, but it accomplished its purpose: to make new and old viewers alike feel like they were in safe hands.

With this year's season opener, on the other hand, Moffat seems to have different goals entirely, and "safe" is nowhere on the agenda. Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO

An Introduction

My original intention when I started this post was to review the first story of the new season of Doctor Who, currently showing on BBC America Saturdays at 9:00 EST. As it turns out, however, I seem to have a few more thoughts on last season, and the show in general, than will fit in an introductory paragraph. So this is a sort of preface, for what it's worth. Reviews of the new season—shorter ones, I hope—will follow.

Continue reading

Comments

Filed under Doctor Who, TV REVIEWS