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Hey there, nerds!

For at least a while, any Who writing I do is going to be going to first. And possibly just there. Genre Reader is an ACE new site dedicated to genre fiction. Please check it out.

I co-run the thing, so do me a solid, yeah? You the best.

There are exclusives, interviews, list articles, new fiction, all sorts!

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See you over there, ya’ Who nerds!

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Under The Lake

under lake

I’ve not exactly been on the Toby Whithouse hype-train. He seems to get a lot of support as a possible show runner out there, and whilst I know he can do great things (Being Human), his Who work has rarely fully grabbed me. He’s not written ‘bad’ episodes, but also, out of the four he penned prior to ‘Under The Lake’, only one, ‘God Complex’, got me all ‘ooh!’ with little reservation. I mean, OF COURSE I loved all the Sarah Jane stuff in ‘School Reunion’, but outside of that, the episode didn’t do a whole lot.

So how did I take to this, the fifth episode by Whithouse? I really rather enjoyed it. I don’t think it topples (so far) ‘God Complex’, but it certainly did more for me than his other stories. And who knows? This is only half a story, perhaps when I’ve seen it all it will clamber up to top spot…

Part one is basically a classic Who base-under-siege set-up, and was much sparser than the opening two episodes. To sell spooky, you need that atmosphere, those drawn out moments. You need to have the space to build atmosphere, and this episode pared things down to give that necessary atmosphere room to build.

At the moment, having only seen the thing once, I do feel a little outside of the party. I’ve read and listened to lots of raves for this episode, and although I enjoyed it, I felt this was a solid 7/10 sort of an episode. It wasn’t distinctive enough to really step up any further. I mean, after you watched the last couple of episodes, there were so many moments, scenes, lines and ideas that you could gabble about after; with this episode, there was much less.

Now again, the need to build that spooky atmosphere meant you couldn’t throw too much at us, but it does mean that what you do give us has to be distinctive and strong. A lot of this felt like a retread of the familiar. Done very, very well, mind you, but adding little new or surprising to the mix.

By the looks of things, part two may well take the story into that more distinctive area I think it needs to pull the story up a few notches.

My slight reservations about this episode aside, there’s no doubt season nine has gotten off to a great start, probably the most enjoyable opening trio of episodes to a Moffat season since 5. This was another very solid, enjoyable, if not quite top-tier episode. Let’s hope the finale of this story finishes hard and brings that extra, distinctive flavour to make this one something special. If nothing else, this episode made me super-intrigued to see where things go next.


Clara’s cards teaching the Doc how to speak to normal people. FUNNY. And did you spot the poignant nod to a certain Sarah Jane Smith…?

A genuinely creepy feel at times. I do love a bit of creepy in Who.

Loved the big close-ups on eyes as the alien words were reflected across. Also, great idea that the only people the ghosts could kill were those that had looked upon the words.

The ghosts whispering words you couldn’t hear: really cool, creepy stuff.

The ‘ghosts’ looked awesome. And a great use of CGI. Not building creatures from scratch, but accentuating a real person. Ghost Doctor under the water was a particularly effective moment.

Capaldi is again just so natural in the role. No moment feels false or forced. His giddiness upon deciding the ghosts are, actually, ghosts is wonderful.

The Sonic Sunglasses are back! And useful.

Great to have a deaf character, and for her to be important and in charge. And also for the show not to make a big deal out of it.

Who is in the suspended animation pod? Must be the Doctor, right..? Schrödinger’s Doctor.

Nice to see the Doctor was back to being a little bit brusk with normal people once surrounded by them again. I had slightly worried that we’d lose too much of that spikey twelfth Doctor, good to see that spike and awkwardness is still present.

One fresh feeling element was the Doctor’s decision at the end to go back in time to see how this all started. And so we will get a part 2 set mostly before part 1. That’s a really interesting and new feeling way to approach a two parter and I’m all for it.

Not Penny’s boat.

Pritchard’s death was very effective. Trapped in the airlock, water rushing in, and then we cut to a different room and he slowly turns around, a ghost. Brrr…!


Some of the wider casts performances were a little… sub par..? Several lines just not sold at all. Dropped from mouths to flap around listlessly on the ground like dying fish.

Another Doctor fangirl? Really? Don’t we already have Osgood? (Who, in fact, returns in a few episodes!) This felt a little much. How much better, in the context of a spooky story, if her knowledge of who he is doesn’t lead to big grins and fanish bleatings, and instead to yet a further realisation of how much trouble they’re in? If you know of the Doctor, then you know he helps, and is brilliant, but you also know that lots of death is a-coming.

When you have this ace plan and the ghosts are chasing your crew, maybe pay attention and close those doors a little bit quicker? A little hustle, people! In fact this whole trap should’ve been much more frantic and scary than it was. Instead, it was rather laboured and flat.

‘I want to kiss it to death..!’ Brilliant line in the trailer, kinda stood out as a bit weird and ‘huh?’ in the actual episode.

The answer to what they were whispering seemed a bit of a …. stretch?


So that’s a quarter of season nine whizzed by, then. I know! And it’s been a strong opening, for sure. Can the rest of the season carry on this run of form?


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‘Class’ and Fan Expectations


We’re getting a new Doctor Who spin-off! This is at once great and really very unexpected news. It shows the how much the BBC still thinks of this daft show, that they still want to build new things from it.

The announcement was teased on Twitter over the space of a few hours, and it’s fair to say that many of us went into a frothing frenzy of speculation. I had work to do, but couldn’t tear myself away from all the different ideas and general fizzing glee. And then came the announcement, and a sudden slump in the tone of people’s tweets as what we were given was not what we ‘wanted’. We wanted a new 8th Doc mini-series! A movie! Captain Jack back! RTD to pen a special! Missing episodes found! A Missy spin-off! What we got was a spin-off in which, it would seem, there are no major or beloved characters at the centre. The Sarah Jane Adventures had.. uh…(Tegan..?) and Torchwood had Jack; Class has.. a building? I think it’s fair to say that many were slightly flummoxed and didn’t know how to process this left-field seeming announcement. I know I felt a little ‘oh’ about it all for a few minutes.

But that’s not the shows fault, if anything it’s a combination of how the BBC account teased fans and how we all whipped each other up into a spittle-flecked, sweaty-palmed tornado of fan-loons.

Because let’s be clear: this announcement is very, very, lovely, great, amazing news. I thought the show was past the point were something like this might happen. I never really bought the idea that the vaunted Paternoster Gang TV show would happen. Too weird. Too unique a flavour.

The Who world is expanding again. What will it be? Buffy meets Who? Something else? Doctor Who and it’s brand is as important as ever to the BBC, and this is an exciting confirmation of that, during a period where there’s a lot of doom-and-gloom about the overnight ratings.

So a big YAY for ‘Class’! Toss aside any residual disappointment about not getting the treasured treat you decided you wanted, and get behind this new, unexpected addition to Who!


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Enjoying Doctor Who


I like Doctor Who. I enjoy watching it. I mean,  I really look forward to watching it. I go into each episode hopeful that it’s going to be a good one. Thinking about the show brings a little joy to my tired, battered little heart. It may not always be the ‘best’ show on TV, but it’s always my favourite. I watch because I love it. All of it. Oh sure, there are some eras I prefer over others, and I’m not blind to faults, but every season has good stuff in it. Even season 24.

I just fucking love Doctor Who.

I know, to some sections of Who ‘fandom’, those opening few sentences WILL NOT COMPUTE. Doctor Who is something they love part of. A show that they now endure because…. because…? Because there is that part of it they used to love. And they hope it’ll be just like it was again for that specially selected period of time. But a little heads up: it probably won’t be like that again. Not quite. It can’t be. It’s not just one thing this show, it’s been made by too many different people, people who must bring themselves to it. Who must steer the ship in a slightly different direction.

So some fans claim it as their favourite show, but because it won’t conform to their specific taste anymore, they feel like they are justified in ‘hate watching’. In identifying themselves as a fan, but then putting nothing but negative thoughts about the show out into the world. Retweeting others who share their opinion in an attempt to show they very rightness of their opinion. “Look! Look! Someone else on Twitter didn’t like it, therefore I am right and justified!”

I popped onto the festering boil that is Gallifrey Base (I know, daft of me) just to check something I already assumed would be true. For each of the two recent episodes, there are threads titled ‘General Praise’ and ‘General Disdain’; two guesses for with thread gets the most action? People want to moan. Pick at. Belittle. Pretend what they just saw was the worst abomination ever created. Nothing bad, or illogical, or underwhelming, or just plain shit ever went down on their show for the period they deign praiseworthy. But NOW? Fuck me, the show can do no right. It’s an end to end crap-heap.

What happened to the pure joy of sitting down to watch this daft, fun show?

Let’s be clear, just like in the 80s, there are people who consider themselves fans who would dance a delighted jig and laugh in the faces of people who watch if the show were to be cancelled. Because then that would somehow be proof that they were ‘right’. Not that Who doesn’t work for them anymore, but that it was objectively terrible. They point at the ratings joyfully each week and make claims of the audience deserting the show. They WANT the audience to desert the show. They’d rather the show died than carry on as something that has stepped outside of their own personal tastes. Selfish? Entitled? You betcha. They don’t enjoy the game anymore so want to take the ball home. Doesn’t matter that it’s not their ball and plenty of others are happily kicking it around.

Doctor Who fans can just be THE WORST.

I’d like to think if I ever became so curdled, I’d step away from the show, because why put myself through it? ‘Oh, the old if you don’t like it you shouldn’t watch it anymore argument. How shallow, how silly, how…’ SHUT UP. Watch it if you want. Complain and complain if you have to. But by gosh, it’s a strange way to want to carry on.

In our bid to poke at, critique, bash, highlight ‘problems’, and declare it imperfect, many of us forget to simply revel in the sheer joy of this daft, scary, goofy, bold, unique show. We think it’s more important to scold its imperfections, or decry it for failing to squeeze into the tiny mold we decide it best fits in. In our rush towards the disdain, we give short shrift to the praise. Too much ‘I want it to do this and it won’t’, and not enough taking the show as presented.

No, jerk, I’m not saying we should not critique the show. Just realise that Who not being exactly like you want it to be does not automatically mean it is terrible.

Now maybe I’m easy. There is no era of the show that I would ever put the word ‘Hate’ close to. All of it has moments to treasure. Stories to cheer for. Yeah, I even like BOTH the RTD era and the Moffat era. I KNOW! Incredible. I am a special and unique flower.

Watching Doctor Who should be fun. If it isn’t for you, then that sucks, but it can’t always be what you demand of it.

‘I just want my show back!’ Some of the slack-jawed miseries screech as they stamp their feet. Sorry, bub, but it’s not your show.

Oh, one more thing: I fucking LOVE Doctor Who! It’s often silly, often scary, sometimes it’s even brilliant. I hope I always have more joy than misery for it.


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The Witch’s Familiar



Welly, well, well. That was quite something, wasn’t it? Best two parter since The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang…? (YUP). And like that story, Moffat pulls a quite different second episode out of the hat. If episode one had a lot of Universe hopping, colour, and whizz-bangness, this episode narrowed its focus somewhat for a deeper, more contemplative forty five minutes.

If you’re interested, and I KNOW YOU ARE, here’s how I thought this opening story stacked up against Moffat’s other season openers.

The Eleventh Hour: I mean, how could this ever be toppled?

The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar: Read this page.

The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon:Moon doesn’t quite live up to the first episode, but still, WOW.

Deep Breath: Fourth, and yet I love it. Kinda tells the story of how ace Moff is at opening seasons, that.

Asylum of the Daleks: Bottom, but still lots to love. It’s just that damn fool ‘the Pond’s are splitting’ thread that pulls it down, really. I mean COME ON, was anyone really buying that baloney?

Moffat has been writing for Doctor Who for ten years now, and he can still pull out a story like this. By rights he should be rolling out tired old shite by now, but nope. The show still inspires him. That’s why he doesn’t want to go yet, he knows he still has scares to tell.


‘Am I a good man?’ Oh no he didn’t! That was a real slap round the face when old no-legs said that.

Davros opened his FREAKING EYES. Daw. His sad, tiny little peepers. It felt at once awww and ewww. Unnatural. What a moment.

I saw someone mention that the rotten Daleks from the sewers, newly regen-powered up, taking out the Daleks above was a crappy Deus ex machina. No. You are a dumb-stupid. Please, fans, Google what Deus ex machina actually means. You are making yourself look daft.

Missy and a pointy stick.

How beautiful did those classic old blue Daleks look? I mean just gorgeous.

When Missy is recounting a past adventure, and we skip through a few Doctor’s before she decides to settle on Capaldi’s. GLORIOUS. 9Even if they looked nothing like who they were supposed to be…..)

Clara was hooked up as a Dalek when they were leaching some of the Doctor’s regeneration power, so… did she get a wee top up to? Or did it not affect her because she isn’t a Dalek? I guess we’ll find out.

‘Just the Doctor and Clara in the TARDIS, same old same old’ kinda seemed odd in the trailer. But in context, a mini-air punch of a moment.

Missy had a Daughter? Well obviously it’s Maisie Williams. (NO)

Ooh, the FEELS as Clara stepped into that Dalek casing. Asylum flashbacks ago-go. And when she opens the casing at the end, and the Doc cradles her big, sad face in his hands…. lovely.

‘Davros, your sewers are revolting!’ Cue slide whistle.

Missy always doing things ‘cos bananas. Attempting to get the Doctor to exterminate Dalek-Clara, just for shits ‘n giggles. 

Moffat loves to shed old things in a new light, or add to what we know, or think we know. Here, we realise when a Dalek says ‘Exterminate’, it actually might be saying a whole heap of other words. Or reloading. And that the casing basically strips the creature of individuality. It does not have a name, it is just a Dalek. That whole scene was funny and scary at the same time. Genuinely unnerving.

Clara says the Doctor is the last person she would ever kill… Foreshadowing, or nothing…?

I was right about how Missy and Clara survived, and about just what the Doc was gonna exterminate. ME SO SMART.

Julian Bleach. I mean… he IS Davros. Awesome work.

The Doctor walking hand in hand into the mist with little Davros at the end. Lovely.

Of COURSE it will be compassion that does for the Doctor in the end.

Capaldi was amazing, again. A Doctor prepared to die, if needs be, to atone for not living up to being the Doctor when he walked away from helping a small boy, to a man not prepared to go quietly once his friend gets pulled in.

I choose to believe that, when Capaldi is getting his neck squeezed by snakes, that face he pulls is a knowing nod to:

pert cap

pertwee nest


Okay, either my telly, or my ears, are crap, or someone needs to sort the audio levels out. There was one bit in the sewers where I couldn’t make out a word of Missy’s dialogue.

Missy kinda jabbed holes in that Dalek with her broach a little easily.

Where my Paradigm Daleks at?

Colony Sarff was given sort shrift this episode. A few crucial snakey moments, but mostly a forgotten character.

When Missy and Dalek-Clara return in ep two, the Supreme Dalek fella doesn’t seem to recognise Missy as the woman he just exterminated earlier. Goldfish memory?

I kinda wanted to see the Special Weapons Dalek blow the shit out of something. Oh well. Sad face.


Doctor Who, man. Best Dalek story since season one? Quite probably! Genuinely a little sad that a section of fans will watch this two part story and get nothing from it. How? HOW????



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The Magician’s Apprentice



What was that?! It was just SO MUCH. It was a bit like having The Pandorica Opens as the season opener. I’m not gonna lie, I really need to see it again to get any settled, strong opinions. Need to let it all simmer and settle. I NEED TO SEE PART TWO! Perhaps more so than most two-parters, I need the full picture.

Okay, so here are a few (slightly half-formed….) (okay, very half-formed) first thoughts after watching this crazy beast just the once.

My main takeaway is that it was like the dark, deep season 8, coupled with the wild colour of season 5. Yes, dark AND colourful. The double. Moffat is taking everything he’s done and squishing it into one. It’s a giant, bold way to open a season. It takes no prisoners and doesn’t gently hold the hand of any newcomers. (And is Who the ONLY show that reviewers obsessively worry about what new viewers will make of it?)( They’ll think ‘What the heck was that pile of crazy? I need to catch up.’ Give ’em SOME credit, guyz.) (Alright, alright, if it neglects new fans, it’ll die. I get it.)(But also, COME ON.)(Has this got annoying yet?)(Yes?)(Okay, I’ll stop.)

(Not yet)



Was it all a bit TOO MUCH to open with? It certainly ran at you screaming and waving its arms, it was quite discombobulating in a way. It was also a new, fresh feeling way to open. Moffat does like to change things up. If RTD liked a series to have a familiar flow to it, Moffat is the opposite. Change is his familiar. It does make me wonder, if this is where we start, where the heck is this season going to take us next?! 

Moffat’s Who is a big tangled mess of time, of cause and effect. This story was another dive into that sort of story. This can annoy some, confuse others, but I love it. No good or bad deed goes unpunished. You can’t just hop around in time for centuries without kicking over a few stools that you’ll end up tripping over later.

In terms of Moffat season openers, I’d currently place this above Asylum of the Daleks, and then… hmm…. possibly above Deep Breath? Nothing will usurp the Eleventh Hour, and I think The Impossible Astronaut thrilled me more completely on first watch. Let’s see how I feel upon second viewing, and after part two completes the story.

Oh, and remember when the first episode of a season was ‘New Earth’? Different show, mate. Different show.



DAVROS DAVROS DAVROS DAVROS. I LOVE Davros, okay? It’s been WAY too long since his last visit, and Julian Bleach was, once again, awesome. Unfortunately, the return of Davros was spoiled for me. A few hours before broadcast, someone found a pic of Davros and Twelve from the episode and tweeted it. Yes, some people really are total dicks. So a lot of the WAAAA?! OOOOH! OH MA GAAAAAAAAAAAD! of it all was stolen from me. But still… DAVROS.

The ‘hand-mines’. I mean, what on Earth? But also ‘wow’! And creepy as all hell. The opening, with young Davros, was wonderfully atmospheric and fantastical. It was Who meets a Del Toro film.  Seems like Skaro had a taste for mixing weaponry and the organic even before Daleks were developed.

Speaking of which…. Skaro! That beautiful Dalek city. And we got some classic era Daleks, including that sexy swine, the Special Weapons Dalek.

“Unlimited rice pudding!” Oh, I did snigger when I heard that. Davros is obviously a fan of watching classic Who. Though only the stories featuring him, the big headed so-and-so.

CLIFFHANGERS! Are there many things more lovely than a Doctor Who cliffhanger? And how wonderful that this season is so two-part heavy, ‘cos it means we’re gunna get a butt-load of cliffs to hang from.

The look on the Doctor’s face when that wee boy tells him his name…. Did the Doctor play a part in making Davros who he is?

The old ‘You would make a good Dalek’ thread continues to develop, with the Doctor holding the pepperpots own weapon and preparing to ‘Exterminate’… or is he..? I have theories, people! (Basically, no, I don’t believe he’s about to frazzle Davros Jr.)

Capaldi, man. CAPALDI! Have we ever seen a Doctor take such a journey? Develop and change so much over the course of his run? This isn’t just the actor getting used to the role, this is purposeful development. We have moved into peak Twelve, he’s a Doctor fully bloomed. The difference between the short-haired, severe Doc in, say, Into the Dalek, and the one we have now. Talk about a journey. We get everything in here, the funny, the wildness, the dramatic chops, the sense of loss, terror, shame. Capaldi can do everything.

Playing Pretty Woman when he saw Clara. The charming devil.

The Master/Doctor relationship. He sent her his final confession! His best and oldest friend. (Missy. Master. Missy. Master. Can we just call her by her proper title, now? She’s THE MASTER)

Gomez was superb again. So bonkers, then cruel, then funny, then everything at once. “Davros is your arch-enemy now? I’ll scratch his eye out.”  “How’s your boyfriend? Still tremendously dead?” She really gets some terrific lines, and Gomez delivers them all with aplomb. And, being the Master, of course she can’t resist attempting a bit of the old double-cross when Daleks and the TARDIS turn up.

The return of the hug agenda.

Colony Sarff was suitably creepy, gross looking, and the effect when his face twisted and he turned into a big ‘ol pile of snakes… coooooooool. And yuck. I bet that had a few wee ones shivering when they went to bed that night. (And was I the only one who couldn’t help but think ‘MARA!’ as the main snake reared up. Yeah, I knew it wasn’t. Didn’t stop me squeeing.)

Loved the Universe-wide jaunt, searching for the Doctor. Seeing the wider universe of Who.

The Doctor was afforded two different and equally ace entrance scenes. One dark, one pure, unbridled joy. Again, can you imagine early Capaldi rocking that axe? How far he’s come. And can you imagine any other recent Doctor getting away with that entrance? It just feels like it would be toe curling with Tennant or Smith attempting it…! At first I thought they’d thrown the switch too far the other way, but then Clara only went and addressed it and it was made clear just why he was behaving so. Good stuff.

cap road


There were a few edit and sound issues for me. Weird late cuts. Strange shot choices. Hard to hear lines. Stuff like that.

It was kinda a bit much to take in comfortably on first watch. I really feel like I need a second watch. I felt ATTACKED.

Didn’t it, you know, destroy more or less everything last time someone had the bright idea of blowing up the TARDIS?

Looked a bit parky in UNIT HQ. Health and safety in the workplace nightmare, that. Maybe consider an office relocation, before someone catches their death.

Kate Stewart. I mean. *shrugs*. Underplayed to a fault. I get it, she’s supposed to be normal, unimpressed, straight ahead, but come on, inject a little personality. A little *something*.

As I said, it reeeaaaalllly feels like an episode that I can’t fully contend with until I’ve seen the whole picture. So come at me, The Witches Familiar.

(I reckon I know haw Clara & Missy survive (Missy basically tells us earlier..!), and just what the Doc is about to do with that gun. I wonder if I’ll be right? I’ll let you know next time….)


Doctor Who is back, guys. DOCTOR WHO.


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Bye Clara. Miss Ya.

jennaSo Clara, the formally ‘Impossible Girl’, is soon to be no more. Whether she will walk of her own free will, or meet a dastardly end, Jenna Coleman’s companion is to leave during season 9.

So here’s a few heat of the moment thoughts on that.


Let’s get this out of the way first: I LOVED Clara. Okay, I’m easy. I may be alone in fandom in that I don’t hate any main cast member with the fury of a white-hot Sun. Oh, I have my faves, but I don’t really dislike anyone. Adric may find it difficult to remember how to walk across a room believably at times, but I still don’t mind him.

I’m such an easy trollop.


There have been some complaints here or there about Clara, especially about the consistency of her character. I see the same character start to end, but it’s certainly true that she was developed massively when Capaldi appeared. For example, that ‘control freak’ aspect was always there, just not directly pointed out until Capaldi did so. I mean, Clara dictated the terms of her travels with Eleven. She would not be travelling full-time, he would come and collect her on the day of her choosing each week. Nothing control freaky about that, right…?

You could even make a case for it in her first appearance, in Asylum of The Daleks. Even trapped and alone, she ‘s leading Eleven a merry dance. She’s IN CONTROL. He’s the one running after her.

cap 9

Was she hamstrung a little by being a mystery when she first appeared? Not for me. Some said they found it difficult to get to grips with someone who is THE BIG MYSTERY THAT MUST BE SOLVED. But it was only ever there for half a season, and then tidied away. Solved. Done. Plus, it was only really a mild focus in, what, a couple of the episodes? I don’t buy that the character was only defined by the mystery. I think the real problem is that the mystery was SO at the forefront of many peoples minds, that they focussed on that and overlooked the character. When it was all done with, they suddenly just had Clara and perhaps hadn’t taken her in fully as a person. For me, there was more to her than the mystery right from the start.


But enough of all that, let’s remember all the ACE STUFF. That attack on Twelve at the end of Kill The Moon. The restaurant convo with tramp Twelve in Deep Breath. How she talked the Doctor’s into doing the right thing in Day of The Doctor. ALL THE OUTFITS. The speech to Young Doctor Who in Listen. The phone call with an almost-gone Eleven at the end of Deep Breath. The surprise of her appearance in Asylum, falling for her, then realising she’s a blooming Dalek! Old Clara in Last Christmas. Hugging Twelve against his will. Jumping from Doctor to Doctor at the start of Name Of. And on, and on, and on. So many brilliant moments, stories and performances.

c tardis

Jenna is one of the finest actors to ever grace the main cast. TRUTH. And, the lucky so-and-so, she got to appear in two of the finest, all time top ten stories in the shows long history: Day of the Doctor and Listen. I for one am thankful for her time on the show, and can’t wait for another series of her and Capaldi, running through all of time and space.

And then… and then… as Who must always do… things will change…


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Strange Stories of Matthew Stott


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