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The Witch’s Familiar

witch

WELL.

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.

YAY!

‘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:

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pertwee nest

HMM

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????

@doctorwhothing

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The Magician’s Apprentice

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HOLY CRAP.

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)

(Now?)

(FINE.)

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.

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YAY!

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

HMM…

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.

@doctorwhothing

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The MUST SEE episodes of Modern Who

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Doctor Who has been back on our screen for ten years now (or more, really a lot depends on when you’re actually reading this) (For example, if the year is ‘now’ 2047)(Or 1937), and boy-oh-boy have we been treated to a wealth of ace new Who over that time. There have been a few brown smears here and there too (someone should really have a word with Mr Moffat when he brings up the name ‘Steve Thompson’ yet again), but they are far outweighed by the ace.

Recently there have been a lot of ‘Top Ten Episodes of Modern Who’ type lists. Only ten? These people are lightweights. I’m going to pick out the two must-sees from each season of modern Who. Plus some more tossed in on top.

Others have had their chance to point out what they claim to be ‘the best’, now here’s The Doctor Who Thing list. Which yes, MAKES IT DEFINITIVE. Take a peek, and if you rabble don’t agree, you can go straight to Hell. A Hell made of poo.

SEASON ONE:

9 and rose

The glorious return of Doctor Who! Many thought that nobody would be interested, that no one would watch, perhaps forgetting that the McGann TV movie pulled in a large audience when it was shown. Yes, okay, I was one of those worried that no one would watch, apart from you sad nerds, and me. STILL a super strong run. Sure, we had the Slitheen and burping bins to contend with, but it’s still one of the most satisfying seasons of new Who. And oh by gosh, how thrilling would it have been if they’d been able to keep that regeneration under wraps?

Dalek

POW!! As I may have mentioned elsewhere (I totes did), ‘Dalek’ was the first ten out of ten episode of new Who for me. I’d enjoyed all the eps before it, to a greater or lesser degree, but this was the first one to really blow me away. The fact the writer has not since worked on the show is a bloomin’ tragedy. How on Earth did the make those pepper pots a credible enemy?! By taking them seriously, and trusting the original design.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

“Are you my Mummy?” The Grand Moff, smashing it for six first time out to bat. Before the series aired, I had serious doubts about Mr Moff being involved, but he proved me wrong immediately. Straight away he gave us something creepy that seeped into the public consciousness. Oh, and I like to think I have a strong stomach, but when Victor Meldrew began his transformation? My goodness but did it disturb.

SEASON TWO:

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And so Tennant swaggers in, helping to stamp the shows place into many new viewers hearts. In retrospect, this season now feels a little like a slight wobble. It’s certainly the season that would sit at the bottom of any list of new Who seasons I were to make. That’s not to say it’s ‘bad’, or doesn’t contain its fair share of cracking episodes, but it feels slightly lesser compared to Eccs year, and fails to reach the highs we would get in the next two Tennant seasons.

The Girl in the Fireplace

Moffat’s first bit of ‘timey-wimey’. Clever, scary, and full of emotion (b-b-but Moffat doesn’t do emotion, RTD does!), this is a bit of a cracker and shows so much of what Who can do squeezed into one episode.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

“The Beast and his armies will rise from the pit to make war against God”. Genuinely unnerving at times. A real sense of stepping into a terrifying place that must not be uncovered. Even the bloody Ood are great, in their first story. One of a very few stories that actually has the power to scare grown adults. Wonderful.

SEASON THREE:

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This season is probably notable for three main things, that the show would go on without Billie Piper just fine, the first appearance of the modern series defining new monster, The Weeping Angels, and the introduction, to new series fans, of the Doctor’s arch nemesis, The Master. AND OH MY GOD THAT MOMENT IN UTOPIA! THE WATCH! YANA! GAAAAHHHHHH!! Yes.

Human Nature/Family of Blood

Adapted by Paul Cornell from his own Virgin New Adventures novel, this is amazing, scary, emotional stuff. And boy, was Baines a terrific, creepy baddie. And that ending! The Doctor’s cruel punishments. Yes plz. Why has Cornell not been back since?!

Blink

“Don’t even blink.” The Weeping Angels take to the stage for the first time. Some quite like this one, so I’ve heard.

SEASON FOUR:

10 and donna

Tennant’s last season, and the return of Donna. This was my fave 10th Doc/Companion combination, and a nice freshening up of the relationship after the love story of the Doc and Rose, and the unrequited love of Martha. Two mates, travelling through time & space, fighting monsters.

Silence in the Library

“Spoilers”. I recall thinking the Donna season was  ‘fine’ up to this point. Oh, I was enjoying things, and loved the Doctor/Donna partnership, but this story really took things to a whole other level, as so often happens when Moffat’s name is up front as writer.

Midnight

Boy, a real belter this from RTD, delving deep into the ugly side of human nature and the pack mentality. And who knew a woman repeating what you were saying could be so shiver-some? I really like many of RTDs episodes, but it would have been great to see him dip into this well a few more times.

SEASON FIVE:

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CHEAT TIME – This one gets three in recognition of it being THE BEST MODERN SEASON OF WHO.

Seriously.

It is.

I AM CORRECT.

What a glorious year for Doctor Who. This is when things could have gone completely tits up. RTD and Tennant had left the building. Would the show be able to survive? Uh, OF COURSE.  And so we got that Doctor, with those companions, the tone, the new Showrunner unleashed from single stories to run riot on a whole season; and it all rests upon the shoulders of three titanic stories:

The Eleventh Hour

It’s just beautiful. And the finest introduction story for a new Doctor ever. It just fills me with a giddy joy. The stakes were high with this one, new Doctor, new head writer, new producers, new companion, new, new, new. The opportunity for this to be ‘the great stumble’ were sky-high. Of course, they bloody nailed it. Amazingly so.

The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

The best Weeping Angels story so far.

YOU: “Wait..! The best?! Wuh-Wuh-What about ‘Blink?!” *Puffs on asthma inhaler*

ME: “What can I say, I’m a sexy, handsome rebel.” *Puts on shades and revs motorcycle*

Yes, obvs, ‘Blink’ is amazing, but you know what..? I liked their second appearance even more. No, it doesn’t lessen the Angels. Hush now. It’s Moffat off the leash again, and I love it.

The Pandorica Open/The Big Bang

“We’re all stories, in the end.” STILL the best season finale we’ve had, this. God, but it’s thrilling, big, confident stuff. And I love how we go from the big, noisy, colourful Pandorica and its epic series of giant cliffhangers, to something that feels much smaller. And the Doctor, crumpled, by young Amelia Pond’s bed. Beautiful.

And to think that mixed in among these episodes were the likes of The Lodger, The Beast Below, and Vincent & the Doctor. Incredible stuff.

SEASON SIX:

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 11.2

Alright everyone, hows about you layoff season six, yes?! We cool?! This season comes in for some serious stick, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not, I would argue, because there are loads of dud episodes contained within, no, it’s entirely down to the heavy arc nature of the run. This is the risk you take if you have a heavy arc season. If the arc, for whatever reason, doesn’t quite satisfy, or doesn’t seem to stick the landing, the whole season is tainted by association. Because let’s be real and funky-fresh for a second: there is LOTS of very good Doctor Who in season six. Don’t let the squashed ending or lack of satisfying emotional follow through on the River revelation blind you to that.

But which are the two stand outs?

The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

Remember when you watched the first episode of season 6 for the first time? BLOODY HELL! I was astonished, surprised and thrilled and had to watch it all over again as soon as it was finished. No one but Moffat can write Who like this.

The Doctor’s Wife

Neil FREAKIN’ Gaiman, yo. Good lord. This is a beautiful story. My fave moment? The end, the Doctor happily twirling around the console. THE FEELS. To have a talent such as Gaiman working on our little, daft show is incredible (and, uh, proof positive with his next story that even the greats can stumble and fall into a fresh, moist pile of bottom droppings).

SEASON SEVEN:

DOCTOR WHO BEHIND THE SCENES IMAGE

Season seven. Bit of an odd fish. Despite the Clara mystery kicking off right from episode one, it really does feel like two separate seasons. The Pond farewell tour, and The Impossible Girl series. And sandwiched in between, a Christmas special..! This can make season seven feel bitty, not a satisfying whole. Despite this lack of unity, there are lots of good episodes lurking within.

Episodes like:

Hide

Yeah, the happy sappy ending is a little disappointing (just let a scary-ass monster be a scary-ass monster already!), but otherwise this is a lovely, spooky thing. And those scene’s in the forest with the Crooked Man are creep-tastic.

The Name of the Doctor

That pre-credits sequence alone is worthy of a round of applause. The Doctor catching River’s hand, another round. That Hurt reveal, my hands are now starting to ache from all this clapping. It’s just good stuff, and sets us up wonderfully for:

50th Anniversary

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The Night of the Doctor/Day of The Doctor/Time of the Doctor

There was so much room for disappointment with this one. Really, the chances of ‘failure’ were exceptionally high, Moffat must have felt immense pressure. And then he only went and pulled it off. (read what I had to say about ‘Night’ here) A glorious trio of treats. Yeah, I know some of you aren’t keen on ‘Time of’, but you’re wrong, dog-food face!

SEASON EIGHT:

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Season eight is remarkable. It’s remarkable because, eight full seasons in, it delivers perhaps the most consistent seasons since the shows return. And it’s also remarkable because it feels so different to the Matt Smith years, but is helmed by the same head writer. Somehow, with the introduction of a new Doctor, Moffat was able to shake up his game and deliver something fresh. Something with the flash and bang of his own run, combined with the focus on character and emotion that characterised much of RTDs run. Well I suppose this must have pleased many of those who loved RTDs run but constantly yak on about Moffat being the Devil who should be sacked immediately because fan entitlement, right? Ha-ha-ha-ha, no. Of course not. Because those people are nuts.

Deep Breath

I wrote about Capaldi’s first episode here, and my admiration for it has only grown with each new viewing.

Listen

IT’S AMAZING. Some people don’t agree. These people are clearly Koo-Koo. I love this story. It’s scary, exciting, beautiful, and more besides. In any list of my favourite Who stories, it would make a strong case for being number one. Go HERE to read me gush some more.

CONCLUSION:

There have been LOADS of awesome Who episodes. Far to many to make it onto this list. Oh, and that it’s quite clear I’m a shameless Moff fan-girl. SHAMELESS!

So these are the correct answers, but what would you put on your (probably (definitely) wrong) lists?

@DoctorWhoThing

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pssssst: Out of the Specials year? Duh, it’s ‘Waters of Mars’, dummy!


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Season 24 Report

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Den Of Geek recently published an article showing the BBC Audience Report for Doctor Who from 1988.

It does not make pleasant reading. In fact, it basically squats over our favourite show, relaxes, and unleashes a steady torrent of bum solids.

Some who don’t care for the McCoy era have pointed to this report as validation; just today I was listening to (a great) Who podcast and one of the hosts was understandably revelling in the piece slightly. But this report isn’t slating the McCoy era, it’s slating season 24. There’s a difference. There’s a difference between slating one season and the whole of the McCoy era, and there’s a HUGE difference between season 24 and the two seasons that followed. For me, it’s almost two different eras. How can you sit ‘Time & The Rani’ next to ‘Ghost Light’???

Look, I’m not here to make any great claims for season 24, I don’t despise it as some do, but I’m not an idiot, I can see the season for what it is. And, of course, there’s a few good reasons why it came out the way it did. Season 24 was made in a mad scramble. When Cartmel came aboard there was no Doctor, one script (which he disliked but had no choice but to go with due to time issues) and production running at full pace towards him, screaming. There was no time for fine craft, only to get something, anything, in front of camera. You know what did happen once they had a little more time and more of the pieces already in place? ‘Remembrance of The mother-cocking Daleks’.

Well… okay sure, there were still stumbles in seasons 25 & 26, but they were vastly outnumbered by the great. By ‘Survival’. By ‘Fenric’. By ‘Greatest Show’. And, yes, even by this sexy beast:

Kandy

So yeah, this titchy article is basically me being irked by hearing some of the reaction to that report and feeling the need to bat down a few of the crowing hordes with a rolled up newspaper (that I’ve dipped the end of into a bucket a rat pee). People pointing out season 24s deficiencies does not make you ‘right’ about the McCoy era. (In fact, there is no ‘right’, they’re stories, like em if you like em, don’t if you don’t.) Season 24 isn’t the McCoy era, it’s part of the McCoy era. The shaky first steps.

The best was yet to come.

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Strangling Peri

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“Hi… uh, my name is Matthew and… I sort of like ‘The Twin Dilemma’…”

Stop throwing that hot garbage at me!

Look, I KNOW it places bottom in most polls, and I KNOW it’s not actually ‘good’ in the most conventional (or, well,  ‘correct’) sense of the word, but every time I watch it I enjoy the heck out of the thing. More so than, say, the deadly dull ‘Frontios’, or the even duller ‘Planet of The Spiders’, for example. Mostly, this is down to Colin Baker BLOODY WELL GOING FOR IT. He does not shuffle onto the stage uncertainly, he ROARS in like a bloody maniac. Good on you, son!

ANYWAY.

I’m not here to try and defend Twin and my wrong-headed enjoyment of it, just one infamous scene. A scene that is constantly pinpointed by fans as a massive ‘mistake’: the newly regenerated Doctor giving Peri’s neck meat a bit of a squeeze.

I LOVE this.

Talk about a way to slap your viewers right across their pampered, preconception-reddened cheeks. Peter Davison, that lovely young man, just gave up his ‘life’ for this woman, and now this usurper is trying to strangle her?!

It knocks you off-centre, and it’s darn well supposed to. It’s purpose is to jolt you and make you question this new maniac who seems to have replaced the friendly, decent chap we’ve grown cosy-comfortable with. Colin Baker here was resolutely NOT comfortable.

GOOD.

New Doctor, throw the switch the other way and shake things up. It has to be different otherwise why bother changing the Doctor at all?

It’s an exciting, surprising moment; a modern equivalent (-ish) moment would be in Capaldi’s first episode, apparently leaving Clara to her doom in the robot’s lair. The last chap would never have done that! What the heck is going on here?! Of course not long after he returns heroically, turns out he never went far, but still, for a few minutes there you’ve been gut-punched.

And by giving that example, we get to the real issue with the Doctor strangling Peri. The mistake was not the moment itself, that moment is new and thrilling and completely unexpected. No, the mistake is that the story failed to turn us round on the Doctor sufficiently by the stories end. To show he was still the same man we knew him to be. Capaldi got to come back and be a hero, Baker doesn’t really get that quick turnaround in the story, certainly not with Peri. He continues to be untrustworthy, cowardly, un-heroic, and we’re left at the end of the story (and the end of the season!) without a real sense of closure on that attempted strangulation. The audience is left unsure.

That is the real ‘fault’ here, not the strangulation scene itself, or the desire to show a larger, more volatile Doctor. The modern show got it right with Capaldi’s Doc and made sure we had some moments to grab on to, to tell us it was going to be alright. Allowed him to be vulnerable. And that’s all that was needed here. Just a glimpse or two more of the hero, and, most importantly, a clear sense of the unbroken friendship between Sixie & Peri. 

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The Night of the Doctor

Night
Well, it’s now 357 years (approx) since the worlds bestest TV show ever EVAH began: ‘The Adventures of Mr Who, Physician.’ Let’s take a peek at one of my fave parts of the 50th bash, the return of the 8th Doctor:

McGann Rugged

‘I’m a Doctor, but probably not the one you were expecting.’

Just look at him there, dashing and rugged enough to make a member of the Westboro Baptist Church question their sexuality. Now unfortunately, I had the surprise of Paul McGann’s return spoiled for me. The mini-episode was dropped without warning, I had no idea it was coming; only when I happened to click on a certain website and laid eyes upon a picture of McGann’s manly fizzog illustrating their main story, with the headline ‘Paul McGann Returns to Doctor Who’ to really spell it out for the hard of thinking, did I find out. So going into this episode for the first time, there was no surprise reveal, I already knew, but in the end, this affected my enjoyment of the short video not one jot.

Fans had gnashed their teeth in fury at Moffat, enraged that, apparently, it was going to be a modern Doctor’s only love-in for the 50th; and here Moffat swiped their legs from underneath them like the expert Troll prodder he is. I like to think he laughed for a full hour after it went out, picturing all those double chins dropping within the first minute.

McGann is often seen as the hard-done-by man of Doctor Who. I think most fans wanted to see him, for however long, back on screen as The Doctor. Opinions on his TV Movie tend to verge from ‘wuz alright’, to ‘WORST EPISODE EVAH’ (I’m a fan); but most seem to concede that McGann himself shone in the role immediately. With that potential series being put down before it had chance to find its legs (phew!), that seemed like it was going to be all she wrote for McGann as the 8th Doctor, Big Finish aside. But no, we wanted him back. He deserved it, we deserved it, and boy did it feel good to see him up there BEING the Doctor again! And with considerably less shit hair! And a real jazzy new set of togs, too! Loving those boots, Paul.

And McGann is so much the Doctor here, cheeky, dashing, petulant, clever, and willing to lay down his life without a moment’s hesitation to try and save the life of a complete stranger. Yes, this is The Doctor we know and love.

Mcgann wasn’t the only returnee though, as up rocked the Sisterhood of Karn, from Tom Baker classic ‘The Brain of Morbius’. I don’t think anyone was expecting that. Personally I would have preferred The Kandyman, but each to their own.

McGann Regenerates

‘Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly: Friends, companions I’ve known, I salute you.’

The amount Moffat squeezed into this short, short episode is quite something; and the amazing thing is that it doesn’t feel rushed. We’re introduced to a potential new companion in Cass, and off she and the Doctor run, hand-in-hand; what fresh adventures await? Then the whole thing turns on a dime and you realise she isn’t a potential spunky new cohort for the 8th Doctor, she’s the thing that’s going to bring about his end. And then! And then, resurrection, and the Sisterhood, and a shrugging off, finally, of the Doctor mantle as he accepts his role in the Time War; and at last – regeneration. The end of McGann, of the 8th Doctor, and a hello to the War Doctor. Six and a half minutes, people; this all happens in six and a half minutes. Moffat don’t mess about here, son.

And good golly, how can something with a sub-seven minute runtime be stuffed silly with so many quotable lines??

‘Bring me knitting!’

‘Because the front crashes first, think it through.’

‘Four minutes? That’s ages, what if I get bored?’

‘Yes, I’m a Timelord, but I’m one of the nice ones.’

‘The keepers of the flame of utter boredom.’

‘Physician, heal thyself.’

Mental. It’s up there with the likes of ‘City of Death’ for quotability.

Almost-Companion Cass makes a brief but memorable impression. She’s set up as a classic Who companion; she’s strong, sparky, willing to put others before herself. As she grabs the Doctor’s hand we want her to run with him right into that TARDIS and to go get into trouble; but then she stops. By setting her up as such a classic companion, having her then rather die than be saved by a Timelord shows us exactly how far the Doctor’s race have sunk; how despised they are. It speaks volumes for the acts they must have committed; something that is then barely touched upon in ‘The Day of The Doctor’. The Timelords shown there seem a pretty decent bunch.

Of course, this McGann niblet just made people go even more crazy, demanding a return, further web-episodes, an entire TV series even; but should that happen? Well, no, of course not. A full on return to our TV screens would probably not be advisable; though I think if Capaldi ever runs into another Doc in an episode, it should surely be McGann. Tennant’s had his return, Smith’s just gone, and there’s no way Eccleston’s slipping on the leather jacket again. No, get McGann back, let him strut his stuff in a multi-doc episode, then leave it there. Plus, for those of you desperate for more from the 8th Doctor, there’s already a lot of stuff out there. ‘The Night of The Doctor’ essentially made his Big Finish audio adventures cannon. Those audio episodes ARE the 8th Doctor series, so go pick some up and give them a whirl.

Moffat has given the world of Doctor Who many treasures over the last decade (let’s all ignore the introduction of the term ‘Timey-Wimey’, hey?), and ‘Night of the Doctor’, in my eyes, ranks way up there. It sits nestled, all short and tiny and perfectly formed, next to ‘Blink’, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, ‘The Empty Child’, ‘Listen’, and all the other classic’s he’s penned.

Now please, someone, anyone, bring me knitting!

@DoctorWhoThing

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Last Christmas

Doctor_Who_Last_Christmas_review

YES MOFFAT, go on my son.

Not only was this one of the finest Crimbo specials, but it was also one of the best Capaldi episodes so far. I’d go as far as to say it enters the pantheon of Moffat classics. YAS. It can now make friends with ‘Listen’, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, ‘Blink’ and all the others. Bessie mates.

This wasn’t just a stand alone special, it was really the topper for all of season 8, a culmination of the character journeys we’ve been taken on this year. It was the Doctor and Clara dealing with the lies they told and where it left them, with Clara accepting what has happened and moving on, the Doctor mellowing to show more human emotion and even unbridled joy. Oh, I’m sure he’s still going to be rude and acerbic, but it’s clear this version of the Doctor has also turned a corner.

So yeah, by gum that was a lovely special, now let’s take a quick gallop through some of the highs and lows:

YAY!

Okay, I’ll admit it, when Santa turned up at the end of season 8, I CLENCHED. Well consider me now to be as loose as a goose. Nick Frost was brilliant in the part, his offhand matter-of-factness was perfect. And the explanation behind Santa worked wonderfully and helped elevate the episode further.

Shona dancing to Slade through the scary-ass room full of monsters. What an awesome, funny, spooky scene.

IN FACT: Shona. Just Shona. What a brilliant creation, wonderfully played. I can’t have been alone in thinking we had a new companion on our hands, she seemed perfect for it. Add the fact she referred to the Doc as a ‘Magician’, and we know the next ep is called ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, and her almost desperate desire to keep in contact, it seemed we were being presented with the latest friend for the Doctor, but… she’s not there at the end. The Doctor and Clara will return. Shona is left alone in her disappointing looking life. THIS WILL NOT STAND! Surely we will be dropping in on Shona again? I DEMAND IT! PLEASE ME AND ME ALONE, BBC!!!!!

This was, at times, pretty scary stuff. The face-hugger things were creepy as all hell, the aforementioned dance through the infirmary, being pulled through a TV screen, Clara under the bench trying to do maths in her head to distract herself; this was creepy stuff for a family show! And yay to that, cuz I like my Who a bit scary, ta.

Dream Crabs. Moffat did it again. Another brilliant monster creation. Surely they’ll turn up in another episode as a sudden unexpected twist in the tail? Think of the nightmare worlds we could visit.

Troughton’s son appeared! And yes, how nice that the slimy creep was roundly mocked, then bumped off. Sexist swine!

The monsters fooled me. All this speculation that Clara would be leaving, I totally bought it when the Doctor pulled the Dream Crab (what an ace monster name) off her fizzog and she was old; that this was it. What a sad/lovely ending. BUT THEN NO! Santa is back, the Doc is still in a dream, Clara is young and raring to leap aboard for adventure again. Past angst and uncertainties between the two are now resolved and they race gleefully towards wonder and danger.  Now some sorry souls will have been choking on their sprouts at this point, cuz weird as it might seem, lots hate Clara. They decry season 8 as being ‘Clara Who’. I know, total dumb-dumbs. Personally, I think 12 and Clara have shown themselves to be one of the finest Doctor-Companion pairings in the shows long history, and if we’re getting the chance to see more of that, then yay, and woo-hoo, and all that sort of jazz. (Aw, but Shona… Yeah, she would’ve been ace) (bah)

The sort-of return of Danny Pink. His last scene, telling Clara to feel the sadness of his loss for only five minutes a day, and to live life to the full for the rest of the time, was proper lovely stuff. But Moffat can’t write real emotion! Yeah, clear off, that complaint got old (and just plain wrong) a loooooooong time ago.

The Doctor taking control of the sleigh. JOYFUL.

‘I feed them magic carrots’.

The chalk boards, wiping away words to reveal others.

There’s just so much good, I could blather on for ages.

HMM…

This is tricky… I’m not saying it was perfect, but I’m having difficulty really picking out stuff that annoyed.

OKAY! Shona not joining up at the end. WANT SHONA, WAAA….!

I worked out early on who the patients would be, but is that a bad thing..? Nah.

I guess it was a bit heavy on the Doctor explaining stuff in big chunks..?

Errr….. nope. That’s it. I got nothing.

Final Thoughts:

A brilliant way to finish off a fine year for Doctor Who. To compliment one of the strongest seasons we’ve had, we get one of the strongest Christmas specials. How very fitting. I can’t wait to see what Moff has up his sleeve for next season (And if Shona is up there, I’ll be a happy chappy). Now hurry up season 9, I’m waiting..!

Rating: 9/10

The Doctor and Clara will return in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’

@DoctorWhoThing

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