SPOILERS SWEETIE! If you haven’t watched this season completely, stop reading now.
This was a classic season of Doctor Who. I enjoyed the monsters new and old, the Doctor’s inability to interact without note cards, the team of new faces and the return of old friends (OSGOOD LIVES!) and the new insights into the Doctor’s history and character. As a gadgetophile, I loved both the Sonic Sunglasses and the new Sonic Screwdriver. And – let’s face it – Peter Capaldi is gorgeous!
I am going to discuss double episodes as one unit.
The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar: The one thing that really struck me with this storyline was the way Clara flipped from super-brain to dumb sidekick. This was very poor characterization. As a sad reflection on me, I enjoyed the way Missy tormented her in the second episode, as I am a huge fan of clever dialogue. Missy had all the best lines.
It was interesting to see how the Doctor interacted with Davros as a child and Davros as an adult. The most interesting concept for me was the language of the Daleks being controlled by limited understanding of their interface between the organic creature and the robotic shell. A a writer, it was a fascinating concept to explore, paralleling the way the English lanuage has been shaped by external forces.
And I love the week long pun party the Doctor threw himself. Wearable tech. Guitar rock. Missy sassing everyone.
Under the Lake/Before the Flood: This was a classic ‘old school’ Doctor Who story. Tense atmosphere. Unstoppable monsters. Running through creepy corridors. An adorable alien – dressed as an elegant Victorian funeral director – who ends up dead, and suddenly much more dangerous. A very tangled timeline as the Doctor whips back and forth to understand the situation.
It was all great, but my absolute favourite bit was the story told by the Doctor about Beethoven to explain the Bootstrap Paradox. The whole episode was one big Bootstrap Paradox, which this story lampshades. At the end of the episode, it is underlined by the Doctor asking Clara who thought of what to program the ghost to say. Fabulous storytelling!
The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived:
The first episode was the culture clash of two warrior races, and the Doctor got to speak baby again (always a highlight for me), and the creation of a new immortal. Actually, the Doctor seems to scatter immortals in his wake. I’m a little surprised that our ash maiden survived to the end of universe looking untouched after billions of years … when even Captain Jack turned into the Face of Bo. That little chip must be bloody amazing. And yet, there was one HUGE plot hole in the second episode, that a second immortal wasn’t formed by the use of the second chip.
It was obvious that Ashildr was being built up for a future appearance (Well, it was to me. my family disagreed.) I love Maisie as an actress, so I was inclined to love Ashildr … but her final appearance in the second episode hinted at dark doings.
The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion:
Osgood LIVES! *happy dance* This article could have been a thousand paragraphs of how happy I was to see Osgood star in TWO episodes. Osgood is the every woman character for me, as a scientist with glasses and asthma (just like me) and a mad Whovian (exactly like me).
I love the Osgood/Doctor interaction. Osgood proved to be much more competent and much tougher than inferred by earlier appearances. And she was quite able to hold her own against the rebel Zygons. However, the very best moment was the Doctor’s impassioned speech about the benefits of peace. Followed closely by Osgood reading the Doctor’s browser history…
I loved the logic behind the two puzzle boxes. Pure genius.
Sleep No More:
This was the weakest of the new episodes. It was kind of a rerun of Under the Lake and Before the Flood, with the Monster-of-the-Week being a clever pun on the Sandman myth. Okay, even a weak episode is better than no episode, but this didn’t really stand out in a season of such fabulous episodes.
Face the Raven:
Clara dies in this episode. Some people hate Clara, and some people love her. I have to say I was never that passionate about her, but I’ve also enjoyed her adventures. I thought this episode was brilliant in making me sob like a baby by the end.
I was happy to see Rigsy again. The Doctor was so adorable about his delight in the baby (wanting to bring the tiny human along on adventures). And at this point, I think it is important to remember that the Doctor was once a father and grandfather – and I believe his relationship with Clara is the same sort of friendship that develops between a grandfather and his grandchild. The baby lampshaded this for me. It explains his grief at Clara dying. A heroic death making a sacrifice for a new dad doesn’t have any ironic overtones, oh no. Not a bit. Indeed…
It also brought a logical outcome to what was happening with Ashildr. I was surprised at the ambiguity of her characterisation. I am still not certain she is a ‘good’ person, or if she is still a person at all.
Heaven Sent/Hell Bent:
These were two very different episodes stylistically, but their underlying discourse was about the implications of immortality and how different people experience it. These are big themes and concepts, that philosophers have been arguing for thousands of years. Doctor Who managed to sum up all the arguments in two episodes.
The first episode hung solely on Peter Capaldi’s acting ability, and didn’t he shine! There was a quick glimpse of Clara (as a memory) and the unspeaking personification of Death, but the rest of the action and dialogue was undertaken by Peter. He only experienced one day … but on another level he lived through three and a half billion years! But if he can’t remember anything but that one day over and over (Holy Groundhog Day Batman), each of those days was full of his rage and grief at losing Clara. How could he grieve and get over it? He couldn’t.
Hell Bent saw the Doctor back on Gallifrey. You would think the episode where he finds Gallifrey would be a happy episode. Nope. But it was full of awesome. It showed you just how far the Doctor would go to rescue his Clara (grandchild surrogate). But in the end, it was all for nought. In ANOTHER ironic twist, he loses all memory of Clara the same way Donna lost all memory of him. But the Doctor wasn’t left unchanged. He still loves Clara on some level.
Clara and Ashildr (ME) get to go off on adventures in their very own TARDIS, though Miss Clara does have to die eventually. The glimpse of their TARDIS at the very end of the episode had me howling – much to the embarrassment of my family. I wasn’t crying for Clara. I was crying for Doctor, ripped away from his memories for the ‘good’ of the universe. That means he will have lost a LOT of other memories as well … for how can he retain a memory of adventures they shared?
I wonder how this is going to affect his character next season.
However, before that … THE CHRISTMAS EPISODE!
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