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"Kerblam!" is arguably the most traditional DOCTOR WHO story this series has seen so far, and by that I mean, it's the first story I feel you could grab a classic Doctor and pop him in and he wouldn't feel out of place. Even "Rosa" and "Demons of the Punjab" would feel a little odd with Hartnell popping around and lecturing us on the evils of racism (well, Hartnell's probably not the best example...). As such, whether you think that's a good thing or not is largely dependent on your feelings of the classic series.

As a fan of DOCTOR WHO across the board, I have to admit that it was quite nice to see an episode like this. Set, for the most part, indoors, with killer robots and a comedy actor taking a (mildly) dramatic turn, Peter McTighe's story wouldn't feel out of place under JN-T's producership. Weirdly though, you feel it would also look quite similar (possibly more neon). McTighe's script doesn't really take any risks; there's a small mystery as to who is behind everything (Is it the sweet lady organising people? The cleaner who befriends Graham? Or the sinister guy who grabs a weapon when secrets are dug into? LAW & ORDER style, you can guess the killer without difficulty) but the rest of the story doesn't stray too far from what you'd expect. One caveat here: there is a death that I have to admit I was definitely not expecting, and that did surprise me.

Jennifer Perrott is back in the director's chair - she of the tension-robbing "The Tsuranga Conundrum" - and once again she manages to ensure that nobody's blood pressure is raised too high. Perrott really could be dropped from the director's pool and I wouldn't lose much sleep over it. It's annoying, because in the hands of a director like Rachael Talalay or Adam Smith (you know, the ones from Moffat's era which apparently aren't allowed to be employed anymore) this episode could have been really punchy. While Chibnall seems to be aiming for bland with his scripts, Perrott appears to have taken that on board with her direction.

One other thing that Chibnall seems to be aiming for with his scripts (and this is something the other writers seem forced to take on) is the Doctor not really being the driving force for the episode. McTighe has the Doctor plodding along with the rest of the characters in trying to piece everything together, which is frustrating. The fact that they are allocated jobs based on their phsyicality and intelligence, and clearly the Doctor was initially assigned to janitorial work doesn't quite ring true; it would almost have been more fun for Graham to find himself thrust upstairs into management when the Doctor switched their ankle monitors. Graham, as usual, gets all the wonderful emotional moments, and at least the Doctor gets to display her authority and, for the first real time this series, a moment of steel when she warns that should anything happen to her companions or her newly acquired friends, the company would have to answer to her. But I'll give this episode a ton of extra points for giving the Doctor a villain to finally confront and deal with in a properly Doctor-ish manner. I also want to praise the robots, which are genuinely quite creepy as they appear and speak in their "department store cheerfulness" voices.

It's also worth giving some credit to the guest cast in general, but a couple in particular. Lee Mack is a good choice for the cheerful and empathic packer that Yaz encounters, while Claudia Jessie is fantastic as Kira. The affection which the Doctor and Ryan afford her not long after their first meeting seems totally believable thanks to the warmth her performance brings.

In many ways I feel I probably shouldn't have enjoyed this episode quite as much as I did, but I suppose there is a part of me that is longing for a bit more of the old-school DOCTOR WHO that we've had in the past, and which Davies and Moffat were good at subtly integrating into their runs. Chibnall's run has been so new that it's been a little difficult to fully embrace new WHO (particularly with the weak scripts), but while this episode may seem like DOCTOR WHO-by-numbers, perhaps it's a good time for the series to do this and remind us that the baby hasn't been thrown out with the bathwater.
Well, sadly it all appears to be confirmed - DOCTOR WHO's greatest enemy is its own showrunner, whose scripting abilities and lack of ambition severly restrict his episodes (seriously, how was BROADCHURCH so good?). This is the first episode where Chibnall's input has been kept to a minimum, and the episode is comfortably in the top two episodes we've had so far. As good as "Rosa"? Tricky...whereas Rosa had a second rate time meddler, "Demons of the Punjab" has aliens who, though initially not looking good, turn out to be alright in the end. They certainly worked better than Krasko, but I won't lie; I'm sort of hoping we might get some aliens that actually want to be a bit bad and the Doctor can defeat them.

Jodie is comfortably settling into her role now, I feel, and she is at her best when she is doing Doctorish things such as confronting monsters and building alien devices. Personally I would have loved to see Graham's speech to Yas delivered by the Doctor, as I feel at the moment the role of the Doctor is being shared between the Doctor and Graham, almost as though there's an unwritten rule that any comforting wisdom has to come from the older male of the group, rather than the oldest alien. If the Doctor had talked with Yas, Whittaker would have had her Troughton-Tomb moment (classic fans will get the reference), and she needs that.

But that's not to denigrate Bradley Walsh, who continues to be fantastic, and Mandip Gill who is equally great. I enjoy her relationship with the Doctor very much, as you get the impression Yas is both great mates with the Doctor, and also idolises her. Graham's eternal joy at travelling with the Doctor makes him indispensible, but I find myself still sitting on the fence in regards to Ryan - more often than not he is just there, struggling to add to the narrative. Vinay Patel, like his boss, seems to struggle with what to do with three companions (though unlike his boss, he isn't responsible for it).

Checking off the production side of things, it's worth mentioning that Patel's writing is superb - clearly someone who knows his stuff about the Partition of India (of which, I confess, I knew nothing, and have spent some time now researching), Patel delivers an episode that doesn't opt for the easy route of pointing at the English and saying "Look how you screwed it all up". There's an undercurrent of distrust by the Indians towards the Doctor and her friends, but that's as it should be. Instead, Patel concentrates on how the partition ripped about India, and families. Manish's actions seem to stem from good old fashioned bigotry, rather than the fault of the English.

Jamie Childs' direction is splendid, and between him and his DOP, Sam Heasman, we get some lovely imagery throughout the episode. If there's one thing that this series definitely brings to the screen, it's the clear fact that the production isn't using Cardiff every episode. I admit I'm not certain where this was filmed, but it feels very fresh and new. A mention should also be made of Segun Akinola's music, which was beautiful throughout, and delivered an alternative version of the theme (one cringes that it may be remembered as the Punjabi arrangement). I'm not generally in favour of alternative themes to suit the episode (RED DWARF went down that route and it got a little silly), but this one worked for the most part (most part - they really need to not play the theme over the Next Time montage if they are going to alter it, because it gives that montage an odd feel).

The thing that struck me most about this episode, though, were the performances; particularly Amita Suman as Umbreen and Shane Zaza as Prem. There was a great believability to their performances, and there was a genuine chemistry between Suman and Mandip Gill, which helped justify Yas' actions throughout the episode. The casting of this episode was of a high standard, but Suman and Zaza definitely stole the show, and made me want to see more of them.

Though I couldn't hand on heart say this was a perfect episode, I do find myself in the position of struggling to exactly determine what I wasn't happy with. Ultimately the best I can come up with is that I sort of wish the aliens had turned out to be doing the wrong thing, but that's just my own expectations being impressed on an episode which promised nothing of the sort. If the rest of the series can be like this, Chibnall might just about be able to redeem himself.
There are many who complained about Steven Moffat, but at this point, I think we have to face the fairly unpalatable realisation that Moffat's biggest mistake was appointing Chris Chibnall to replace him. Churning out his fourth episode (and having co-written the fifth), it would not be unfair to say Chibnall's scripts have been...workmanlike. They do the job, but they lack the concept of a Moffat or Davies script. Imagine that meeting between Moffat and Davies when Tennant took over.

"You'll be doing the fifth episode, Steven, and I want it to revolve around Madame du Pompadour."
"Done deal, Russell. I'll set it on a spaceship."
"Steven, I said Madame du Pompadour."
"Yeah, it'll be a spaceship with time windows that look onto Reinette's life, and the Doctor will be able to step through into them."
"Right, right...I like it. And...what is the point of it?"
"There's these robots and they are going to harvest her. But they look like French nobles. And they're clockwork."
"Bloody hell, Steven. That's mental. I love it. Jam packed...what more could you put in it?"
"Well, I want to have the Doctor crash through a mirror on a horse..."

What happened with this one? Was Chibnall watching Red Dwarf and including bits that he thought worked well? A pregnant man, an alien chasing the crew, something that eats power...Truthfully, this episode would have been great as an episode of Red Dwarf, not least because it would have reduced the character number to four. And that's important, because what's becoming more and more apparent is that Chibnall, having given himself three companions, really doesn't know what to do with them, especially when he packs out the additional cast. This episode he sidelines Ryan and Graham to deliver the pregnant's man baby in a plot thread that presumably fills up the extra time the episode now occupies. Annoyingly, Ryan has again slipped down to my least liked companion...for god's sake, stop being a dick, Ryan and maybe give Graham a break. Ryan is becoming a really unlikable character.

While the Doctor's companions sit around swapping some fun dialogue but generally contributing little, we are given the aforementioned pregnant man, the two medical staff, a famous general, her robot consort and Doc Brown. I won't lie - I've watched the episode twice, and I can't honestly tell you the names of the characters (I think maybe there was a Ronan and a Moberly, but I'm not certain). They've all got their secrets, which seem a little irrelevent at the end of the day, and there's no denying that there has been social messages of sorts in recent episodes. The reason I say that, is because when characters turn up with their issues, a part of my brain is wondering what sort of social message I should be looking out for. Truthfully, I'm not sure what the messages were or even if they existed. But the pregnant man who wants to give up his son, the military poster woman with the disease she can't reveal, Doc Brown being rude to an android, and the nurse who lacks confidence, aren't obvious examples of social messages. Use protection? Nobody's perfect? Don't be a racist? Believe in yourself? I can't help but think the entire episode would have worked so much better if the TARDIS had simply materialised on board an empty spaceship which was being attacked by the Pting, and the crew had to work out what was going on and how to stop it.

Which brings us to the Pting.

I watch these episodes twice before I write these reviews - once first thing in the morning, and once in the afternoon with my children. Despite the fairly standard sci-fi tropes of the last few episodes, my children enjoyed the tension and were a little frightened of the spiders last week. This week they openly laughed at the Pting; laughter which only increased as the creature had a bomb explode inside of it and floated into space. Now, while I blame Chibnall for the ordinary writing, I have to place some of the blame at director Jennifer Perrott's door as well. There is literally no tension in this episode at all, and very little surprise. The death at the end is signposted so clearly that my six year old didn't even raise an eyebrow when it happened.

This episode was a waste of its cast, it really was. Jodie Whittaker is proving herself a great Doctor, while Bradley Walsh is consistently brilliant, and Madip Gill and Tosin Cole can be great if given something to do. But this episode didn't deliver. Again this lacked the DOCTOR WHO-isness that something like "Rosa" delivered, and given the common link so far is Chris Chibnall, it's hard not to put the blame at his door.

We're halfway through the series now, and by this stage Eccelston had brought us to tears while talking to a tree, Tennant brought us to tears as he lost his love and found Sarah Jane, Smith had debuted in the best debut episode ever, and then freaked us out with the Weeping Angels taking on THE RING, while Capaldi had fought with Robin Hood, confronted a good Dalek and panicked about the possibility of a creature that could hide perfectly. As of yet, Chibnall has yet to allow Whittaker the opportunity her predecessors had. And that doesn't bode well for the thirteenth Doctor's future.
It's been forty-four years since DOCTOR WHO did giant spiders, so it's probably time for a comeback, though these aren't alien spiders with shrill voices that have been mutated by radiation; no these are normal spiders that have been mutated by toxic waste - teenage mutant ninja spiders, if you will. It's a fairly scary concept and Chibnall's script for this episode is probably the best he's turned out this series, solo. Some of the scenes are wonderfully creepy, including the discovery of the next door neighbour and the giant spider coming up out of the bathtub.

Nonetheless, Chibnall's strength lies in his character interaction (unsurprisingly), and that comes across very strongly this episode, as we get to meet Yasmin's family, and the Doctor acquires an entire entourage, meaning there are plenty of great character interactions. At times, though, the large number of companions is both a strength and a weakness. Yasmin's family is brilliant, and the moments between Ryan and Graham are perfect, but as usual, at various points throughout the episode either Ryan or Graham feel like an extra wheel. It's almost as though Chibnall decided on a set number of character points, but decided he would have three companions rather than lose a character foible, regardless of whether he needed those companions or not. By the end of the episode, the Doctor has three companions, a companion's mother, an expert and a complication tagging along after her, and there's a lot of people standing around not always contributing.

One person who isn't standing around doing nothing is Chris Noth, former LAW & ORDER star (amongst many other things - no doubt to some he'll always be Mr Big), this time doing his version of Donald Trump, and delivering a bravura performance. I was ridiculously excited to see Noth appearing in DOCTOR WHO, and he was fantastic (though when Trump is actually mentioned, it seems a little odd - Noth's character worked better as a Trump pastiche, rather than an anti-Trump). Also, I couldn't help but feel he seemed to have a point, despite coming across as slightly stereotyical with the gun obsession; the Doctor's solution to the problem was to lock all the spiders in the panic room to starve, and let the spider-mother die of oxygen starvation, both of which were "natural and respectful" deaths. It seems to me that Jack Robertson's bullet to the head was indeed more of a mercy killing, then leaving the creatures to starve to death. 

I've also come to like the title sequence, which I was a bit unsure about when I first saw it, and I think that seeing it as the time vortex this episode helped sell that. The TARDIS journey at the beginning was really well done, in truth; I do like that small bit of consistency in 50 odd years of DOCTOR WHO - the title sequence being the time vortex. There is a feeling, now, that the production is properly on its feet and all the factors are working, for the most part. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, to be honest, and I felt that the companions' return to their home and ultimate decision to continue to travel with the Doctor was particularly well handled, and made a lot of sense. So far Chris Chibnall's weakness seems to be in the big Doctor Who-y concepts, but his absolute strength is definitely in the dialogue and interaction his characters have. When coupled with even a pretty good concept, that can deliver a very solid, enjoyable and in this case, quite creepy episode. If this is the base-line for DOCTOR WHO now, then it seems the series is in pretty good health.
This week's DOCTOR WHO raises a slight concern, one which I'll get to at the end of this review, because it is a little worrying.

I've been a little underwhelmed by the previous two episodes, and after some musing this week I realised that the problem was that the essential concepts behind them were concepts that, really, could have been done in any science fiction show without too much change in the storylines. We haven't had a good DOCTOR WHO concept...something along the lines of an alien gets Da Vinci to paint seven Mona Lisas in order to change history; an invisible monster on a world of diamonds can mimic people's voices; irradiated mutants in personal tanks want to wipe out a race of Aryans. Something that only DOCTOR WHO can do well. This week, the series delivered. A time traveller works to stop Rosa Parks from taking a stand against racism.

I have to admit, I didn't know an awful lot about Rosa Parks before this episode - I knew the broad strokes, but I didn't know the details, and certainly wasn't consciously aware of the link with her and Martin Luther King. "Rosa" went back to DOCTOR WHO's 1960's charter - to educate and entertain. This episode was so interesting, I went online to see just how close to reality it actually was (interestingly, some of the dialogue is word for word what happened). "In the day" DOCTOR WHO was supposed to do just that, and while some railed against the idea of the series taking on an educational bent again, in truth, it doesn't hurt the series at all.

The episode was brilliant, of course. Vinette Robinson was the episode standout as Rosa Parks, bringing grace and dignity to the role, but it was the fact that the episode didn't shy away from the brutality of racism that impressed me. I watched the episode twice - once alone, and once with my children, who had many, many questions at the end, including what the man meant by Ryan having a noose around his neck if he touched a white woman. It was awkward, but again, I think they learned a great deal from it.

On top of Robinson's brilliance (and I should mention that Ray Sesay was a very good, brief, Martin Luther King, while Morgan Deare is another actor who can claim to have worked both on the classic and current versions of DOCTOR WHO), it was the regular cast who deserve mention again. I can't help but love Whittaker's Doctor, and her little mannerisms (be they the weird look when Graham put his hand on her shoulder, saying she's struggling to get used to being called "ma'am", or lines like "I did *not* warm to him") are giving definition to her Doctor. She has a natural leadership as well, which doesn't ever feel forced. Mandip Gill was great again, and her character is starting to round out a lot more, while Tosin Cole's Ryan didn't annoy me this week, and contributed a great deal. But Bradley Walsh is still the standout companion, able to deliver so much with just a look, whether it's the pain at his wife's death or knowing that his actions are going to cause Rosa to get arrested. Three episodes in and the team is really starting to work well.

I really loved this episode, but if there's one thing I felt was slightly disappointing, it was the fact that the Doctor never addressed the fact that Krasko was clearly a racist himself. Yas gives an uplifting story about how racism is being destroyed, and yet in the future we have Krasko who is, as Ryan says, still living in the past. I think I would have liked the Doctor to make some comment about this.

Mark Tonderai again directed this episode, and it's another that made use of the South African filming that was undertaken. Tonderai is a very able director, though I must admit this week's episode didn't feel quite as grand as last week's, though it may be that Tonderai felt he didn't neee to compensate as he had a stronger script, and that would probably be quite accurate.

So both these points - Krasko and the stronger script - bring me back to my concern. This script was co-written by Chris Chibnall and Malorie Blackman, and having read Blackman's previous DOCTOR WHO novella, and knowing some of her work, I am guessing that Chibnall was responsible for the rogue time traveller aspect of the story, which I feel was the weakest part of the episode. It's only a guess, but if it's true, it does worryingly point to the idea that Chibnall doesn't really have the grand scope to be a good showrunner. I fully admit I'm judging this based on no evidence, other than the previous two weaker episodes, but I do wonder if Chibnall was the right choice to replace Moffat. Please, prove me wrong, I would love to be, as there is so much greatness about the new series (and the console room has really grabbed me this episode).

But let's end on the positives, because this was fantastic DOCTOR WHO - all the elements were in place, with some amazing performances and a real message that didn't preach, but certainly educated. Sydney Newman would have been proud of this one, and that's one hell of a compliment to Chibnall, Tonderai, Whittaker and the team.
So, up front...I don't like the title sequence. I've watched it a couple of times, but it just looks like someone's been mucking around on the Media Player visualiser, so I can't lie, it really doesn't grab me (also, no TARDIS or Doctor's face!). But, the title theme, on the other hand, has totally grabbed me. The more I hear it, the more it appeals to me. And, as we're dealing with the various bits and pieces that now make up the series, without doubt, Jodie Whittaker is brilliant as the Doctor. Her costume works fantastically, and she has a genuine authority that works well for me. Piers Wenger comments about her lacking daffiness is complete rubbish, as she brings a real quirk to the role. Bradley Walsh and Mandip Gill continue to be really good, but truthfully, Tosin Cole as Ryan is the weak link. I would be fine if he were written out of the series; he's such a whinger. And of course the other series stalwart returns this week as the TARDIS is found (Chris Chibnall's claims that we might not see it all series were clearly deliberately misleading, but more on that later). The new box design is fine, and there's a cheeky reference to an old Doctor Who line as we see the interior for the first time. I saw the concept sketch today which was beautiful, but that hasn't quite made it to the screen, I feel. Rather than the gleaming silver and gold of the concept sketch, we have mud brown and muted yellows. I feel it may take some time to grow on me.

But enough about the series signatures, let's examine this week's new episode of DOCTOR WHO, "The Ghost Monument". There was a genuine feeling of delight when we found out the monument was the TARDIS, and Whittaker's performance on seeing it, being stranded on the planet at the end and seeing the TARDIS arrive were absolutely pitch perfect. Whittaker can be quirky, tough and emotional which is exactly what the Doctor should be. Unfortunately this episode shows the problems with having three companions, as the story barely has enough for one companion to do, let alone three. Yas and Graham get the opportunity to say some supporting things, but Ryan acts like a fool as he takes a gun and thinks he can defeat killer robots having played a computer game. It's believable, but he should be bloody grateful he wasn't travelling with the twelfth or ninth Doctors, who'd have most likely thrown him out of the TARDIS for that stupidity.

The story itself however was another fairly shallow affair from Chris Chibnall, which is mildly concerning - as the showrunner, you sort of hope for the more interesting stories from him, and yet Chibnall is giving us fairly standard sci-fi fare: two people in a race to win a fortune, and the Doctor arrives to keep them alive. It's not original, and not really brilliant, but I'm hoping that this is Chibnall giving the characters a chance to develop and the audience the chance to adapt to the new take on the series. Certainly there's some fun dialogue (The Doctor's "Come to Daddy...err, Mummy" line was fun) and Chibnall is not totally cutting the series off from the past, though he's being subtle about the references (the Venusian Aikido was great).

It also appears that Chibnall has fibbed slightly about there not being a story arc this series, as this is the second episode to reference the Stenza, and there is a curious line about "the timeless child" which the Doctor reacts to; presumably there will be a reason for both of these things in the future, which does put paid to Chibnall's "all episodes will be standalone" line.

The other three cast members in this episode are all good, but only Susan Lynch really gets to do deliver a character, as Angstrom actually has a great backstory and is very worthy. Epzo is painfully in-your-face (I don't trust the universe after my mother didn't catch me), but that's not Shaun Dooley's fault, who is giving his best with very little character, but it's Art Malik who is criminally underused. Malik is a superb actor, yet all he does here is sit on a chair and make pithy commands. I hope he returns again this series, otherwise Chibnall and director Mark Tonderai dropped the ball.

Tonderai, incidentally, does a great job with the direction, and he makes the most of filming in South Africa. Director of photography Tico Poulakakis also deserves a lot of credit for his work, as the actual filming looks very moody and (with the exception of the TARDIS), perfectly lit.

All of this means that it's slightly frustrating that with a great cast and an innovative production crew, the episodes still aren't landing as well as they should, and that means that Chibnall is the one we have to point the finger at. Chibnall knows how to make and write good television, but at this point he isn't close to either of his two immediate predecessors, or his own personal best. Eight more episodes to go though, so he can still redeem himself.
DOCTOR WHO returns in what seems like a strangely long time betweeen series, though in truth it's not been as long as some. But of course this time it's what is effectively a relaunch of the program, something that two showrunners have now done before Chris Chibnall, and if I'm genuinely honest...they both sort of did it better.

So, to be clear from the outset, the fault doesn't lie at the door of new Doctor Jodie Whittaker, who is quite frankly superb in the role. I was a little dubious about her casting, insofar as, I suppose, I had her BROADCHURCH performance firmly lodged in my mind and that doesn't seem particularly Doctor-ly to me. But of course that's doing a good actress a huge disservice, and Whittaker steps into the role with confidence, charm and - despite the protestations by BBC Controller Piers Wenger - a fair dash of eccentricity. I had been swayed by her new costume, but I must admit that an episode wearing her predecessor's garb made me realise just how well she pulls that costume off. It was almost a shame when she replaced it (though the Doctor getting her costume from a second-hand shop was perfect). It's Whittaker's performance that gives cause to be firmly optimistic about the forthcoming series.

And she's not the only one. Bradley Walsh is unsurprisingly great as Graham, while Mandip Gill is a delight as Yasmin. Both companions complement Whittaker's Doctor very effectively; the former is down-to-earth and skeptical, while the latter is enthusiastic and understanding. Tosin Cole's Ryan doesn't work quite as well, unfortunately, and I found it difficult to generate a lot of sympathy for him. He'll probably grow on me over time, but at the moment I wouldn't have been upset if he hadn't been caught up in the Doctor's device at the end of the story.

All of which brings us to the question of why "The Woman Who Fell To Earth" doesn't quite land the punches as it should. The story, on the whole, feels shallow and more than a little recycled: the idea of an alien coming to Earth to hunt a human being feels a little like we're back in PREDATOR territory, and while the idea of the Stenza seems cool, the decision to avoid any gore leaves it feeling a little toothless (if you'll pardon the pun). I honestly thought we might get a moment of seeing Tim Shaw (which is a great gag) sticking a tooth in his face, but it never happens. But with the flimsly plot there's also a lack of any particular action - the only genuinely tense moment was the Doctor's leap from crane to crane, but it's really too little, too late. In order to get there, we meander from one location to the next, without any sense of urgency. It's not bad, in any sense of the word...it's just bland. Now, people may be shouting that the point of the episode is to introduce the four lead charactes, but both "Rose" and "The Eleventh Hour" had to do the same thing, but both did so while providing us with energy and spark. TWWFTE lacks a little of both.

I was unsettled about certain other elements, but I concede that much of that may be down to the conditioning we've had from the past ten series of DOCTOR WHO. I'm not sure what was achieved by ditching the title sequence (indeed when Whittaker first appears to the bass line of the theme, it seemed the perfect moment for the titles to kick in), but it was frustrating that we didn't even get captions, in a similar vein to "The Day of the Doctor". Next episode will deliver the titles proper, which will probably reassure my fanboy heart. Segun Akinola's music is an interesting change in tempo (all right, that pun was unforgivable) to Murray Gold's, but it's quite welcome and added a lot of atmosphere to a story which Jamie Childs' direction didn't always live up to. His version of the theme will take some time to grow on me, but I've no doubt it will.

Overall, it was a muted beginning, with some fantastic performances that promises an enjoyable new series and a fantastic new Doctor.
SPOILERS

Hmmmm....

Well, let's get the elephant in the room out of the way first. There's some specific aspects of this production that I really didn't like, and was never going to. As such I'm just going to move straight on from them, because ultimately for the majority of viewers it's not going to be an issue. It created a lot of little niggles for me, but I won't dwell on it here.

As for the episode itself...I found it seemed like a non-event, to be honest. The original Doctor being afraid to regenerate makes sense, but the twelfth's decision seemed to have changed from the last story - now he wants a rest, though bizarrely he wants a rest by dying. Couldn't he just regenerate and go into retirement?

I had a lot of questions about this story, to be honest, and most of them seemed to be the obvious - why didn't Bill just say who she was from the outset? Why were the Testimony so coy about everything? At the end of the day, the entire story could have been resolved simply by the Testimony saying what was going on, avoiding the trip to Rusty and the Doctor coming to the conclusion that everything was fine.

But furthermore...surely the Doctor's actions altered time, which was something the Testimony were actively avoiding doing. Were they not upset that the Doctor had changed time? Why did Bill not bother to mention this? Did the Doctor not, therefore, change the Brigadier's timeline? Truthfully, the more I think about the story, the less it adds up.

Touching on performances, Capaldi was on fine form, as usual, though in truth his last speech in the TARDIS seemed forced, and despite the promise of an emotional farewell, I wasn't really moved in the same way I was when Matt Smith left; that regeneration seemed much more emotional to me. Pearl Mackie was fantastic (and the two cameos at the end were delightful), while Mark Gatiss turned in a very nice performance indeed.

The problem with regeneration stories, though, is that the regeneration hangs over the episode. If the story isn't firing (as this one really wasn't), there's an eagerness to get to the change. When it comes, when we get to see Jodie for the first time, she instantly makes a mark, and what happens to her immediately after is exciting and interesting; I really don't want to wait nine months to see her in action. Also...she really suits Capaldi's costume.

But if I was honest, the twelfth Doctor left with a whimper rather than a shout, which was sadly low key for such a brilliant Doctor. Too much of the story happened in order for story to happen, rather than out of any common sense reason. A disappointing end.
Hello to all!

I just want to write a quick message to let you all know that I've been a little busy over the last year and that has prevented me from interacting on dA as much as I'd like to, and as properly as I should. I didn't even get around to writing my Doctor Who reviews this year (started, then it all fell apart). Anyway, the point being, I'd like to apologise to anyone who feels I may have been rude by not responding or having just forgotten about them. I assure you, it's not the case, and on the odd occasion I get on, I see stuff I should reply to, and then curse the fact I don't do it. So please know I do think of you all...but I don't do what I should :(


Thanks for sticking around, though :D I do appreciate it :D
I can't lie - I was predisposed to love this episode. David Suchet is one of my all time favourite actors (and, let's be honest, the definitive Poirot), with an ability to break free from the obvious stereotype which is to his credit. Creepy old house and David Suchet in Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi. It's difficult to imagine how this could fail to deliver.



And of course, it didn't. Suchet was absolutely wonderful, crafting a fascinatingly creepy character who appeared and disappeared in the house like a ghost. For a while I thought that that was what he was, until we got the revelation there were secret passages and elevators. Bill's line about him not Suchet's character not being wood was a wonderful "it's been staring you in hte face" moment. In short, the episode could have relied on Suchet's performance and it would have been outstanding.



But we have the continuing relationship with the Doctor and Bill which is developing very nicely. I like the fact Bill wants a part of her life separate to the Doctor, but equally I like the fact that's becoming impossible. And of course there's Nardole and the Vault...



What is in that Vault? Knowing that the Simm Master is going to return, it's tempting to think that it's him in the Vault (I mean, who else would play the piano and enjoy Mexican food?), though it could be the Gomez Master as well. Or a Cyberman...At this point, I'm not entirely sure to be honest. I thought I had an idea, but last night changed that, so the mystery has returned. We don't have long until we find out the truth, but Moffat has crafted an excellent arc this season, and one that is really driving the show along nicely.



Now of course, there were other cast members in the show, and for a little bit it felt like a new episode of Class - in fact, part of me thinks they should have taken the opportunity to have Bill be a friend of Ram's or April's, though given how Class ended, I suppose that would have created more questions that may never be answered. The characters were nice enough, but obviously we didn't know enough about them to be seriously invested in their survival, and neither did Bill, which presented a little bit of an issue. Given everything that's happened, and the whole Heather thing, I'm surprised she wasn't a little more concerned about the missing Pavel, but on the other hand, she was trying to keep this part of her life free from TARDIS complications...



Bill Anderson, I think, was perhaps the genuine star of this episode. His direction was very good, creating a suitably sinister atmosphere which permeated throughout the episode. The appearance of Eliza was handled particularly well (I must admit I'm curious to know whether she was a CGI or prosthetic creation).



So, obviously, I loved it. Four episodes in, and I'm being swept along by this season. It feels like it's naturally developed from the previous two seasons, giving us a Doctor that has genuinely made a character journey. When the Doctor spoke of regeneration, there was something in Capaldi's performance that clearly hinted of things to come, and whilst people may have not taken to Capaldi's Doctor initially, I do feel that Moffat and Capaldi have given us a Doctor that is genuinely different to anything we've seen before - be it classic or new Who - and when he's gone, we're gonna miss what we had in a big way.
Frank Cottrell-Boyce's last entry to the Doctor Who canon (yeah, I said it), was the somewhat uninspiring "Forest of the Dead", which wasn't inherently bad, it was just a bit dull. Also, it sort of stretched the credibility factor a little (I'll accept a lot, but forests dissipating into fairy dust was a tough one to reconcile). This time round, he's improved. Unfortunately, it comes after an episode that was pretty amazing, and as such...



Again, there's nothing particularly wrong with the episode delivered. It's not a particularly original concept; the idea of a group of robots misunderstanding a human emotion and killing everyone because of it is a staple of science fiction, really. The use of emojibots is actually quite clever, though it does sometimes come across as having been written by someone who hasn't kept up with emojis on the whole. The yellow smiley face has evolved into such a huge variety of expressions, that the one's we got seemed a little limited - being able to explain the plot of movies with emojis has become a great game online; with the emojibots you'd struggle to explain a fairytale.



And this is probably my biggest gripe about the episode, because there seems to be a fundamental problem with the emojibots. They can convey emotions, and these include sad faces, teary faces and crying faces. So why, exactly, do they - and the Vardi -  not understand grief? At its basic level they must understand sadness, otherwise why have an emoji for it? Indeed, they must understand sadness in order to rectify it. The Doctor says no one every thought of the happiness as a thing, but that's clearly not the case. It seems a bizarre leap for a robot to decide they can't solve the problem so just get rid of it; surely they would just try harder to solve the problem, even if they do think differently. They are programmed to create happiness after all...



Putting aside this annoying obstacle, the rest of the episode is largely quite good. For the most part it's a two-hander between the Doctor and Bill, with both Capaldi and Mackie giving it all they've got and once again showing just how good this new TARDIS team. Matt Lucas gets only a short appearance at the beginning of the episode, but it's fun to see the Doctor with a snooty butler, and it provides a sharp relief for just how much the twelfth Doctor has actually changed from the acerbic traveller he was two seasons ago.



Direction and set design were also on point this week; Lawrence Gough clearly has a firm handle on how to direct Doctor Who, while Michael Pickwoad doesn't appear to be running out of fresh ideas for the series. Indeed, the location for this episode was particularly good and was very different to anything that had gone before (I'm quite fascinated to know where it was filmed, actually, as the field also gave the episode a substantially different feel).



And yet, I can't honestly say I was really fired up by "Smile". Perhaps I was expecting something a little more language based, rather than a fairly traditional sort of plot that I've seen before, and maybe that's my own fault for having false expectations. Either way, next week seems far more interesting storywise than this weeks.
Someone wrote in their review of "The Pilot", 'a black lesbian who serves chips. [Moffat] trying to get the widest appeal possible'. This was a "fan" apparently. Now, let's put aside the racist and homophobic nature of the post (just throwing it out there, but I don't think the population percentage of black lesbians is as massive as this idiot suggests - but let's face it, he's not...he's just a bigot), but this fool is criticising Steven Moffat because of the perception that he is trying to get Doctor Who to appeal to a mass audience...as if that's a bad thing. I'm sorry, but I've got news for you mate, there's not a single production company on the planet who brings in a showrunner, or equivalent, and says "If you could make sure your product targets the smallest demographic, that'd be great". Yes, it's come down to a bigot criticising a man for doing his job.



And let's not play games here, because this twat is genuinely stupid. How many people who aren't Doctor Who fans are reading this? Actually, belay that. How many of those reading this know who the Movellans are? You don't? Well, let me tell you if a better half isn't already lecturing you. Those white garbed chaps fighting the Daleks with the silver dreadlocks and funky handguns...those are Movellans. I know this, because in 1979 there was a Doctor Who story called "Destiny of the Daleks" which was about the Dalek/Movellan war. The Movellans, incidentally, look almost exactly the same.



People ask why I like Moffat as a showrunner, and it's because a) he really does try to target the widest audience, but also b) he's a Doctor Who fan through and through. He puts in this sort of thing for the long term fans, writing it in a way that won't puzzle the more recent fans. And also, he's not a bigot, so he's happy to write in a black lesbian who has a crush on someone. "I can't believe they're making such a big deal out of Bill being a lesbian!" people cried - well Moffat wasn't. She just was. But for people who that was important to, I'll bet it resonated. For everyone who isn't a close-minded hater, it was just another character. For every bigot on the planet...well let's hope they turned off and refused to be part of the Doctor Who legacy ever again. Because we don't want those people.



And incidentally, if you really want to know how much of a fan Steven Moffat is...it's interesting that William Hartnell - or Bill as he was known - was married to...Heather. Coincidence?



But enough about this. Let's talk about the return of Doctor Who, and "The Pilot". Moffat has decided to take a left hand turn with the series this year. The Doctor is undercover for some reason, and has been for a considerable time. He's been accompanied by his latest friend Nardole - who appears to have a robot body for the head that Hydroflax cut off way back in 2015 - and the pair are looking after something in a vault. This is the Doctor as per the last season. He's not grumpy, he's still the aging rocker, and the loss of Clara and River have had an effect on him. He is fascinated by Bill, and so he takes her under his wing, Educating Rita style. But he likes her, and his Christmas present to her is something that's very special. Peter Capaldi is brilliant as the Doctor, and the fact he's evolved his character - whether by plan or reaction - is actually great. He's the House of the Doctors.



Matt Lucas gets surprisingly little to do, but seems to be determined to deliver his best regardless. I didn't like him much in "The Husbands Of River Song", but I enjoyed his character more in "The Return Of Doctor Mysterio". Now, not only do I like Nardole, but I'm interested in what's going on with him. What was the significance of that part falling out? Just to let us know the truth of him, or something more?



Pearl Mackie, on the other hand, has completely shat all over her haters with a very beautiful performance. Bill is instantly likable, and her fling with Heather - passing as it was - was very sweet, and added much to the character. Bill is very Rose, but in a different sort of way. She fits in with the Doctor/Nardole dynamic very nicely. She's curious, intelligent and adventurous. More than that, she does indeed point out the things that don't make sense. Nothing is more telling of that than when she pointedly asks the Doctor to think what it would be like if someone wiped his memories - something a little musical riff tells us the Doctor knows very well. I like Bill a lot, and I want to see more of her.



And, in a way, that's the downside of this episode. This TARDIS team feels right. The fact we know it will end by Christmas this year is a little sad, because I really enjoy the thought of spending time with this crew. Perhaps, though, I'll cherish it more knowing that this is what we have.



The rest of the story is great fun. A time-travelling, sentient oil that can mimic people. Ridiculous, and typically Moffat, but it's a great MacGuffin and directs the story in a fascinating direction. That Bill saves the day makes it even better. That she does it by love...well, perhaps we should have expected that.



Moffat's traditional theme of children is still at play here (though Bill is the child, and she's more grown up, but perhaps that is reflective of Moffat's own family), but there's nothing stale or second-hand about this plot at all. It feels fresh and new. Lawrence Gough gives the episode some punchy direction, and offers some interesting shots along with the fascinating editing decisions (the Doctor's lecture on time is extraordinarily well edited). Even the TARDIS interior feels different this time round (definitely the lighting, but it feels a bit sparser than it has in previous years).



Doctor Who is back, baby, and Moffat and Capaldi are clearly ready for one final round. With this mission statement, it could be one helluva ride.
Getting a "with" credit in the title sequence (only "with"? Surely it should be an "and...as the Doctor"?), it takes about 35 minutes before Peter Capaldi shows up in "Tonight We Might Die", the first episode of new Doctor Who spinoff, Class.

Why is this important, you might ask? Well, it's because I spent about 35 minutes waiting for him to arrive. Now, I'm not sure whether this is because without a new season of Doctor Who this year I'm a little starved for it, or whether Class wasn't really gripping me as much as I wanted to. If I'm genuinely honest, I sort of think it's the latter.

Class is an odd beast, to be honest. It's hard to tell exactly what audience it's aimed at. Definitely not The Sarah Jane Adventures audience, but also not the Torchwood audience. Strangely, though, it doesn't seem to be targetting the Doctor Who audience either, and that makes you wonder, what demographic is actually left? It genuinely feels like this has been made for 15 - 17 year olds, which is a pretty niche market, and means that I'm not really in a good position to make critical comment.

For instance, I didn't particularly like many of the characters. They're all quite well acted, don't get me wrong, but Charlie and Miss Quill - our two nominal aliens - don't really endear themselves very much. The latter is basically an unlikable bitch, while the former is just too remote to care for. Ram and Tanya are OK, and there's some attempt to give them some character depth, but it's a bit flimsy and doesn't really work. Sophie Hopkins' April is the only really likable character, but in the same way the first series of Torchwood wasn't made good by Tosh being the only character you wanted to see live, so too, Class is going to need more than just April to make this show worthy.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the show so far is that it seems to lack any originality. The dialogue makes this a little on the nose, as the school is compared to the Hellmouth and various other gateways in television, which seems less a knowing wink to the audience, and more an unfortunate admission of guilt. It's a bit like that moment in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE where Jean says the third movie is always the worst. That kind of comment doesn't work if it's actually true of what you're making. Equally when Tanya points out that April mentioning a guy makes causes the Bechdel Test to fail, I was hit by how hard the show was trying to do the right thing. From that point on, I realised the show doesn't actually pass the test; even April's chat with her mother is based on her getting a prom date.

The story itself is also fairly generic - alien race invades, our heroes stand up to them, the Doctor arrives to point out there weakness and this is exploited by child genius Tanya. Ram gets his leg cut off, while April loses her heart (a plot point which genuinely makes no sense to me), and the Shadowkin are defeated.

So was there anything to like? The Shadowkin are brilliantl realised and look absolutely fantastic. Special effects are on par, and as I mentioned earlier the acting is pretty good - it's just unfortunate the characters aren't. There's a few Doctor Who references (keep an ear out for the ninth and twelfth Doctor's musical motifs, while the honor board mentions S Foreman, D Pink and C Oswald), and it's probably a good thing the show is embracing it's heritage rather than sidestepping it, the way Torchwood did in the first series.

It's only the first episode, so judging it too harshly seems a bit churlish, and I'll certainly be watching it to the end, so I'm happy to see it improve. But I do feel that improvement is required.
There's a lot of people saying "The Husbands Of River Song" is the least Christmassy of the Doctor Who, though I must admit I'm not quite sure why they say that. There's snow, the story ends on Christmas, and the Doctor opens the episode with antlers. For me, the signs were writ large that this was The Christmas Special, and truthfully I've never really had a problem with this. After all, that's what it is. Why bother to fight it?



So aside from the traditional moans about Christmas specials, this also saw Alex Kingston returning as River Song (and getting her name in the title credits for the first time ever!), which brings forth another round of whinging from a section of Who fans who hate the character, or who hate the idea of the Doctor being in love with her. Steven Moffat, of course, subverts all of that, and as usual it's difficult to know whether he's hitting back against his haters, or if this was always part of the long term plan. After all this time, I tend to think it's the latter. The Doctor is River's sunset, we discover, and she doesn't expect it to love her back. Why would she? But Capaldi plays his part perfectly through all of this, giving us the hint that the Doctor does have some sort of feeling for River, and whilst he doesn't love her the way she loves him, he does try on occasion. The final scenes of this episode are Moffat writing at his very best, balancing the emotion with the drama and delivering both. Though the Doctor's callous attitude towards the dead in the crash seems a trifle harsh. I know they were all murderers, but still...



Alex Kingston was a great double act with David Tennant, but her rapport with Matt Smith was out of this world. Everything about them played so well together, that, in truth, we sort of forgot that River Song ever met the tenth Doctor. Placing her opposite the older, more acerbic twelfth Doctor was going to be interesting, but a bit of a gamble - after all, they couldn't possibly have the same chemistry Kingston had with Smith. And, truth to tell, she doesn't. But that doesn't mean the pair aren't brilliant together. By twisting the story around so that this time the Doctor's the one with all the foreknowledge, and a face that River has never met, nor believes can possibly exist, we get to see how River acts without the Doctor around. And so does he, which gives Capaldi some great opportunities to deliver some humour. The script is, of course, lighter than the season(s) that have preceded it, and we see Capaldi almost getting a Tennant script, and showing just how good he is at comedy. It's a bit like the Hartnell years all over again - those rare scripts that showed us just how good Hartnell was at comedy now mirror Capaldi's run.



Of course, there are two other comedians in this episode. Matt Lucas plays the very straight role of Nardole, which requires him to be scared and obsequieous most of the time, and he does this particularly well, but as a consequence remains somewhat inconsequential as a result. Greg Davies, on the other hand, one of my all time favourite comedians, gets a role he can have loads of fun with. Sadly he doesn't get nearly enough screen time, and I wanted to see more of King Hydroflax and Davies delivering a performance Rik Mayall would have been proud of. Phillip Rhys and Rowan Polonski perform the other major roles (oh dear...look who's failed the Bechdel test again), but both of them are swept away by the higher four cast members. It's a tough gig on Doctor Who, and with Capaldi and Kingston on fine form, you don't want to be billed lower than fourth.



And so, it's Doctor Who as usual, with a fun, rollercoaster adventure, and a rather nice payoff if you care about River Song. Being a romp, you don't have to pay a great deal of attention to what's going on, but the plot is still fun, and Moffat delivers a couple of old favourite moments (everyone in the room turning to the Doctor, for instance, and a half face man), but each with a subtle twist (the man pulling his head open to retrieve the payment was genuinely gruesome), and, as mentioned, there was a great deal of comedy to play. Plus, the episode was in the skilful hands of Douglas Mackinnon, a directing veteran who skipped the last season, but made a welcome return for the special. Mackinnon is excellent at his job, and brings his episodes to life beautifully. Of particular note are the scenes at the end, which are framed and lit perfectly (so special mention to DOP Suzie Lavelle as well!).



Next year will be an interesting year for Doctor Who. If I were a betting man, I'd say it's unlikely we'll get a regular season next year, but hopefully we'll get at least a special before the traditional Christmas feast. Should we be sad? No...2017 will definitely see series ten, so truth be told, perhaps next year will be lean enough to make us remember we shouldn't take the tradition of Doctor Who, let alone its Christmas special, for granted.
More than most television shows, watching Doctor Who is a bit like going on a blind date every week. Remember that gorgeous brunette, a bit crazy who just clicked with you went back on a second date at the begining? Or that hot blonde who was a little mysterious and also warranted a second date, which wasn't quite as great as the first? Then there was that babe who had a sister, and you went on a date with the sister the following week, though she wasn't as interesting as her sister. That redhead, who turned out to have come from the same town as you, and again...second date. Oh, then there was that disaster, so let's not dwell on her too much. And then there was the Goth chick, who showed enormous promise, so you dated her again, and she was just as amazing the second time round, you decided to go for a third...



Every so often Steven Moffat writes an episode where I have to sit there and wonder - what exactly was the story? And after pondering it for a bit, you realise that there's not actually an adventure to be had, but rather this is just a story about characters and it's not something that Doctor Who did before Moffat became showrunner, which makes it a little difficult to wrap your head around. In the past, as well, Moffat tends to throw in a bit of an adventure towards the end to make you feel as though you're justified watching Doctor Who, but this week, that adventure was a little thin on the ground - essentially escape the Cloisters and the Time Lords. The rest was resolution.



One resolution that felt a little unnecessary, not least because Timothy Dalton didn't return, was Rassilon being removed from Gallifrey. "Hell Bent" was afforded extra running time, but in truth had we got rid of the Rassilon bit it would have been a normal length episode and nothing would have been lost. Donald Sumpter's a nice actor, but he's not the furious Rassilon that Dalton delivered, spitting and intoning throughout the episode, just to leave when the Doctor turns up and...what, reclaims his presidency? In truth this whole storyline really did nothing for me. It wasn't necessary, it didn't advance the plot and everything could have been achieved without it.



On a similar note, the Doctor claiming he spent billions of years in the Confession Dial is slightly misleading, surely? He didn't remember being the previous versions of himself - which would have made the story go a lot quicker - and effectively spent little more than a few days, wandering around the castle before getting a few punches into the diamond wall. Then he died, was reborn anew and had to start from scratch. How long has it been since he saw Clara? A week at best, I would have thought.



Meanwhile Steven Moffat stirs the pot a little. When the old white general dies, he regenerates into a black woman, effectively dealing with every argument you can have about regeneration. And is the Doctor half-human on his mother's side? Well, there's a pretty strong implication that he is in this episode. However, in a slight cheat, we never get to find out exactly who the Hybrid is - is it the Doctor or Ashildr? They both argue that it's hardly the point, but given that we've had the question lingering over us all season, it would have been nice to have some resolution to that particular plot thread. The confirmation that the Master deliberately set up the Doctor and Clara to cause a bit of chaos was much more satisfactory.



Ah Clara. I shall miss her. She's been a fun character for the past few seasons, providing a flirty foil to Matt Smith's Doctor, but carving a much more interesting niche opposite the older Capaldi, whom she compliments much better. Strangely enough there seemed to be more love between the 12th and Clara than there was between the 11th and her, which worked really well in an understated way. Because of that you can understand the Doctor doing everything he did simply to save Clara's life. The problem is, it doesn't entirely tie together. The Doctor deliberately going into the Confession Dial to get to Gallifrey is perfectly accetable, but that's not what really happened. We were told that the Time Lords employed Ashildr to capture the Doctor and teleport him away - to the Confession Dial. And that's perhaps where the story falls apart the most.



I've not really enjoyed the Ashildr theme this season, not least because Maisie Williams has been so underwhelming in the role (though, ironically, her best performance was this episode). Her first episode was fine, and her second was not too bad, thanks in large part to Rufus Hound's fantastic performance. When she turns up in "Face The Raven", it's not a problem, until we get to the thrust of the episode, and the fact it's not explained in this episode means that there are two episodes where the plot is just left hanging around. What was Ashildr's deal with the Time Lords? Was she to turn over the Doctor in exchange for a TARDIS? Why were the Time Lords suddenly so concerned about the Hybrid? This prophecy hadn't just appeared, it'd been around for quite some time, and yet suddenly the Time Lords are worried about it, enough to make a deal with Ashildr that both sides just seem to forget about entirely. Even knowing that Moffat tends to write a long game, it's pretty unlikely that either Ashildr or Clara will turn up again in their 1950's diner, so I'll be shocked if we get a resolution to that story.



Outside of that, the character moments are rather brilliant, and the fact that it is the Doctor who has his mind wiped of Clara is a rather brilliant twist, particularly in terms of how the episode opens. It's a beautiful moment between the two when the end comes (though I'm surprised the Doctor isn't more curious about the portrait on the TARDIS door), and handled particularly well by Rachel Talalay. Indeed, I think it's also worth throwing a shout out to Stuart Biddicome who was the Director of Photography. There is some wonderful lighting in this, and the shots are really nicely filmed, especially in the white console room (and, sorry, but I have to say that seeing the updated classic console room was a genuine pleasure; maybe it's just me, but I think it looks better than any modern version we've had so far).



So the third date is over, and it turns out, Goth chick isn't for me. This time round, she was smartly dressed, looked great...and she was nice. That's how I described her to my friends after the date...nice. The brunette, the blonde and the redhead all had a little more staying power than the Goth girl; the ones that were crazy, mysterious, warm and reassuring. Not nice. There was a lot of potential in that third date, but after she faffed around at the beginning, she lacked spark for the rest of the time. Still, there's always the girl in the Christmas hat over there...
Edited on second viewing.

This week Doctor Who tests its format once again, by providing an episode which is - for the most part - just Peter Capaldi talking to himself. In point of fact there are three other characters, but as two of them don't speak, and the third has a few second cameo, it's probably not worth mentioning any of them. Having said that, I will mention the Veil because it's a slightly disturbing vision, more so because of what it's supposed to be; a dead lady swathed in veils, surrounded by flies. Nice.



It surprises me a little the the director of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare has turned out to be such a great fit for Doctor Who, and this week gives her a chance to use all the skills she developed on that previous film to good use. In fact, had she directed that film like she did this episode it would have been much better, I think, because there premise of the Doctor, being confronted by his nightmare and trapped in a building that changes around him isn't a million miles from the ideas of the Nightmare series. If only the Veil had said "Welcome to prime time, bitch!" when it got the Doctor, it would have been a meta-nightmare.



But Steven Moffat was writing the script (which probably indicates why the second non-speaking character was a boy; there's always children somewhere in a Moffat script), and while the Veil may not have been throwing out cheesy one liners, it was certainly a meta-nightmare, particularly for the Doctor, who finds himself trapped in a Groundhog Day type scenario, though rather nicely Moffat doesn't really go down the path of that movie. For the most part of the episode, this is the Doctor trying to work out what is going on, and making himself reach the end of the journey simply to throw a few punches at a wall of diamond. It's probably this last part that is the least successful part of the story; while it's a great idea that the Doctor spends over two billion years punching a path through the diamond-like substance, it stretches credibility a little, until it appears the Doctor has actually punches his way through a dimensional breach, whereupon it actually seems a little silly. Which is a shame because it's really the only part of the episode that is a bit dumb (though perhaps this is all linked to the Doctor's confession dial, and if that's explained in the next episode, we'll give it a free pass). What's perhaps most bizarre about this episode is that it took place entirely within the Confession Dial, and the moment that you realise that is the moment that a lot of other things start to make sense. And that is enormously clever.



Having established it's a Groundhog Day scenario, Moffat doesn't waste time with replaying events with slight variations. Instead we get a very quick montage which establishes that in fact the Doctor will do exactly the same thing over and over again; his only advantage being that he gets to put a little more stress on the diamond barrier each time. It's a very effective and well written script, with some disturbing concepts (the Veil for one, but the fact that the sea bed is covered with skulls which are all, of course, the Doctor's), and to demonstrate his true mastery as a writer, none of the dialogue ever seems like that sort of one-handed script where the character chats to himself for no reason other than the audience needs to hear what he's saying.



And that, of course, brings us rather neatly to Peter Capaldi. I've praised him a lot this series, mostly because he deserves it, but this series has given Capaldi the chance to really take the Doctor by the horns and make it his own. I've said time and again that the rocker Doctor was a nice touch for the character, but interestingly this last trilogy of episodes sees him going back a little to his first series version, complete with the more severe costume he had (though now complimented by a nicer red jacket). Brilliant dialogue and excellent direction will make an episode usually, but not necessarily if that episode has only one actor, and this is where Capaldi's brilliance comes into play. He takes that dialogue and plays it to perfection. This isn't an actor phoning a performance in, this is a man who is taking each line and delivering it with exactitude. His TARDIS scenes are excellent, and once you realise what they mean, you realise just how good Capaldi's choices are. Even though we could probably all have guessed exactly what the last line of the episode was going to be, it still comes across with a shiver, thanks to Capaldi's amazing delivery. He has easily become my favourite Doctor.



The big question on everybody's lips should be, however...is Steven Moffat about to confirm what was stated in the telemovie? Is the Doctor indeed half-human on his mother's side? I mean...Moffat has already said he never understood the upset about the telemovie's kiss...maybe we're about to discover he doesn't understand why people are upset about the half-human thing either. I mentioned above how the discovery that the episode takes place in the Confession Dial suddenly makes a lot of sense of a few other things. Who, for instance, is the Doctor actually talking too throughout the episode? Does he realise he's in the Confession Dial? Perhaps not, but as he holds up the Dial he certainly does, and he clearly believes that the person who last held the Dial can still hear him. The person, of course, who is the hybrid. Because the Doctor doesn't say "It's me"; he says "It's Me". Oooo...somehow I think Steven Moffat is about to upset a very big apple cart.
Gosh but that was good. And in a series that has generally delivered the goods, that's saying something.



Sarah Dollard delivers the first in this three part finale - something the series hasn't tried since the Master trilogy - and this is her first time writing a Doctor Who story. Dollard knocks it out of the park. I can't imagine how it must have been for her to walk into her meeting with Moffat, start pitching ideas, and the get told she has to bring back Riggsy, Ashildr and kill off Clara, as well as set up the remaining two parts of the story. At least for the Master trilogy, Davies wrote the thing himself. Dollard certainly had her work cut out for her, but in spite of that she wrote what was sheer brilliance. A ridiculously simple idea - Riggsy has only a certain time to live, and the Doctor has to save him - was written on a far more emotional level, and moreso, one that continued to develop the character of Clara. This season the Doctor's noted how she is starting to get reckless, but this isn't new. Last season Clara was getting cocky and started to take on the role of the Doctor, but the important lesson all of the Doctor's companions have learnt when they've tried this (and a few have), is that at the end of the day they aren't the Doctor. They can't do what he can and no matter how confident they are, or how prepared they think they are, they can't take the risks that the Doctor does and avoid paying the penalty. For Jack Harkness that meant giving up his grandson, which is probably a more painful punishment than anyone else has had to pay. Donna Noble had to give up the better person she had become. Clara had to give up her life, a tougher penalty than Donna, not as harsh as Jack, but she faced it like Jack...no, she faced it like the Doctor. Ironically, the moment she lived up the Doctor's name came about because she couldn't live up to it earlier.



Justin Molotnikov, fresh from directing the misfire of "Sleep No More", again delivers a well directed episode, though nothing was particularly outstanding. There were some nice shots, and the TARDIS' arrival viewed from the outside of Riggsy's estate was a nice touch, but ultimately Molotnikov has proven himself an efficient director rather than an inspired one. There is, of course, nothing particularly wrong with that, but there are times when you can't help but wonder how an episode such as this one might have been handled in the hands of someone like Hettie MacDonald or Daniel O'Hara. Jovian Wade returns to play Riggsy, fresh from the last season, and in the mean time he's had a child, which is a nice touch to his character, and in some ways grounds him again as a very realistic character, which is perfect because Maisie Williams' return as the immortal Ashildr is as far from realism as you can possibly get. I didn't mind Williams' performance in the last two episodes, but I have to admit this time around I wasn't really blown away by her. Like Molotnikov's direction, Williams is adequate in her part, but she doesn't bring to her part what, say, Matt Smith was able to bring the Doctor - that sense of having lived for a very long time, despite the youth on the face. Slightly annoying as well was the fact that she can never remember her name is Ashildr. She talks frequently about having read her diaries, but did she never actually write her name in those diaries?



One thing that is worth pointing out is how wonderful the effects were for this story. From the flickering of the circuit, allowing us to see the various aliens in disguise in Ashildr's town, to the extremely impressive raven, the effects were top notch. Indeed, alongside Murray Gold's frankly amazing score for the episode, these aspects were pulling out all the stops to deliver the very best they could, and it helped enormously. However, even in spite of how amazing these were, they weren't anything to what made the episode outstanding.



Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. Their names come up on our scream week in, week out, during that title sequence, and they've been around long enough to feel like they are part of the furniture. Coleman first appeared on our screens in 2012! They've taken the TARDIS and made the series their own, and this year they've never been more confident. Capaldi has found the niche for his Doctor, not something slightly forced like the austere version of last season, but a reflection of Capaldi's own personality, which the character should rightly be; after all, wasn't that really what Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Tom Baker were? Capaldi has never been better this season, delivering flawless performance after flawless performance, regardless of what is going on around him. And he's been complemented by Jenna Coleman who knows exactly what Clara is supposed to be. There's been a bizarre hate in some quarters for Clara, with accusations of a lack of character being bandied around frequently. "Born to save the Doctor" - she's nothing but a title fitted to a archetypal Moffat woman; sexy, feisty and flirty - is the accusation of the character, but of course it's completely wrong. Clara has only once said she was born to save the Doctor, and let's face it, Clara is a bit of a drama queen. By simply stating that, however, we see Clara is not archetypal. She likes a little bit of drama, and that's part of her character. She's inherently good, but she's a bit of a control freak. She's quick to anger, but quick to defend. She rarely ever flirts (indeed, the only time she really was, happened to be in "The Bells Of St John", and that did seem to be an attraction to the eleventh Doctor briefly played out) and she's not really feisty, but she can fight back and she can explode. Curiously, she would appear to be bisexual, but we've only ever seen her fall in love once, and that seemed to hit hard. Her relationship with the Doctor is complicated. Her brief flirtation with the Doctor was thrown when she was at the regeneration, and it's interesting that it was this that hit home. She'd already seen other Doctors - including the War Doctor - so she knew age and appearance could change with the Doctor, but knowing it and experiencing are often two different things. Yet she forced herself to be brave, and realise that perhaps her love for the Doctor was deeper than romance. And clearly, his love for her is as well. The last ten minutes of this episode belong to Coleman and Capaldi as they bring Clara's story to an end. You can moan about Clara all you like, but to say she lacks depth is to bury your head in the sand and ignore what is in front of you. To say Coleman isn't brilliant, however, is to simply lie.



Is this the end of Clara, however? There's a quote in Doctor Who Magazine between the Doctor and Clara from the final episode, so one might wonder if the story hasn't quite ended. If it has, however, it doesn't matter, because Dollard's debut script has closed a story beautifully. For that, I say bravo. And to Ms Coleman...I salute you.
When Russell T Davies was showrunner of Doctor Who there was a tonal consistency to the program, and - after "Love & Monsters" proved a bit divisive - each episode was a great, safe action adventure story. Since Steven Moffat has taken over, he's given the writers more freedom (unlike Davies, Moffat doesn't do a final script rewrite of each episode), though this has resulted in a loss of that tonal consistency. Equally, Moffat doesn't deliver great, safe action adventure stories every week. Whereas Davies' Doctor Who was a enjoyable ride through the countryside, Moffat's is more of a rollercoaster, with some huge highs, and a few lows. Truthfully I'm not sure which is the better approach to the program, though the general audience would seem to prefer Davies' approach, but I do think that had Davies remained as showrunner, Doctor Who wouldn't be around today. Moffat doesn't play it safe; he likes to experiment with the formula and takes a very different approach to the series, and that inventiveness keeps it fresh and exciting. Though it doesn't always work...



"Sleep No More", the title of tonight's episode, which you may have missed given the decision to throw away the title sequence (which I think was an excellent idea, frankly...if you're going to commit to found footage, don't ruin it with the title sequence) was one of the most experimental episodes the series has tried from an aesthetic point of view. That said, the story itself was essentially a base under seige story, without the element of an outside agent trying to get in - this time the monsters were already on board waiting to attack. Though we did, of course, get our standard base-commander-gone-nuts character in the form of writer Mark Gatiss' best mate Reece Shearsmith. Shearsmith had a small role in Gatiss' An Adventure In Space And Time, spectacularly failing to convince as Patrick Troughton, but this time round was much, much better. Not quite as effective were the actors playing the four soldiers, none of whom really convinced me that they were trained in any form of military. Indeed from the outset as the commander took the gun from one of her troops, it felt less like a senior officer retrieving a weapon, and more like an actor taking a prop from another actor, which, at the end of the day, it was. It just shouldn't look like that.



The star of this episode, therefore, was neither the actors (though both Capaldi and Coleman were great, they seemed a little on autopilot as well, and at times seemed like completely different characters, particularly in the opening scenes...I'm struggling both with the Doctor's Oliver line and Coleman's circling her face and saying "Not just this", as neither seemed suited to their characters), nor the script, but rather the direction of newcomer Justin Molotnikov. Molotnikov obviously watched Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project before approaching this one, as the monsters first appearance is fleeting, and he tries to never linger to long on them (though this is probably more a horror movie convention than a found footage one). The look and the feel of the episode is very effective, and the found footage aspect doesn't jar with the Doctor Who format, nor does it detract from it.



It does detract a little from the story though. This sort of format requires a simple story, and as I said, Gatiss' script doesn't stray too far from Doctor Who's old fallbacks, but despite that, I have to admit to some confusion at the end. Rasmussen's plan doesn't seem particularly clear, and while I don't necessarily want a complete resolution, a little understanding would have been useful (what was the point of the story exactly?). Perhaps another viewing is required to get it completely sorted out in my head, and perhaps that's a good thing - after all I don't particularly feel chagrined about having to rewatch it, so an episode that begs a second welcome viewing has got to be a good thing, surely?



I'm impressed Doctor Who, despite its age, still has the ability to try something different that will shake the series up a little, and even if it didn't work, we should still be grateful that the creators have the desire and the passion to keep trying to keep the series fresh and interesting.
Last week Peter Harness brought us the highs and lows of "The Zygon Invasion" as the sequel to the fiftieth anniversary saw a group of disgruntled Zygons rise up against a pretty incompetent UNIT. Some nice moments, a neat cliffhanger, but nothing that was worthy of getting tremendously excited about. Steven Moffat joins Harness to write this week's episode - "The Zygon Inversion" - and suddenly we see something quite interesting, and something that's been fairly noticeable throughout Moffat's era; while he has a hands off approach to his writers and they sometimes deliver and sometimes don't, Moffat's work generally always seems to be on the money. He gets his vision of Doctor Who better than any other - unsurprisingly and obviously - but it's never more noticeable than it is in this episode. The allegory of the episode may be as obvious as ever, but Moffat helps Harness deliver a script that is a lot cleverer than last weeks, and a lot more satisfying at the end.



UNIT may be ineffective, but Kate Stewart definitely isn't, ane while she may be a scientist, the fact is she can kick ass pretty well. And by kick ass, I mean execute Zygons with impunity. "Five rounds rapid" is a nice call back to the Brigadier, but Kate Stewart is clearly everything her father was. Not only is she good enough to avoid being killed by a Zygon, but she's clever enough to know what's going to happen next. Kate infiltrates the Zygons far more easily than it should be, but what allows us to accept this is the Zygon commander - Bonnie, sharing Jenna Coleman's gorgeous face - is overconfident. Kate's infiltration works because Bonnie already believes the Zygons have won. Clara, however, is proof positive that they haven't. Jenna Coleman is a great actress, attacked by some fans for the ridiculous reason of being on the show for too long (or is it because she's cocky? Fans seem to have big problems with companions who are cocky. They didn't like that cocky prick Adric, they weren't keen on cocky Rose...you want to be loved as a companion? Be submissive), but the attacks are completely unwarranted. Clara has taken a backseat this season, whether because Moffat has bowed to the fans who didn't like her taking centre stage, or simply because he has other plans for her. Regardless, this episode gave Clara - or more accurately Bonnie - a lot more to do, and by consequence Jenna Coleman's acting was put to the test. Her handling of the Clara interrogation scene was brilliantly done, as she delievered two faultless performances, and one being extremely nuanced. Coleman can show us a shaky Clara without having to go overboard to do it. It's all in the eyes.



However as brilliant as Jenna was, this episode belonged to Peter Capaldi. Given a ten minute speech, Capaldi took it and dominated the final part of the episode delivering a message that may not have been subtle but it was powerful and it was amazing. Don't fight is a simple message, but the Doctor has to convince two people, both desperate to save their races, not only to avoid a fight, but to actively forgive. Capaldi's performance was a masterclass in how to act. But in addition to his acting, Capaldi understands something about the Doctor that not everyone does, and sometimes we are all guilty of forgetting - the Doctor that looks like Peter Capaldi is the same Doctor that looked liked Matt Smith who is the same Doctor that looked like John Hurt (even if he wasn't calling himself that). Capaldi delivers an anti-war message from the man who fought in the Time War. He remebers everything he did and everything he was going to do, and he manages to tie together all the Doctors in one simple speech that is as important to us as it is to Bonnie. I suspect it was Moffat who wrote the speech; it feels like one of his; but Capaldi has taken a brilliant piece of writing and elevated it to something amazing. I'm not afraid to say it - with this episode, Capaldi has become my favourite Doctor.



The rest of the episode was up to Doctor Who's usual standard, which is nearly always at the top of its game. But when you can take something that is normally fantastic, and then edge it up to the next level...well, it deserves an award, frankly. This season has delivered and delivered and delivered, but with "The Zygon Inversion", it's provided us with something new; Peter Capaldi's defining moment as the Doctor. And it's a moment that will live on forever.
Peter Harness is back from last years "Kill The Moon" to bring us a sequel to "Day of the Doctor" (amongst other things), which deals with the fallout of what happened when the humans and Zygons sat down and worked out a peace treaty. Apparently, for the most part, it all went famously, and 20 million Zygons now live among us. Needless to say, there's something of a political analogy here, the Doctor even going so far as to make a joke about how the British would be unhappy with the Zygons taking their benefits. 20 million is a surprisingly large amount of people to allow onto the planet, realistically, so it's perhaps not that surprising that something was going to go wrong. There's a box, which is called the Osgood box, and it is the failsafe should the Nightmare Scenario occur. Of course, should one of the Osgood's get killed then that scenario, it seems, will play out. And we all know what Missy did last season.



I really enjoyed this episode, not least because the return of the Zygons is fantastic, and this time they aren't playing second fiddle to the event that the story they are in celebrates. Don't get me wrong, I loved "Day of the Doctor", but that was a celebration of Doctor Who, not a joyous return of the Zygons. This time the Zygons get the chance to shine, and there's lots of fun to be had with them. The fact that their High Command is two seven year old girls is a great gag that works very well, though it is a little unsettling when they are murdered by the rebel Zygon faction. Both Clara and the Doctor are also given heaps to do, though for most of the episode, it transpires that Clara is actually Bonnie the Zygon, which, in truth, wasn't all that surprising when it was revealed. The Doctor, on the other hand, is definitely embracing his rock idol image, and while I know that there are people out there who have a problem with his guitar playing, frankly I don't understand why. Again, the jokes about Doctor Disco are great fun, and Capaldi has the ability to enjoy himself in some silliness (such as boarding the Presidential jet), while not deflating the drama of the situation (something which, if I'm honest, David Tennant and Matt Smith didn't always get right). The one thing that the episode rather spectacularly fails to do well is UNIT, who come across as easily the most ineffective paramilitary organisation there is. Surely they should be trained to deal with situations like the Zygons potentially adopting forms which could emotionally comprimise them? I mean, even at a basic level, surely they should be trained to simply follow orders. The soldier, Hitchley, asked point blank what his date and location of birth was, which any mother would know about their child, and yet even though she fails to answer, he moves onto another question. Frankly, those soldiers deserve everything they get. Equally, why on Earth did Kate go to Truth Or Consequence without some form of backup? Surely she must have been expecting the possibility of hostile Zygons being present, in which case, going in with some troops would be a pretty straightforward sort of thing. And why didn't the soldiers with Jac actually start shooting at the Zygons when they first appeared? As they floundered around, one had to concede that Kate Stewart could have paid a little more attention to the military precision of her troops.



Admittedly that's a little bit more than a minor quibble, which is a shame because the rest of the episode was done quite well. Jenna Coleman gave the best performance of the episode, but it was huge fun to see Ingrid Oliver back, particularly with an explanation that actually benefitted the plot. Her comments about the Doctor's question marks were interesting, and Harness does a nice job of not denigrating the earlier costumes. Nicholas Briggs' Zygon voices were also worthy of mention, not least because they were a little more "Terror"-accurate than they were in "Day". However, if I was forced to choose, I think I would have to single out the production design and editing of this episode worthy of particular praise. Truth Or Consequences was recreated quite believably, though the light posts did give the game away. I'm not entirely sure why the production team opted to make up a new country (unless anyone can find any evidence of Turmezistan actually existing, because I have to admit I can't), but consequently it was hard to say whether it looked believable or not, but it certainly was well designed.



It's hard, with two part stories, to be fully judgemental of the episode until you've seen the second part. After all, you can hardly sit back and say "it should be able to be judged on its own qualities", because the story remains incomplete, and we can't critcise what seems to be a discrepency in case its supposed to be wrapped up in the next episode. Therefore, the best I can do this time round is say "Yeah, that was pretty good," try and bite my tongue about how terrible UNIT were, and see if the Zygons have anything up their sleeves.