Tag Archives: series 12

Doctor Who: The Timeless Children

timelesskidsUnder the leadership of Andrew C. Cartmel, Doctor Who introduced a bit of mystery into the Doctor’s backstory during the waning days of the classic series run.   Questions of who the Doctor really was and the connection to the foundation of Gallirey and Time Lord society were sprinkled into a couple of episodes — and even more liberally applied if you read the Target novels of that era.

Feels like Chris Chibnall may have read those novels and wanted to build on the seeds the Cartmel era sewed into Doctor Who continuity.  Or maybe Chibnall wanted to take a page from the immortal Robert Holmes and make us question or reexamine everything we thought we knew about Gallifrey and Time Lord society.

I have to keep reminding myself that when Holmes did this with “The Deadly Assassin,” it wasn’t immediately embraced by some factions of the fandom. It was only with hindsight and a bit of distance that “Assassin” grew in the estimation of fandom to the status it holds today.

My problem with that is Chibnall isn’t in the same league as Holmes when it comes to writing for Doctor Who.  And “The Timeless Child” (and really all of his two series as showrunner) continue to show that.

(I will now go controversial and alienate half of you by saying the only modern writer who comes close to doing what Holmes did for the show is Steven Moffat.)  Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Ascension of the Cybermen

ascensiuon2When he took over as the showrunner for Doctor Who, Chris Chibnall told us he wanted to create stories and episodes that didn’t radically deal with the huge backlog of continuity that is Doctor Who.  Then, fans weren’t thrilled with series 11 and we’ve got series 12, where it seems as if Chibnall is determined to re-write all of the series continuity — or at least challenge our long-held assumptions about it — in the course of ten episodes.

Well, I’ve seen nine of those ten episodes and I’ve got to admit that, so far, Chibnall’s reworking of continuity has been hit or miss.  The series started off well by making the Master a frightening nemesis for the Doctor again (something Simms never pulled off and wasn’t a priority with Missy) and then pulled the rug out from under us in the fifth episode with the reveal of Dr. Ruth.

Now, Chibnall is determined to do what the new series has tried to do for years — make the Cybermen scary again.  Continue reading

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Doctor Who: The Haunting of Villa Diodati

haunting1No disrespect to the current Doctor Who, but the last time the series tried to do an epic three-part finale, it really dropped the ball. (I’m referring to the complete thud that “Last of the Time Lords” is, following off the great set-up by “Utopia” and then “The Sound of Drums.”

So, you’ll have to excuse me a bit if I’m a bit nervous about seeing where this potential three-part finale takes us this time around.

But I will admit that, so far, so good.

“The Haunting of Villa Diodati” was teased as the Doctor Who story where the Doctor meets Mary Shelley.  Shelley is important in literary and world history for helping create the genre that Doctor Who exists in.  And despite warnings from the Doctor to the TARDIS team to not mention Frankenstein to Shelley, you just know that somehow, something is going to show up and inspire her.

What it is is the Lone Cybermen that Jack warned us about earlier.

But more on that later.

What we get leading up to the big revelation (and like Ruth showing up, the arrival of the Cyberman threatens to overshadow pretty everything else in this episode) is an atmospheric episode that felt like it was taken right out of the Gothic era of classic Doctor Who.  And given my affection for that particular era of Doctor Who, that’s a good thing.

Seeing various figures who will have a profound impact on our world and its literature was fun — even if the show does go to extreme lengths to make Byron out to a hormonal imbalance with legs.  The concept of the house that closes in on itself with various rooms not allowing people to leave and characters vanishing was unnerving enough and visually, it was all well shot.

But then the Lone Cyberman shows up and a lot of that early work is forgotten.

I will say that the Lone Cyberman does seem to borrow a bit from the Borg, giving us a human face to the cybernetic race.  I understand why this has to happen (it would get tedious to see the Doctor talking to a regular Cyberman for the substantial amounts of exposition that have to take place), but it still feels like Chris Chibnall is too quick to borrow elements from the show’s history and other series.

Certainly, the Doctor’s anger at the Cybermen is easy to understand — where it’s the fate of Bill Potts the last time she met them or going all the way back to Adric’s death in the classic series (and given that “Earthshock” was chosen as the story to give fans a taste of the fifth Doctor’s era, it’s something that can and hopefully is familiar to new Who fans).  And as quick as I am to call Jodie Whittaker out for what I see as deficiencies in her portrayal of the Doctor, let me also call out that she does a great job here walking a fine line between anger and the darkness that is inside the Doctor.  Her speech about standing on top of the mountain and not always being able to win was chilling and pitch-perfect.

It’s also interesting to note that the Doctor has no choice but to give the Lone Cyberman what he wants, thus ignoring Jack’s warning and setting things up for the two-part finale to come. We’ve heard various Cyber-wars mentioned over the show’s history and the Cybermen certainly are not strangers to trying to use time travel to manipulate their own history (see “Attack of the Cybermen” for example).

So, we’ve certainly set things up for an epic finale.  I just hope that the show can deliver the goods….

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Doctor Who: Can You Hear Me?

doctor-who-can-you-hear-me--e1581343990267-700x321It’s hard to fault “Can You Hear Me?” for what it’s trying to do.

The story is meant to shine a light on the stigma surrounding mental illness and show us that there are ways that it can and should be addressed.  It’s just too bad that the story goes for a relatively simple solution to issue (“Be brave” or “Talk to people”) instead of really digging in for something deeper and more meaningful.

Part of that could be that, quite frankly, I have little to no investment in any of the characters on-screen.  And yes, that includes the companions Yaz and Ryan.   When Russell T. Davies grounded his companions with friends and family who were left behind, he gave us a reason to care about those people — or at least to have some kind of investment in them.  I may have become annoyed that the final half-hour of “The End of Time, Part 2” was one last check-in with every recurring character from the last four years.  But at least I could name those characters and was given more to them than just “friend of Ryan.” Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Praxeus

doctorwhopraxeusOne of the frustrations of watching the X-Files was tuning in the week after a game-changing mythology episode only to find things go back to the status quo with little or no mention of the huge events from the week before.

As we’ve moved more into serialized storytelling in this new “golden age” of television, it can be a bit more frustrating.

Which is why I may have been frustrated by this week’s installment of Doctor Who, “Praxeus.”  After the events of “Fugitive of the Judoon” to go back to a standard alien-invasion of the week story felt a bit like a step back for this season.

Of course, my frustration with the show goes a bit deeper than the lack of follow-up.  It also extends to my feeling that Chris Chibnall can’t write his way out of a wet paper bag with a detailed set of instructions.   I will be the first to concede that Doctor Who has never shied away from politics.  Heck, Robert Holmes wrote an entire four-part story because was frustrated by the British taxation system. But at least when Holmes was giving us political allegory and heavy-handed morals, he found a way to make the stories entertaining.  Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon

judoon2If there’s one thing the first series of Broadchurch showed us, it’s that Chris Chibnall is good at mystery story-arcs.  So, to see the latest episode of Doctor Who goto the mystery-arc well isn’t necessarily a bad thing as far as this fan is concerned.

With a couple of new mystery threads in play, the rest of this season and this era could play out in a variety of ways.  Of course, I wouldn’t be a fan of the Sylvester McCoy era if I didn’t point out that the return of an old friend with broad hints didn’t feel a lot like a page out of a certain scene in “Silver Nemesis” in which it’s pointed out the Doctor isn’t necessarily who we think he is.

Interesting that “Fugitive of the Judoon” would remind me of hints that there’s more to the Doctor than meets the eye, ala “Silver Nemesis.”  And since I ate up those revelations in “Silver Nemesis,” you know I ate them up like a spoon here. Continue reading

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