Friday, September 23, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Smith Years Series Seven

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

I'm going to be examining Doctor Who... every single episode.  I'm going to take you on a journey through the 50+ years worth of this show, showcasing the good and the bad along the way.  For each episode I'm going to give you a very brief rundown of the plot, how good/bad the story is, and anything interesting about the episode.  Basically I'll just talk about whatever comes to mind for each of them.  These will be a more in-depth overview of the series as a whole so you can see which stories or episodes (if any) you want to check out for yourself.  Today I'm going to be talking about

The Eleventh Doctor
Matt Smith
Series Seven

Series seven ran from September 1, 2012 to May 18, 2013 and contained thirteen episodes.  Similar to series six, the entire season was split in half, however this time it was the first five episodes, then a Christmas Special, then the last eight episodes.  Due to the nature of this season, the supplemental mini episodes that I feel add something to this season, and the two specials that came after this season was over, this will be the longest single entry of my Doctor Who talks to date...there's a lot to cover here folks.

This season is very unique with its episodes.  The first half of Series seven somewhat revolves around whether or not Amy and Rory will continue to travel with the Doctor and just how much they are drifting away from him into a normal life.  It's mostly just sort of hinted at with one episode being mostly about that dilemma....before their ultimate end of their time with the Doctor.  The second half of series seven however picks up a lot of new.  We have a brand new TARDIS interior, a brand new purple outfit for the Doctor, a brand new title sequence, and a brand new companion in Clara Oswald.  The mystery of this half of the season is....exactly who is the impossible girl Clara Oswald and why has the Doctor seen her die at different times in history.  Clara is a nice addition to the TARDIS...well this season anyway.  I have....issues with the show for the next two seasons but we'll get there eventually.  Now we're just here to talk about Series Seven.

Before I get started proper, I wanted to mention something that's not necessarily bad but it's just something that bothers me personally.  Towards the end of last season, the Doctor drops Amy and Rory off at their home seemingly for good.   This season he does pick them back up and they will go on occasional adventures together but for the most part it's a few romps in the TARDIS and then they are taken back home.  The same is true with the next companion... he drops her off back home after ever adventure.  Now this doesn't really change the dynamic of the actual episode's content but it changes a bit of the series as a whole because now rather than going on numerous adventures it's definitely one-off things with them.  It just sort of detracts from "adventuring in time and space" if he has to keep returning to England at the end.  It's not that big of a deal it just bothers me slightly... oh well.

2012 Online Supplemental Episodes
Pond Life 1-5

Amy and Rory are having a few little "adventures" of their own in the year after the Doctor reunited with them at Christmas.  Several times they receive calls from the Doctor about random adventures that he is on.  Other times he is showing up at the wrong time due to a TARDIS malfunction and leaves just as quickly.  He accidentally leaves an Ood with them for a short time who takes up serving them.  When the Doctor calls for the last time, nobody answers so the Doctor deletes his voice mail.  Unknown to him, Amy and Rory have been screaming at each other and Amy has kicked Rory out of the house, wishing the Doctor was there to help.

This is just a collection of humor with the exception of the last entry.  The last entry is there as a sort of prequel to explain what's going on with Amy and Rory in Episode 1 and that's the whole reason I even included it here.  Now that you've read this you don't necessarily have to watch them.  It's just something to help you not be confused when Amy and Rory are talking divorce at the beginning of the first episode.

Episode 1
Asylum of the Daleks

Amy, Rory, and the Doctor are kidnapped by the Daleks and taken to their parliament where they explain that the planet they use as an asylum for mad Daleks must be destroyed but to do this, its force field must be disabled from inside.  The reason for its destruction is a small breach in the planet's force field by the crash landing of a young woman, Oswin Oswald, one year previously.  The Daleks give the trio special bracelets to protect them from the planet's defense mechanism which turns all non-Daleks into Dalek puppets.  Once they they are contacted by Oswin who seems to have not been converted and she guides them through the complex towards her and the force field controls.  Unfortunately the converted corpses of Oswin's shipmates steal Amy's bracelet.  The Doctor slips his on her without her knowledge and goes to find Oswin leaving Amy and Rory to deal with their relationship issues.  Due to the events with the Silence, Amy can't have any more children and wouldn't tell this to Rory; she just sent him away out of love so he could have a family.  The two make up and notice the Doctor's actions.  The Doctor makes his way to Oswin who claims to be able to bring down the force field and even hacks into the Dalek psychic link to remove all traces of the Doctor from all of the Daleks minds.  The Doctor then discovers that Oswin has been fully converted into a Dalek but she still believes herself to be human.  She ultimately realizes her situation and lowers the force field allowing the Doctor, Amy, and Rory to escape before the planet's destruction.  On board the Dalek ship, the Daleks have no memory of the Doctor and he along with his companions fly off int he TARDIS.

This was a fairly interesting episode.  It was cool to see the Daleks turning towards their arch enemy for help.  Also the human Daleks puppets were a neat idea that actually was able to escape Moffat's "set it and forget it" method of Dalek stories.  However another element doesn't escape that fate really.  Oswin is able to erase the Dalek's memory of the Doctor together.  This is an interesting twist in their relationship.  However it's undone the very next time we see Daleks so yet again it becomes pointless.  Also this is our first introduction to the new companion though we won't know it yet so her appearance here isn't quite as impactful... but it will be!

Episode 2
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

The Doctor is alerted to an unmanned spaceship heading towards Earth in the future.  The ship's cargo consists of live dinosaurs, but the authorities on Earth intend to destroy the vessel if it gets too close.  Hoping to avoid this end, the Doctor recruits Queen Nefertiti, a big-game hunter John Riddell, Amy, Rory, and unknowingly Rory's father Brian.  The Doctor and his group discover that the ship is actually a Silurian ark that was designed to carry the Silurians as well as the flora and fauna of the time period away from Earth to avoid what the Silurians thought was the end of the world which was actually the Moon coming into orbit.  They find a human named Solomon on the ship and discover that he had murdered the Silurian inhabitants in order to sell the dinosaurs on board to the highest bidder.  He then shifts his attention to Queen Nefertiti after seeing her value.  By this time Earth has fired rockets at the ship's homing beacon.  The Doctor saves Nefertiti but not until he secretly switched homing beacons with Solomon's ship.  The missiles destroy Solomon and the Doctor pilots the ship to an inhabitable planet where the Dinosaurs can live in peace.

This episode is fun and kind of silly.  It's not taking itself seriously and you will enjoy it more if you don't take it seriously either. I mean with a title like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and a scene where the guys ride on a triceratops chasing down grass covered golf balls...what do you expect?  However this episode also does include the Doctor intentionally causing someone's death which further proves the episode "The Doctor's Daughter" wrong, so that's pretty fantastic.  If you come looking for fun, you'll find it!

Episode 3
A Town Called Mercy

The TARDIS lands in the town of Mercy in the American West around 1870.  They find a strange perimeter around the town and a Gunslinger asking for "the doctor."  They discover that the town's doctor, Jex, is an alien and is the one the Gunslinger is after.  The Doctor sneaks out of the town and investigates Jex's ship where he learns that Jex was a scientist who experiments and brutalized volunteers to help create cyborgs in order to end a war on his home planet.  The Gunslinger was one such volunteer and is seeking revenge for what was done to him claiming that everyone in the town will die if Jex isn't handed over.  The Doctor is faced with the moral dilemma of handing over Jex to the Gunslinger or not.  Eventually the Doctor devises a plan to allow Jex to escape but he decides to commit suicide so that no other innocent people can be harmed from his actions.  The Doctor then convinces the Gunslinger not to self-destruct but instead to become the marshal of Mercy.

If memory serves me correctly, this is only the second time the Doctor has gone to the Old West and both times have been a very unique story.  While the story structure of someone seeking revenge isn't all that new for the show, having the Doctor face a real moral dilemma is certainly more so... especially a moral dilemma that he can identify with.  He's having trouble seeing Jex as both the butcher and the savior at the same time that he has become mostly because of his own disgust that he too can be both.  There's also a lot of nice/funny moments such as a transgender horse joke, Jex's religious beliefs that he must carry the souls of all he has wronged in the afterlife, and his final words of hoping those he wronged will be kind to him when he meets them again.  It's just a unique experience worth watching.

Episode 4
The Power of Three

Amy and Rory are wondering which life they should ultimately pick... regular life or "Doctor life."  The next morning, tons of small black cubes land all over the world with no explanation and they aren't doing anything.  The Doctor decides to stay with Amy and Rory to investigate but after several days of nothing happening, the Doctor leaves UNIT, headed by Kate Stewart (the Brigadier's daughter) in charge.  A full year goes by with the Doctor popping in occasionally when suddenly the cubes begin activating with completely random features before stopping the hearts of at least 1/3rd of the human race.  The Doctor, Amy, and Rory eventually track down the cubes to an alien race known as the Shakri who intend to wipe out humanity before they can colonize space.  The Doctor reverses the electrical change to re-start peoples hearts and send the surge back to the Shakri destroying their ships.  Amy and Rory return as full-time companions.

This one is odd and is mostly played for humor up until the last 15 minutes or so.  It's basically the Doctor being bored by not hopping about in time while a bunch of cubes do absolutely nothing... then suddenly everything goes berserk.  However the shining inclusion into the show was the introduction of Kate Stewart.  Moffat, I believe, attempted to make up for the fact that they never got Nicholas Courtney to portray the Brigadier in the modern series and has given the Brigadier's daughter his job.  Kate is pretty awesome and is as good of a fit for the type of job that her (and her father's) position eventually became with the new show.  It's just an ok episode with an interesting introduction.  It also somewhat bothers me that a chunk of the episode involves Rory's dad becoming concerned about Amy and Rory's eventual fate then suggesting they become full-time companions again right before what's about to happen.

Episode 5
The Angels Take Manhattan

The Doctor takes Amy and Rory to Central Park.  While the Doctor is reading Amy a detective novel, Rory is captured by a Weeping Angel.  In 1938, Rory meets up with River who is posing as a private investigator.  It is then that the Doctor reads about Rory in the book and realizes this book is a novelization of their upcoming adventure.  They use the book to be break their way into time-locked 1938 New York and find River and Rory who are investigating the Weeping Angel's takeover of Manhattan.  They make their way to the Winter Quay hotel where they find an elderly Rory who dies before them.  The angels are using this hotel to keep their victims there indefinitely to maintain a constant source of energy to feed on.  In an attempt to escape that fate, Amy and Rory jump off the top of the hotel to their deaths causing a paradox that erases the Angels and hotel.  Waking up in a graveyard with the TARDIS, Rory notices his own grave and is taken by a single surviving Angel.  Rescuing him a second time via paradox would rip New York apart.  Amy bids the Doctor a tearful goodbye and allows the Angel to take her to Rory.  Her name appears on the grave as well.  Later the heartbroken Doctor reads the afterword of the novel written by Amy which tells him they lived a wonderful life and for him not to be alone.

While this isn't necessarily an awful episode, it's certainly a bad ending to my favorite companions of the modern show.  Most Whovians agree with this sentiment.  What's good about it: the Doctor wearing glasses, weeping angels not having to look like angels anymore, the Doctor reading a novelization of an adventure he's currently having, the weeping angels creating a no-escape hotel to have energy, and Amy and Rory jumping to their deaths together to create a paradox.  What's bad?  Well there's only 2 big things but boy are they gigantic.  The first one is that the Statue of Liberty is a weeping angel and was able to make it several blocks to some hotel... I'm fairly certain I don't have to tell you why that's stupid.  Second is the explanation for why the Doctor can't go back and save them.  Apparently creating another paradox would wipe out New York because their names were written down on the grave stone and that particular time period had too much time disturbance.  Well we've seen him change a fixed point in time where things were written down and physically saw the writing change after he interfered in The Waters of Mars so that's out.  Also if that particular time in New York was bad then why not land before that and chill out for a few years, leave them a clue to leave New York and head there, or just let them live in the past for a few years and pick them up.  They wanted a companion "death" but they didn't have the guts to just kill them heroically on screen and it made so many logic gaps that the TARDIS could fly through it.

2012 Online Supplemental Episode

Brian, Rory's father, is at home when the doorbell rings.  An older gentleman is there with a letter and instructions to bring the letter to him at that time.  Brian opens the letter to find that it is from Rory explaining what happened and that they will never see each other again.  As a post script, Rory informs his father that the man who has delivered this message is his grandson.  The two men embrace.

This is the scene that was never filmed.  Throughout The Power of Three, Brian voices his concern about Rory and Amy joining the Doctor and feared for their fate.  In the end he was the one who prompted them to return to the Doctor while he waited for their return.  All of us wanted to see this scene happen despite it's extreme sadness.  It was eventually intended to be shot but due to actor unavailability it never was.  However, the outcry for this scene was so large that they released it in storyboard form.  It's sad and beautiful.

2012 Christmas Special
The Snowmen

The Great Intelligence has landed on Earth as a sort of snow-like material that can mirror the thoughts of those around.  It attaches itself to a young man named Simeon and forms a symbiotic relationship with the boy that lasts into adulthood in the Victorian Era where the two are planning the creation of an army of ice people incapable of melting.  Meanwhile, the Doctor has hidden himself away there out of depression from losing Amy and Rory.  While there, he runs into a barmaid named Clara who he helps get rid of some evil looking snowmen who appeared.  However he refuses to investigate the snowmen further as he is finished saving the world.  Clara follows him to his hidden TARDIS but keeps herself out of his sight.  She returns to her job as a governess at a mansion where she learns of the Great Intelligence's plan of using the ice's imprint of the children's drowned previous governess as the template for his army.  She returns to the Doctor for help and thanks to her charm and her use of the word "Pond" he decides to take action once again.  Together with Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax (who have made Victorian London their home) The Doctor and Clara stop the ice governess template but not before Clara falls to her impending death.  The Doctor rushes to Simeon's and severs his link with the Great Intelligence, but the Great Intelligence has been in existence too long and no longer needs someone to feed off.  However, the family crying over the dying Clara overwhelm the psychic snow surrounding the mansion and the Great Intelligence causing him to melt.  The Doctor returns to say goodbye to Clara where he learns her name is Clara Oswin Owald.  He comes to the realization that this is the same person he met in the Dalek Assylum and that she is most likely still alive in some other place and time as well since he'd seen her die in two separate times and planets.  He leaves off in the TARDIS to find her.

What an interesting Christmas special.  Not only do we get to see the origin of The Great Ingelligence from the 2nd Doctor's run, but we also get a gigantic mystery involving our upcoming companion.  While there's just a bit too much coincidence going on... sometimes that just happens and I'm ok with it.  Again, I'd like to say that I enjoy Vastra, Jenny, and Strax more than probably most people do.  I find their dymanic, determination, and strangeness to be the perfect combination for the show.  What I didn't mention above is that Strax actually died in Demon's Run but came back as a blithering idiot almost to the point of mentally disabled in some aspects.  Basically he's there for comic relief and supplies it steadily.  This was a pretty good episode with a lot of good elements brought in for the remainder of the season.

Episode 6
The Bells of Saint John

The Doctor eventually finds another version of Clara in the present day after she was given his number by some woman in a shop.  After meeting her, he discovers that there is something wrong with the Wi-Fi.  A Miss Kizlet is sending out robots into the Wi-Fi to upload people's souls into a data cloud under the claims that it is to preserve humanity for her client.  The Doctor saves Clara from this fate and modifies a robot to resemble himself and infiltrate Kizlet's office.  There he causes the robot to download Kizlet's soul into the data cloud which forces her to have her employees return all the souls to their bodies.  It is then revealed to the audience that her client is the Great Intelligence who has been using the uploaded souls of humanity to feed on and grow stronger.  He erases Kizlet's mind leaving her in a child-like state.  The Doctor invites Clara to be his companion but she asks him to come back tomorrow so she can think about it.

This one is... odd.  The Doctor is trying to track down Clara and he becomes a monk in the 11th century for whatever reason.  While I realize that it is the Great Intelligence living in the Wi-Fi that's causing some of this stuff but to have the ability to freeze and control people who are in the field of a Wi-Fi connection is not exactly how Wi-Fi works.  I'll buy that the robots can upload their souls more than I can buy that.  However it's got some nice little moments including a very unsettling scene where the adult Miss Kizlet is basically reduced to the mentality of a 4 year old.  Not bad just weird.  I also want you to remember that Clara got the Doctor's number from a woman in a shop.  We don't know who this woman is but we will find out next season.  This is the ONLY plot arch to even carry over into next season and this is the only time it's ever mentioned really.

Episode 7
The Rings of Akhaten

The Doctor decides to investigate Clara's past before returning to get her and discovers nothing unusual about her at all and providing no answers as to why she has died twice in different times.  He does learns that her mother died when she was young. He returns to pick her up and she requests to see "something awesome."  The Doctor takes her to the Rings of Akhaten, a group of planets orbiting a large sun which the local religion believes is the source of all life and the currency of the planets is items of sentimental value.  Clara and the Doctor get separated and Clara runs into a young girl named Merry who is about to be sacrificed in the "Festival of Offerings" to appease The Old God.  The Doctor and Clara save Merry and discover that the Old God is actually just a parasite feeding of memories and sentiments of people living on the planet.  The Doctor offers his many lives to stop the Old God from destroying Akhaten but it isn't enough.  Clara then offers the parasite her treasured leaf that caused her parents to meet and that there are infinite possibilities to every choice.  The infinite nature of this offering is too much and the parasite dies leaving Akhaten safe.

I adore this episode.  It's got a perfect mix of weird, heartwarming, awesome, and threatening.  The idea of offering sentiment as currency and appeasement to a "god" is a very interesting idea that pays off.  The Doctor gives one heck of a speech about all of his pain and adventures across his lives that's beautiful and tragic at the same time.  Not to mention the song that Merry and the crowd sing as the Doctor is confronting the parasite is one of the best pieces of Doctor Who music created.  Basically this is great!

Episode 8
Cold War

The TARDIS accidentally lands in a Russian submarine in 1983 and then takes off without the Doctor and Clara to avoid the hostilities on board.  The Doctor discovers that a lone Ice Warrior named General Skaldak is on board, having been thawed out of the ice after 5000 years of being frozen.  Unfortunately the Russian captain is not trusting of the Doctor and Clara and forces Skaldak into chains.  This forces Skaldak to believe humanity as a whole has declared war on the Ice Warriors and after receiving no word from his race, he believes that he is the last Ice Warrior alive.  He then exits his suit and begins killing and analyzing the human bodies.  Eventually Skaldak learns of the circumstances surrounding the Cold War and intends to start an alternate timeline by firing a nuclear missile from the submarine.  Eventually Clara is able to convince Skaldak that it would be wrong to slaughter innocent lives.  An Ice Warrior ship comes for Skaldak and he shows mercy by releasing the missile controls.  With the danger gone the Doctor's sonic screwdriver tells him that the TARDIS HADS (Hostile Action Displacement System) had been activated and caused the TARDIS to travel to the South Pole away from the Ice Warrior.

Two old enemies of the Doctor not seen in decades in the same season??  Someone must have been looking at my Christmas list!  This is a fairly standard story without many surprises to the actual story structure.  The star of the show honestly is the Ice Warrior because now they have been established in the new show again, and this is the first time we've ever seen one outside of it's protective armor.  It's also great to see David Warner (a very underrated actor by the way) in an episode of Doctor Who.  Just a solid normal episode.

Episode 9

Believing that a visit to empathic psychic Emma Grayling may be able to shed light into Clara's unique existence, the Doctor lands in 1974.  There they meet Emma and her future husband Prof. Palmer who are investigating a ghost known as the Witch of the Well in a haunted mansion.  After the house grows cold and the words "help me" appear, the Doctor borrows Palmer's camera and uses the TARDIS to take pictures of the house's exact location over thousands of years.  Because of this he learns that the figure is not actually a ghost but a time traveler named Hila who got stuck in a pocket dimension where time is running at an incredibly slow rate.  He also discovers that Hila is running from a hideous creature.  The Doctor creates a psychic amplifier for Emma that allows him access into the pocket dimension where he helps Hila escape but becomes trapped there as Emma can't keep the portal open for long.  Clara convinces the TARDIS to fly there briefly to collect the Doctor who hangs on to the exterior and back into the regular universe.  Pulling Emma to the side, the Doctor asks about Clara to which Emma says there is nothing altogether different about her.  Emma also explains that she feels a strange connection to Hila; the Doctor explains that she is a descendant of Emma and Palmer's.  As he starts rambling about love, the Doctor sees another creature inside the mansion and realizes it's mate was the one in the pocket dimension.  He returns to save it as well.

What is it with single-word title episodes that make them so good?  The show had tried to go the ghost route before with the Cybermen in Series Two, but THIS is how you do a ghost story.  It's creepy, in a mansion, and it's simply dripping with atmosphere and chills.  The only problem I have comes from being a classic show fan and most fans of the modern show wouldn't notice it at all.  The device he creates for Emma uses a blue crystal from Metebelis III.  If you've seen the Pertwee Era or read my posts you'll realize that's a problem.  The Third Doctor took a crystal from there and it causes massive problems on the planet resulting in gigantic psychic spiders, so he took the crystal back to stop everything and died in the process.  He died doing the right thing.. and now either we learn he forgot to leave it behind or went back and stole another one.  Oh well... aside from that nitpick, it's a good episode.

Episode 10
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

The TARDIS is picked up by an intergalactic salvage crew, accidentally causing Clara to fall into the depths of the TARDIS and damaging the TARDIS badly.  The Doctor needing to rescue her offers the salvage crew the salvage of a lifetime, but once they get inside he locks the doors and sets the self-destruct to 30 minutes to ensure their cooperation.  Clara, meanwhile, is being chased by a molten humanoid creature all through the TARDIS.  Eventually the Doctor, Clara, and the salvage crew meet up and everyone rushes to the engine room to stop it form exploding.  The Doctor sees the molten zombie creatures and realizes they are future echoes of what they all will become by staying too long near the Eye of Harmony.  After the salvage crew are turned into molten zombies, the Doctor and Clara escape and make it to the engine room which has already exploded but is locked in a time loop to try to save everyone.  The Doctor confronts Clara about her other lives but she has no idea what he's talking about.  The Doctor is pleased to hear this and finds a fracture in time from the engine exploding.  He creates a device and tossed it into the time fissure to his past self to activate causing the TARDIS to never be picked up by the salvage crew and none of this to have ever happened.

This one is pretty decent.  It's insane, but it's decent.  While there is some character development with two of the brothers treating the third brother like he's a robot when he isn't, the main focus is the various rooms and workings of the TARDIS.  When it comes to the TARDIS we generally just see the console room, corridors, and maybe the occasional bedroom.  However there have been a few instances where we see more to it and those are always exciting.  I loved seeing the Doctor have a big library and a nostalgia room as well as seeing the weird rips in time caused deep in the TARDIS when it's malfunctioning.  The only confusing thing is that the Eye of Harmony is still on the TARDIS.  That was always meant to be a singular thing on Gallifrey to power time travel for all of the time lords so what is it doing here on the Doctor's TARDIS?  I mean, I guess the Doctor had to have a small version of it on board to continue traveling without Gallifrey or something but it's still confusing to a classic fan.  It's not the greatest episode, but it's still pretty decent.

Episode 11
The Crimson Horror

Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are investigating the "Crimson Horror", a condition where bodies are being found petrified and completely red.  Vastra recognizes the symptoms as the venom of an ancient leech which hasn't been seen since before the Silurians went into slumber in prehistoric times.  Another investigator shows Vastra optographs (images from the eyes) of the Doctor screaming and red as well.  The local area of Sweetville, run my Mrs. Gillyflower, is especially suspicious as people go in but nobody comes out.  Vastra sends Jenny to investigate where she finds him a victim to the venom but still alive due to his Time Lord nature (he and Clara had also been investigating).  She helps reverse the process as Vastra and Strax appear.  The group rescue Clara from her suspended animation much to Jenny and Vastra's confusion as they saw her die at the mansion.  The group confront Mrs. Gillyflower and discover "Mr. Sweet" a leech working with Mrs. Gillyflower.  They plan to fill a rocket with Mr. Sweet's venom and "preserver humanity" by exploding the rocket.  However Vastra and Strax have removed the venom from the rocket as it launches and Mrs. Gillyflower falls to her death.  The Doctor refuses to answer Vastra and Jenny's questions about Clara and takes her back home.  There, the children she is looking after have discovered pictures of her from various time periods and threaten to tell their father unless they get to time travel as well.

What an interesting episode.  It's not often that we get started with characters who aren't the Doctor or his companion that aren't Doctor-Lite episodes.  This episode feels like an homage to the Avengers.  No not the Marvel superheroes, but the British show, the Avengers due to just it's overall mystery, a little bit of camp, and the hand-to-hand combat seen within.  This is helped by the fact that the episode was written specifically for Diana Rigg (who was in The Avengers) and her daughter Rachael Stirling to be on screen together.  It's also got a bit of humor with a man constantly feinting, some of the melodrama going on, and the Doctor seemingly "turned on" by Jenny's leather catsuit.  What is less than favorable was their attempt at a GPS joke, and the kids Clara looks after blackmailing her into taking them time traveling... because that's certaily how THAT works.  I'd be more irritiated by the latter if the next episode wasn't of such quality.  This episode, however is pretty great.

Episode 12
Nightmare in Silver

The Doctor takes Clara, Artie, and Angie to Hedgewick's World of Wonders in the future, however he discovers that it has long been abandoned due to the Cyber Wars and the disappearance of the Emperor of the region.  After meeting two men named Wibbly and Porridge, the Doctor sees some strange insects and decides to stay and investigate.  The insects are actually cybermites, an upgraded smaller version of cybermats who latch on to the Doctor, graft cybernetics to his face and give him a second personality, Mr. Clever the Cyber-Planner.  The Doctor and Mr. Clever decide to play chess for control over their mind/body.  Meanwhile Cybermen who have been massively upgraded to be faster, sleeker, and more efficient have captured the children and are overwhelming the planet.  Mr. Clever caused the Doctor to sacrifice his queen in order to release the children; he does so.  The Doctor then proceeds to bluff Mr. Clever into utilizing the combined calculating power of the Cybermen to see how he will be beaten in three moves allowing the others on the planet to get to safety.  The Doctor then uses a neural shock device to fry the headpiece.  The Doctor then realizes there is no escape except for blowing up the planet.  Porridge is revealed to be the missing Emperor and he voice activates a bomb on the planet before calling a ship to rescue them and the TARDIS.  The Doctor returns everyone home.

After seven seasons, This right here is how you do a Cyberman story and make them threatening.  In the classic show, the Cybermen were fairly threatening, but in the new show they'd always just sort of been bumbling robots that somehow managed to get the job done.  Here, they are terrifying.  These new Cybermen are insanely fast and are able to upgrade themselves instantly to overcome any weaknesses.  Electrified water shorted one of us out?  No problem, just initiate an upgrade and now we can't be harmed by that.  The rest of the episode with the kids, the theme park, and Warwick Davis playing Porridge were good as well but the Cybermen and the battle over the Doctor's brain stole the show and made the Cybermen terrifying.  Neil Gaiman needs to write for the show more often because he always knocks it out of the park!

Episode 13
The Name of the Doctor

Madame Vastra is told by an imprisoned murderer that the Doctor's greatest secret will be taken to his grave and it is discovered.  She uses a special sleeping agent to bring herself, Jenn, and Strax into a dream-state conference call.  She then sends a letter to Clara in 2013 to include her into the conference as time travel is possible in dreams.  River Song (the version stuck inside the hard drive in the Library) also joins and explains Vastra misunderstood the message.  It's not his secret that is discovered, it's his grave.  Strange creatures called Whispermen then kidnap Vastra, Jenny and Strax waking them up.  Clara also awakens and tells the Doctor of what she learned leading them to the prophesy about the Silence and the planet of Trenzalore.  The Doctor's final resting place is his now giant TARDIS which is dying and losing its ability to contain the "bigger on the inside."  They go inside where the Great Intelligence having a body is waiting for them.  It demands that the Doctor speak his true name to unlock the control room.  He refuses but River, who maintained a psychic link which Clara and has been following them since speaks it (inaudibly to the rest) to save them.  Inside they find not his body but his timeline, all the days that have and haven't yet passed.  The Great Intelligence steps into his timeline sacrificing his own life to destroy all of the Doctor's victories.  One by one the star systems go out and every right he has done has turned wrong.  Clara follows after it to help guide him towards victory once more and becomes splintered across his timeline many times including the Dalek Asylum and Victorian London.  The Doctor intends to go in after her and reveals he'd been able to see River the whole time.  He kisses her goodbye and vanishes into his timeline to retrieve Clara.  He finds her but also discovers a previously unseen incarnation of the Doctor.  Clara asks who this is and the Doctor identifies the man as himself but he's not The Doctor.  Hes the man who broke the promise that goes along with the title of The Doctor.  The War Doctor turns around and states that what he did was without choice in the name of peace and sanity.  The Doctor answers "but not in the name of The Doctor", turns and leaves his timeline with Clara.

What??? WHAAAT???!!  That was my genuine reaction to the last five minutes of this episode.  While the Whispermen, the dream conference call, and the march through Trenzelore to find the Doctor's grave were all good, the rest of the episode becomes eclipsed by the ending.  From the second the group and the Great Intelligence enter the dying TARDIS console room, the whole episode becomes fantastic and shocking.  We finally get to see the mystery of Clara and it's a pretty great moment before she jumps into his timeline to save all of him.  Also at this point we truly figured this would be the last of River as this happens after her death, but thankfully we were wrong and I'll get to that in series 9.  Basically the big shocker was the reveal of John Hurt playing a Doctor that we had never seen.  We weren't sure if this was pre-First Doctor and the reason he ran from Gallifrey or if he was in between 8 and 9 as we never saw that regeneration.  There were thousands of questions to lead us into the 50th Anniversary episode helped by this fantastic ending to a good episode.

2013 Mini Episode
The Night of the Doctor

During the Time War, the Eighth Doctor attempts to rescue a pilot whose ship is crashing into the planet Karn.  When she realizes he is a Time Lord she refuses his aid.  He swears he has nothing to do with the Time War but she won't listen; the Doctor refuses to abandon her and both are killed in the crash landing.  The Doctor's body is taken to the Sisterhood of Karn who briefly revive him with their elixir of life and offer him the ability to regenerate before his limited time expires.  Eventually they convince him to take action in the Time War before all of reality is destroyed.  He decides to do so realizing there is no need for a doctor anymore and asks for a potion that will regenerate himself into a warrior.  He drinks the cup and painfully regenerates into the War Doctor.

I was wondering when Moffat or someone else on the production crew would remember Karn existed.  The Doctor had gone on for so long being "alone" when he had the Sisterhood of Karn who were basically cousins to the Gallifreyans.  It's not exactly his people but it's better than nothing.  I was also pleased to see Paul McGann once again being a fantastic version of the Doctor.  I swear I wish we had more of this man on screen and he would probably be my favorite Doctor.  Here we got the answer to who the War Doctor was and it prepared us for the event to come.

50th Anniversary Special
The Day of the Doctor

The Eleventh Doctor and Clara are called by UNIT to help investigate strange three dimensional paintings which have suddenly lost their occupants, one of which is depicting the Time War on Gallifrey.  Back during the Time War, the War Doctor has stolen an ancient weapon known as "The Moment" and intends to use it to eliminate all of the Time Lords and Daleks from existence.  However, The Moment has a consciousness and it takes the form of Rose Tyler from his future.  Realizing his intentions, she shows him how its use will affect him by opening time tunnels for him to meet his future selves.  The Eleventh Doctor and the War Doctor convene in 1562 where the Tenth Doctor is tracking down a Zygon chasing down Queen Elizabeth I.  The three are captured and discover the Zygon plan to implant themselves in the three dimensional paintings and escape into the future when Earth is more comfortable.  Together, the three of them stop the Zygon invasion by enacting a peace negotiation between humans and Zygons.  The Doctor sees the kind of man he will become and realizes the good that will come from using The Moment.  He returns to use it but the Moment allows the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor with Clara to enter the Time War.  They decide to use the Moment together but Clara convinces them to try another way.  The Doctor then coordinates with all his past lives, as well as one future life, to trap Gallifrey in a pocket universe similar to the manner in which the Zygons invaded the future.  Gallifrey disappears and the Daleks kill themselves in the crossfire.  In the end the War Doctor and Tenth Doctor return to their timelines and will lose memory of these events.  The War Doctor regenerates into the Ninth Doctor as the Eleventh Doctor is told by the mysterious curator of the museum (who resembles the Fourth Doctor) that his mission now is to find Gallifrey.

I can't begin to describe how much I enjoyed this special.  Although I do wish it had taken a look back at the classic series just a tiny bit more, it does have it's nods here and there.  It calls back to the classic series by having the original opening sequence, showing Totter's Lane, Clara teaching at Coal Hill, the Zygons returning after only appearing once in a Tom Baker story, and referencing the Brigadier and the Doctor's time with UNIT.  It makes references to the past 7 seasons of the show by mentioning Malcolm from Planet of the Dead, finally having closure on why Queen Elizabeth I wanted the Doctor dead, brought back Billie Piper and David Tennant, and explained more about the Time War and what happened.  However it also looked to the future as Kate Stewart and Osgood would become recurring characters as well as the General of Gallifrey.  I haven't even yet mentioned the amount of humor, and heartwarming scenes throughout the episode.  John Hurt is a phenomenal actor and portrays the War Doctor perfectly to the point that I want more of him on screen as well!  And I'm not afraid to admit the scene where all thirteen Doctors (including new audio for the First Doctor by the man who portrays him in the Big Finish Audio Adventures and Peter Capaldi's first appearance as the Doctor) show up to save Gallifrey makes me a bit teary.  Brilliant episode and a must watch!

2013 Christmas Special
The Time of the Doctor

There is a message echoing through all of time and space coming from the planet of Trenzalore where the Doctor is supposed to die.  With help from the Papal Mainframe, the Doctor and Clara are able to travel to the village of Christmas where they discover the message is actually a question... Doctor who?  It is from the Time Lords in their pocket universe and is being echoed through the cracks in reality.  If the Doctor speaks his real name, the Time Lords will return.  However, all of the evil in the universe has shown up to stop that from happening, so the Papal Mainframe decides to guard the planet and make sure the Doctor doesn't say his name... silence will fall.  The Doctor tricks Clara into returning home in he TARDIS where he spends several hundred years fighting and defending Christmas from all manner of aliens.  With help from the Papal Mainframe, Clara is able to return to Trenzalore to find the Daleks are the last remaining enemies and the Doctor is an ancient man with no regenerations left.  He is on the verge of dying from old age as he slowly walks to make his last stand against the Daleks.  Clara speaks to the crack telling them that his name is the Doctor and if they love him they'll do something to change his fate.  The Time Lords give the Doctor a new regeneration cycle and the Doctor uses this massive influx of energy to wipe out the Daleks surrounding Christmas before returning to his TARDIS.  Clara follows to find a rejuvenated Doctor about to finish his regeneration into a new man.  He says goodbye to Clara and hallucinates a final goodbye to Amy Pond before regenerating.

I will be completely honest with you.  After seeing Christopher Eccleston regenerate after a big fight with the Daleks and seeing David Tennant regenerate after the giant epic that was The End of Time, I was fairly underwhelmed here and honestly didn't like this episode on first broadcast.  It was just the Doctor sitting around in a town for years until he almost dies of old age.  However once my expectations were lowered by knowing how his regeneration happens, I was able to sit down and actually begin enjoying it.  It's a more subtle regeneration with him finally finding a place where he needs to stay and doing his best to allow Clara a normal life away from him by sending her away.  It also brings to a close all of the mysteries of the Silence, the cracks in the universe, and the location of Gallifrey that had been haunting 11's tenure.  It's a nice send-off and the scene in the TARDIS before his transformation is one of my favorites in the entire show.  I should also mention... remember how the Daleks forgot who the Doctor was thanks to Clara's involvement at the beginning of the season?  Yeah that's done away with as they "extracted knowledge of the Doctor" from someone off screen.  It's good but it's a different kind of good than I was expecting.


What a whirlwind of a season!  So much happened with so many unique and interesting ideas being played out.  Although I've genuinely enjoyed every season of the show this one may be my favorite just because of all these unique ideas and the inclusion of the 50th anniversary as well as it being my favorite Doctor.  Amy and Rory's departure was mishandled but everything else was solid or even fantastic.  There's really nothing else I can say and at the length of this particular blog post, I'm sure everyone is glad that I've run out of words.  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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