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 Twelfth Doctor
Series nine ran from September 19, 2015 to December 5 2015 and contained twelve episodes. The last two seasons of Doctor Who were fairly unique from a format standpoint. Series seven had no two-part stories and series eight had only a single two-part finale for the season as a whole; the new show up to this point had always had at least two two-part stories. They apparently decided to make up for that with this season. Now there is some slight disagreement as to how to best break up the stories this season. I personally fall under the idea that there are 4 two-parter stories, followed by a single episode, then a three part finale. Due to the very different setting/tone of some of these stories you may define them differently. I will be breaking up ones that have a different setting or tone for the purpose of this review.
The theme this season is that of the impending hybrid; a creature that supposedly was in Time Lord lore as what will stand in the ruins of Gallifrey at the end of time itself. According to this season, that is part of the reason the First Doctor left Gallifrey to begin with... his involvement with the hybrid. While that's the intended story arch... honestly what becomes a more prominent story arch is that of death, immortality, and the fact that something bad is going to happen to Clara. If you read my review of the David Tennant Specials you should know how I feel about a series constantly making references to the fact that someone is going to die/leave. While this doesn't lessen my enjoyment of the stories all that much it is still annoying to have something in practically every episode point to the fact that this is Clara's last season. Again, show, you are called Doctor Who not The Clara Show.
The Magician's Apprentice / The Witch's Familiar
On a battlefield, a small boy is being surrounded by creatures called hand mines. The Doctor attempts to save this boy from death, but upon discovering that the boy is a young Davros (one of the Doctor's arch enemies) the Doctor abandons him. Elsewhere a creature known as Colony Sarff is looking for the Doctor across time and space and after failing to locate him, he decides to watch the Doctor's friends. In 2015, Clara is called by UNIT when all of the world's airplanes become frozen in time. They discover that Missy is the cause of this as she is in need of Clara's help. Missy is in possession of the Doctor's confession dial (his last will and testament) and needs Clara so the pair can go looking for him before he dies. With UNIT's help they find the Doctor in Essex 1138 where he has been partying for three weeks. Using a vortex manipulator, Clara and Missy reunite with the Doctor in 1138 only to find that Colony Sarff followed them there. Sarff explains that the elderly Davros wishes to speak with the Doctor before he dies and takes the Doctor, Missy, and Clara to a floating hospital in space. The Doctor is taken to the dying Davros as Clara and Missy find out that the hospital is actually the only currently visible part of the entire planet of Skaro, home of the Daleks. The pair are captured by the Daleks who exterminate them and destroy the TARDIS. Shifting to the past, a young Davros is still on the battlefield when the Doctor reappears behind him. The Doctor is going to save his friend the only way he knows how. He lifts a Dalek gun, points it at Davros and shouts exterminate!
Well this was certainly an eye-opening way to start a season! It's been ages since we've seen Davros and this is the only truly Davros-centered story we've gotten in the modern series. There are so many good things in this episode such as Colony Sarff's search for the Doctor, the humorous banter and guitar playing of the Doctor, the dilemma of him choosing whether or not to save the young Davros, and the red herring that the Doctor seeming to use the gun on Davros. It was also a nice call-back to Tom Baker's line about meeting a child who would become a ruthless murderer and whether or not you could kill that currently innocent child. It was great to see Missy back again and doing a fantastic job! The dynamic between her and Clara was good, though I do feel that Clara sort of became Missy's companion a little too easily. All in all this was a solid way to start the season!
Under the Lake / Before the Flood
The Doctor and Clara arrive in an underwater base in the future. The military personnel there have discovered an alien ship with strange markings on the wall. Soon after, the leader of the group is killed by the ship and then he and an alien reappear as ghosts and are hunting down the others. The Doctor gets the others to corral the ghosts into a Faraday Cage where he discovers that they keep repeating coordinates over and over. The coordinates lead to the ruins of a church under the water where they find a deadlocked suspended animation pod. The Doctor concludes that the ghosts exist as a sort of signal to that pod and are killing people to increase the signal. The lake they are under exists only because a dam broke so the Doctor intends to go back to before the flood and see if he can make sense of what is going on. Unfortunately, he is separated from Clara as they headed for the TARDIS. Clara must stay behind in the base with Cass and Lunn while the Doctor goes into the TARDIS with O'Donnell and Bennett. As they travel to 1980, Clara sees that a new ghost has just appeared in the lake... the Doctor.
This is the kind of Doctor Who stories I love seeing. There's a big mystery with a legitimate threat, there's some weird time shenanigans going on, and there's learning about a funky concept. This is the second Capaldi story that I could easily see happening in the classic show and being brilliant. The idea of actual ghosts coming to kill you to increase their number is a fantastic idea. This set of episodes also had (to my knowledge) the first deaf actress on the show and they worked that in beautifully (and for the occasional comedic effect.) Before the Flood is also unique in the fact that the show dedicates a portion of the episode to have the Doctor directly speaking to the audience which isn't often done. In fact, I believe the only other times were with the First Doctor in the most notoriously lost episode The Feast of Steven, and the Fourth Doctor in Pyramids of Mars. Also it's nice to have a musical Doctor once again, which is something we haven't really had since Patrick Troughton and his recorder. Basically these episodes are fantastic though I wish they had figured out a way to have the Doctor save O'Donnel by having her fake dying in Bennet's hands or something since they had a second round of that time stream but....we can't always have a full happy ending now can we?
The Girl Who Died
Clara and the Doctor land the TARDIS immediately after another adventure and are captured by Vikings and taken to their village. Later, the vikings find themselves under imminent attack by the Mire, one of the universe's most powerful warrior races, after a young girl named Ashildr antagonizes them. The Doctor tries to encourage the vikings to flee but after they refuse to leave their home, the Doctor beings training the vikings to fight the Mire. All seems lost but then the Doctor comes up with a plan involving Ashildr. The next day the Mire show up to fight and the Doctor steals one of the Mire helmets for Ashildr to use. Using her imagination, she "hacks" into the Mire's other helmets and scaring them into retreating from a dragon which was actually just a wooden puppet. Unfortunately the Mire helmet drains her of her life energy. The Doctor morns her loss but then realizes where his face came from. He shares the same face as a man from Pompeii whom Donna made him save. The Doctor realizes he chose that face as a reminder that he doesn't have to follow the rules of time and space; he is the Doctor and he saves people. He uses Mire technology to bring Ashidlr back to life before the pair disappear back to the TARDIS. However, this technology has now taken away Ashildr's ability to die and she becomes slowly miserable over her eternal life.
This is a harder one to talk about in all honesty. This is due to the fact that it's kind of the first episode of a two-part story where both episodes are totally different from each other. As such this episode both exists by itself with a conclusion, but also feels like it exists only as a set-up for the next episode and later appearances of Ashildr. However that's not to say there isn't good stuff here. This is a quite hilarious episode with the Doctor giving the surviving Vikings nicknames and realizing they are completely inept at fighting. There are also some really touching moments like the Doctor translating the cries of a baby and realizing he must stay to help. Also it made me so happy for them to reference Pompeii and how Capaldi had appeared in the series before in such a fantastic way. It's a good episode in it's own right, but if you sit down and think about it, it does feel like just a "set-up" episode.
The Woman Who Lived
The Doctor travels alone to London in the 1600's where he finds Ashildr who is now simply calling herself Me. Since she has lost so many memories and loved ones to her immortality she now isolates herself from society, stealing for thrills. She begs the Doctor to take her with him but he refuses. Me then uses her backup plan, a lion alien with an amulet which will open a portal to another world but it requires the death of another to activate. The lion and Me kill an outlaw by attaching the amulet to him. However when the portal opens, the alien reveals he was using Me to bring his own people and conquer Earth. The Doctor and Me use the extra Mire med pack to save the outlaw and close the portal, killing the lion alien in the process. The Doctor explains better why Me must stay behind and he leaves to meet back up with Clara, where the Doctor sees a photo with Me staring at him in the background of modern London.
This episode is quite fantastic. Where The Girl Who Died was more of a funny/silly episode, this one is a lot more dark and deep. I really enjoyed the sort of beautiful tragedy of the lifetimes that Ashildr has lived while being "left behind" by the Doctor. It's easy to see how someone who used to be so young, cheerful, and hopeful become a somewhat cold and callous person willing to do whatever necessary to escape this never-ending cycle. The chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Maisie Williams in this episode was fantastic. They play so well off of each other that I truly wanted him to bring her along in the TARDIS even if only for another couple of episodes because the pair work perfectly with each other. It also had a fair bit of comedy with Sam Swift and his general banter. Also this episode had the one moment in this season identifying that something was going to happen to Clara that I thought was beautifully done with Ashildr asking the Doctor about how long Clara is going to be with him and how many more Clara's will come after. Then, towards the end of the episode, the Doctor just looks sadly towards his companion. It was short, pointed and well executed. Basically this episode was amazing.
The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion
After the previous Zygon invasion in The Day of the Doctor, a peace treaty is established allowing 20 million Zygons to live peacefully on earth disguised as humans. However, the Doctor recieves a text warning from Osgood that the Nightmare Scenario has happened with the Zygons. He investigates to find that a small group of Zygons do not wish to live in the shadows and intend to take over Earth. The Doctor heads to Turmezistan where Osgood was seen to be held captive while he sends Kate Stewart to New Mexico to investigate an outbreak there. Elsewhere, Clara joins the UNIT troops in England to investigate malfunctioning elevators that actually lead to a hidden Zygon command center. Clara reveals herself to actually be a Zygon named Bonnie having disguised herself as Clara and keeping Clara captive elsewhere. She and the Zygons kill the UNIT troops as in New Mexico, Kate is attacked by a rogue Zygon as well. The Doctor is able to rescue Osgood but as they are flying back to London, Bonnie fires a missile at the plane, shooting it down.
Of all the things to get a sequel, I never thought that Day of the Doctor, the 50th Anniversary, would be getting a sequel since the Zygon portion was more of a vehicle to tell the story about the Doctors and the Time War. However, the Zygon portion never really got a conclusion so I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was to see the "conclusion" to that portion of the story. For the most part this is just a fairly standard set of episodes; there is nothing overly fantastic, but there's also nothing bad about it... it's just a solid and good story. However, there is one outstanding portion. The entire sequence inside the Black Archive with the Osgood boxes was amazing and would have been worth watching even if the rest of the story had been trash (which it wasn't). It's that good of a sequence. It was also great to see Osgood once again though I wish they'd stop teasing us and have her go in the TARDIS at least once!
Sleep No More
The Doctor and Clara land on a space station in the future in orbit above Neptune. While there they meet with a rescue team who arrived at the station to figure out why communications went suddenly silent 24 hours prior. They eventually find Gagan Rassmussen, the last survivor and inventor of the Morpheus pod, a machine which gives you a full nights rest after only five minutes allowing you to work longer. However, the pods also turn the sleep dust from your eyes into a life form called the Sandmen who seem to be the cause of the crew's deaths. Gagan reveals that he is working with the Sandmen and intends to send the longest mutated Sandman to Earth to spread the virus and multiply the Sandmen. The Doctor is able to stop his plan by causing the ship to crash into Neptune. However, as the ship is crashing and the TARDIS takes off, Gagan reveals himself to actually be a Sandman. He orchestrated the events on the ship and used the assembled footage recorded from the Morphues pod victim's vision to create an exciting video which held a hidden signal. This signal would transmit the virus directly into the brain of anyone watching.
I... but... what?? This is the more experimental of the two new concept episodes this season and... this one is just weird. It was a cool idea to take on the "found footage" genre with Doctor Who's own spin of strangeness, and strange it certainly is. It's unique in the fact that there is no opening title sequence at all, the whole thing is found footage, and it's one of the few episodes where the Doctor loses without even realizing that he has lost in any way. It's weird... there's nothing else I can really say about it other than the fact that it's weird. It's one of those episodes you just have to watch for yourself to understand why I can't really say anything else about it.
Face the Raven
Clara receives a phone call from Rigsy who has no memory of the previous day and a strange tattoo that is counting down on his neck. The Doctor examines it to see that it is a Chronolock and that Rigsy will die once it reaches zero. In order to find the one responsible and save Rigsy, the trio search London and eventually find an alien community on a hidden street in the heart of London. There, they discover that Ashildr/"Me" is the mayor of the street and Rigsy received the Chronolock as he was sentenced to death for murder. While there, Clara discovers that a Chronolock can be transferred and takes it from Rigsy hoping to buy time and the Doctor's determination once he realizes she has it. Eventually they find that Rigsy had been framed because Ashildr made a deal with an unknown party to have the Doctor teleported somewhere and so used Rigsy as bait. Ashildr goes to remove the Chronolock but since Clara took it, Ashildr can no longer remove it. The Doctor becomes furious but Clara begs him not to take revenge for her. She walks out into the street and dies as the Doctor is teleported away.
This is an interestingly good episode. The mystery of Rigsy's chronolock, whether or not he actually killed someone, and the revelation that this was a plot to trap the Doctor was all really good. I do wish there was a little more "magic" or something involved in this episode since basically this is the Doctor discovering Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and running around inside of it... but what can you do? One of the more striking scenes that I love (though the show tells me I shouldn't) is when the Doctor learns of Clara's fate and changes his demeanor entirely. He tells Ashildr to fix what happened to Clara and that if she doesn't, he will rain hell upon her and everything she loves because the Doctor isn't there anymore... Ashilder is dealing with him. Now we come to Clara. This is Clara's final moments of life and despite my annoyance with how much the show had focused on her last season and how every episode kept bringing up that something was going to happen to her... I wasn't happy to see her go. The moments leading up to her death and her death scene were powerful. It was a moving end to a great companion.... or it would have been if the show's final episode hadn't happened the way it happened.... but I'll get to that later. As-is this is a tragic and wonderful episode and made for a great end to a wonderful companion.
The Doctor emerges in a teleportation chamber in a strange castle, still very angry over losing Clara. He soon finds out that he is being chased by a slow-moving creature intent on killing him. He tries talking to the creature and after making a confession, the creature backs off and the castle shifts its form. The Doctor tries to escape and after following some clues, realizes he must find Room 12. After a couple more confessions, the castle allows him access to Room 12 which contains a wall of pure Azbantium, a mineral 400 times harder than diamond. With a sudden idea, he begins punching the wall, but the creature appears behind him and mortally wounds him. The Doctor crawls back to the teleportation chamber and uses his life energy to re-initiate the teleporter to bring his past self there to start the cycle over and over again. After four billion years of hitting the wall and being killed over and over, the Azbantium wall is now weak enough to crack open. The Doctor steps through to find that he was inside his confession dial the whole time and has emerged on Gallifrey. He tells a nearby child to inform the high council that he has arrived the long way round.
This is the second of the more experimental episodes this season. This is the first episode to only feature the Doctor (yes there is a monster but we never see its face nor does it speak) and it's also the first episode where a character says the word "ass." This episode is mysterious, creepy, and keeps you wondering what's happening and what will happen next. In a sort of nod to Moffat's other show, Sherlock, the Doctor uses a sort of mind palace to think things through in a quick moment similar to Sherlock Holmes. There are only two negatives I can make about this episode. The Doctor tells a story that the Brothers Grimm had written about the first second of eternity.... however the editing never has the entire story be said in one setting and there are a lot of repeats. By the time he finishes the story you really can't follow/remember what he's said. Also this has the unfortunate side effect that after you've seen the whole episode and know what happens, a second viewing of this story is significantly less engaging. It's kind of a one and done, but that one viewing is beyond fantastic!
The Doctor arrives in a Nevada diner where he sees a waitress physically identical to Clara and he begins to tell her a story about Clara though he doesn't remember what she looks like. Back on Gallifrey, Lord President Rassilon attempts to have the Doctor imprisoned, but the military instead pledges its loyalty to the man who ended the Time War, the Doctor. The Doctor has the Time Lords use an extraction chamber to pull Clara from her timeline one moment before her death under the ploy that she can help him find information about the hybrid that would stand in Gallifrey's ruins. Attempting to save her, the Doctor takes Clara and a spare TARDIS and escapes Gallifrey hoping that once they get far enough away from Gallifrey her heart will start beating again. They travel to the end of the universe, but Clara's heart remains still. There, the Doctor encounters Ashildr being the last remaining person in the universe and the two eventually conclude that the hybrid is actually the Doctor and Clara being together. The Doctor decides to remove Clara's memories of him hoping that might save her, but Clara alters the device causing it to affect the Doctor. Back in the diner, the Doctor finishes his story and the waitress encourages him to keep going before heading into the back room. It is revealed that the back room is the second TARDIS console room and the diner is part of that TARDIS. Ashildr and Clara leave the Doctor and his TARDIS behind as they travel the stars together, with the intention of...eventually returning to Gallifrey so Clara can meet her end.
This episode is pretty decent. It was great to see Gallifrey properly again, the tension kept building with whether or not Clara could escape her fate or not, and it was cool to see some more of the Doctor's history and the Cloister Wraiths. While other people may absolutely love this finale and I can see why many would, I personally found it to be a little disappointing. Now I can't blame the show for half of my disappointment, and I shall explain. The first disappointment was Clara. Her ending scene was beautiful and powerful. If you're going to kill off a companion, that is the way to do it. However they just couldn't let her die and now we have her going around in a TARDIS with Ashildr and then just sort of popping back to Gallifrey at some point to die. It undermined the whole story of Face the Raven and the care that episode went to give her a proper send-off. The second disappointment was how Gallifrey just sort of appeared towards the end of time. In Day of the Doctor they sort of sealed it off in it's own pocket dimension. I had always assumed that an entire season was going to be dedicated to tracking it down. The Doctor would find little clues throughout time and space after (or during) helping the peoples of those planets and times along the way to eventually lead him to bringing Gallifrey back out of the dimension during the finale. Nope they just figured it out by themselves off-screen. Yes this was an expectation that I had just made out of the blue, but I still think that would have been better. Oh well. It's disappointing but not a bad episode by any means.
The Husbands of River Song
The Doctor is spending Christmas on the planet Mendorax Dellora in the far future when he is mistakenly recruited as a surgeon. His employer is none other than his former companion and wife River Song who has has tasked him with removing a valuable diamond from the head of the evil King Hydroflax. The Doctor is surprised that River cannot identify his newest face and attempts to break the news to her in several ways with no success. He also is having trouble coping with how River acts while on her own... and how many lovers she has. Eventually the Doctor and River bring the head of Hydroflax to a starship to sell it. After a series of events leading to River and the Doctor's capture by Hydroflax's independent robotic body, River finally learns the Doctors identity as the ship comes under meteor strike and crashes into the nearby planet of Darillium. The Doctor has been avoiding Darillium for some time as it where the Doctor and River are fated to have their final date together before she heads to her death at the Library. The Doctor finally gives in and arranges for a restaurant to be built on the planet. The Doctor gives River her own sonic screwdriver and the pair have their final date... which will last 24 years as that is the span of a single night on Darillium.
What a great episode! When we last saw River in The Name of the Doctor, everyone had just sort of assumed that it was the end for River since this was after her death. It was sort of underwhelming but we all just sort of thought we'd never see her again. It was really exciting to see her name in the upcoming Christmas episode and to see a nice and proper goodbye to a fantastic character. While anything is possible and we may be able to see her again, the sort of finality to this episode about their time coming to an end made for a great send-off. This episode is also properly hilarious with humor everywhere, the Doctor learning that River takes his TARDIS at times, and the Doctor getting to reenact the whole "it's bigger on the inside" scene and do it properly. The final reveal of his identity to River was also perfectly done. Basically this was just amazing.
That was series 9, and as of the writing of this post, this is all of the Doctor Who content we have. Series Nine was one of my favorite seasons of the show. This is generally due to the excellent quality provided as well as the experimentation and risk-taking. It really feels like they are putting their all into the series and it shows. Everyone I have spoken to also has agreed with me that this is one phenomenal season! Please join me the next time we have more content to discuss as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.
This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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