Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 12, “Death in Heaven” Review

by William Hohmeister

I think sometimes I’m too hard on Doctor Who. Series 8, for all its flaws, is so much better than series 6 and 7 that there’s really no comparison. And while the finale did not meet my expectations, I think it was good. I had a few problems, which I’ll deal with right now, in several open letters to people both fictional and real.

Guards. If the woman currently locked in the cargo hold of the plane talks about killing people soon, openly displays that she is no longer restrained, and then saunters over to take a hostage, at some point you need to shoot her. Maybe even just look surprised as you’re murdered.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi). You saw the Mistress (Michelle Gomez) melt Dr. Chang only a short time ago. Take the weapon she used far away from her. Do not leave it within easy reach. This is what gets great supporting characters like Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) incinerated.

Steven Moffat (writer/showrunner). Maybe I’m wrong for wanting the Doctor to grow and change. I think the Companion is supposed to experience a character arc. But Clara doesn’t change until the end of the episode. I think you’re trying, but we need reasons to care about these people. Even Danny Pink.

Dan the Cyberman (Samuel Anderson). Let go of your death certificate. We only need one shot to establish that it’s you (and really, not even that). You’re also unreasonably angry at the Doctor, but I think you’re just adjusting to life as a soulless automaton. What an Afterlife, right?

Clara (Jenna Coleman). You did really well this episode. You learned and changed more this episode, as a minor character with nothing to do, than you have during all of series 8. I’m incredibly glad you’re gone.

The first twenty minutes are all set up. The Mistress uses “cyber-clouds” to infect all of earth. UNIT takes the Mistress and the Doctor prisoner, then swears the Doctor in as President of Earth. Danny rescues Clara and takes her to a graveyard. The Mistress wrecks the plane, the Doctor starts to plummet to his doom, and Seb (Chris Addison) geeks out when the Doctor escapes.

The Mistress’ casual violence is spooky throughout the episode, as she kills Osgood and Seb on a whim. Despite the utter failure of the guards, and the Doctor’s brain fart (mentioned above), the Mistress seems capable and forceful. I expected her to kill Clara after the reveal that she kept Clara and the Doctor together, but… huh.

Okay, new letter. The Mistress. Why did you bother to get Clara and the Doctor together? Because she’s a control freak? Why go to the trouble?

Dan the Cyberman and Clara argue about their relationship until the Doctor lands. They all argue, Dan the Cyberman reveals the Mistress’ plan, and she appears like a psychotic Mary Poppins.

I said in my review of “Dark Water” that the personal in the middle of the grand makes Doctor Who appealing to me. Dan the Cyberman gives a big speech, there are a lot of explosions, but the short conversations between the Doctor and the Mistress make the episode work. On the plane, she tries to gain control over the Doctor by teasing him with Gallifrey’s location. He responds by telling her how easy ruling the world is.

I know only a little about the past relationship between the Doctor and the Master. I know they’ve always been antagonists, except for a hinted-at past as children on Gallifrey. I know the Master wants to conquer everything, but the Doctor most of all. The Mistress demonstrates her complete control of the Cybermen (except Dan), wishes the Doctor a happy birthday…

And the Mistress gives control of the Cybermen to the Doctor. She has two explanations, one cliché (“We’re not so different, you and I”) and one true, when she says:doctor_missy

I need my friend back.

The Mistress can’t change. Even if she no longer hears the drums, she’s still crazy and deadly and effective. It’s possible she arranged for the Doctor to be elected President of Earth as well, to give him all the power he wants. He can, as she says, save everyone. He can make the universe exactly as he wants it to be. She’s saying: Be the Master. You don’t know if you’re the Doctor anymore, so be the Master.

I guess that the Doctor’s response, that he is not a general, a hero, or anything but an idiot in a big blue box, is Steven Moffat speaking through him. I wrote about Nine and Ten’s transformation into a Satan-like character, and I think Eleven was meant to be a mix of gallant fairy-tale hero and old monster under the bridge. Twelve lets all of that go, and reestablishes his identity as the Doctor.

After Danny destroys the clouds, the Mistress gives the Doctor the coordinates for Gallifrey, and offers to go with him. Clara is about to kill her, but the Doctor offers to do it. The Mistress seems surprised, but delighted. She poses. Before the Doctor can pull the trigger, The Brigadier, Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (originally played by Nicholas Courtney) resurrected as a Cyberman, disintegrates the Mistress and flies off.

Danny has a chance to return to life, but sends the kid he shot instead. The Doctor checks out the coordinates the Mistress gave him for Gallifrey. I’m not certain that the Mistress lied, but we see the Doctor destroy part of the Tardis console in rage, so it’s likely. At the end, Clara and the Doctor meet up in a café and lie to each other.

clara_12It sounds simple, but it’s tricky with their relationship. The Doctor thinks Dan the Cyberman returned from the dead and Clara lets him. Clara thinks the Doctor found Gallifrey restored, and he lets her. They both lie to give the other a chance to move on, which finishes the characters’ history together. If they got back together they’d have to admit the truth, and neither is capable of that.

The Doctor leaves, but the final shot is of Clara. She was special and now she merges back into the crowd, part of the mundane again. It’s a quiet, strong end to a “meh” relationship that needed to end. I wish the Mistress had lived, but I doubt it’s the last we’ve seen of her. And I’m interested now in series 9.

Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 4: “Listen” Review

by William Hohmeister

In Doctor Who series 8, episode 4 , we learn the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is scared of the dark. “Listen” is a character episode that focuses on revealing more of the Doctor’s nature. It is less concerned with the plot, which is purposeful nonsense.

DannyPinkClara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) and Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) get a bit of character development as well, though I do not understand it well. They go on a date, but take turns offending each other. First, Clara storms out, then uses time travel to try to fix the evening. Danny becomes suspicious when Clara calls him “Rupert”, and storms out. Neither “offense” seems terrible enough to leave, but at the end we see them make out. There’s a creepy reason for this I’ll reveal later.

The premise of the episode’s plot is flawed, which is the point of the episode. Steven Moffat wrote the episode, and he has a history of revealing the “cause” of basic fears; think of the Weeping Angels and the Vashta Nerada. In “Listen,” Moffat subverts his own plot to show us something very interesting about the Doctor, but he builds the suspense in such a way as to make us believe in the premise.

The Doctor claims there are creatures with the skills of perfect hunting and Listenboardperfect defense, and asks an empty TARDIS why there is no creature with perfect hiding. The Doctor’s premise is wrong; there are apex predators, but there is no perfect predator (not even that one: tell-tale shimmer). Assuming there is such a thing as perfect hiding is also wrong. However, when the Doctor puts down a piece of chalk, something picks it up and writes “listen” on his blackboard.

The Doctor picks up Clara after her date, and proposes a theory: at some point, every human has a dream in which the perfect hiders visit them. The dream is a hand from under the bed grabbing the dreamer’s leg. Clara asks if the Doctor has had this dream, but he turns the question back on her, and doesn’t answer.

Clara and the Doctor have a great moment when the Doctor turns control of the Tardis over to her. It means a lot to Clara, from the look on her face, but the Doctor does it with total trust. Clara tries to steer them to when she had the dream, but she’s distracted by thoughts of Danny. She takes them to the night when Danny had the dream.

The Doctor talks to the night watchman of Danny’s orphanage, while Clara talks listenbedto Danny. Here is the creeper part of the episode: Clara gets under Danny’s bed to show him there’s nothing there. Danny crawls under with her. He has never heard the term “stranger danger”. Someone sits on the bed. Clara and Danny crawl out from under, and see someone hiding beneath a blanket. This is almost certainly a metaphor for the unintentional erection Clara just gave young Danny, and also explains why he’s so into her as an adult (childhood formative experiences are powerful).

The Doctor breaks the tension, but brings it up again as he instructs everyone not to look at the creature until it disappears. This, to me, is where it became clear the “monsters” are not real. A perfect predator always kills, a perfect defense is impregnable, and a perfect hider does not randomly hang out on top of a bed, beneath a blanket but still in clear view.

Clara’s skepticism seemed odd to me, but at this point it seems like she is the Listenhandadult, while the Doctor has succumbed to a childhood fear. This is the purpose of the rest of the episode. The Doctor risks his life to find out if the perfect hiders exist. Clara pilots the TARDIS to safety, but inadvertently plants the idea in the young Doctor’s head. She lands on Gallifrey, is forced to hide under the young Doctor’s bed, and grabs his ankle when he stands up. When she reenters the TARDIS , she points out the obvious: there is nothing in the dark but the fears the Doctor projects.

I really like this. It’s a twist on a typical story, and it reveals much about the Capaldi-Doctor. He is the oldest, most mature Doctor we’ve seen in the new series. He’s also afraid of the dark. The Doctor, despite all his glibness and bravado, has a child’s fear of the unknown. Every instance of the “creatures” is explained by something reasonable – rattling pipes, rushing air, the Doctor writing on his blackboard and forgetting it. It’s an anticlimax, but I dig it.

The episode ends with Danny and Clara together. Clara also meets Orson Pink, her (probable) great-grandson with Danny. I hope this is a setup. Danny and Clara are sweet and awkward, but I want something terrible to happen to that relationship and break up Clara’s (presumed) timeline. Orson Pink also hints that there is a family history of time travel, implying perhaps that Danny will travel through time. Or has he already?

What do you think of the monsters? Is there an obvious answer to their reality that I missed? Do you have a different theory? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

The Seven Shitty Moffatisms Destroying Doctor Who – Part I

Julian R. Munds

(PART I)Introduction to the Moffatocracy

Extremites, I apologize for my lackadaisical posts of recent. Whereas Ben’s posts have taken on a life of their own, and begun to flood the many annals of Image Comics’ social elites, my three series have not figured as heavily on the main walls of the Review. There’s a very good excuse for this, if you care to know, which hopefully you do: my computer, my dear portal to the world, suddenly stopped functioning and after a couple hundred dollars, which is a limb’s worth of cash to an out of work actor and writer like myself, is finally operating at maximum efficiency.

During my forced time off from fan punditry I experienced a shower epiphany, where all great ideas are coined, that Extremis needs another series.

You probably know, having followed many of my posts, that I have an affection forDoctor…

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