Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 7, “Kill the Moon” Review

by William Hohmeister

Doctor Who series 8, episode 7, “Kill the Moon,” by Peter Harness, is tough to review. I’m convinced by now that I don’t like Clara (Jenna Coleman), and probably never will. The last two episodes are good, but focused on Clara especially. She can’t withstand such scrutiny.

Throughout this review I have included my interpretation of how Clara must have explained her adventure to Danny (Samuel Anderson). I hope this helps my thoughts about the end of the episode and her decision to leave the Doctor (Peter Capaldi).

The Doctor is great in this episode. I’ve said before that Capaldi’s Doctor is a jerk and at least a bit cowardly. I still think this, and it has made the character much more interesting.killthemoonclara

Clara: I cannot stand him! The Doctor has gone…just…too far!

Danny: What did he do? Tell me what happened, I can help.

Clara: He insulted Courtney, and when I tried to make him apologize and tell her she’s special, he took her to the moon instead.

Danny: I guess she feels special now.

Clara: And we get there, in 2049, and land with astronauts who are hauling nuclear bombs to blow it up. And there are giant spiders, and dead Mexicans-

Danny: That’s racist.

Clara: How is that racist?

Danny: It feels racist. What were there names?

Clara: Who remembers? And the astronauts died so fast I barely had time to shame them for the bombs!

This has been an issue throughout Doctor Who’s entire run: extras do not matter. All but one of the astronauts die early, and there is a team of pre-dead folks waiting on the moon. They don’t matter. The astronauts aren’t on the moon because of them. They’re just on the moon. Dead.

Danny: Sorry, there were spiders with human teeth, but they weren’t really spiders they were bacteria? And people wanted to blow it all up, because gravity?

Clara: Turns out the moon is an egg.

Danny: What.

Clara: And everyone wanted to blow it up. The Doctor said he didn’t know what happened next, and we had to decide without him. I didn’t know what to do, so I told the earth to vote. I could only see, like, Australia, but close enough. And they all voted to kill the creature hatching out of the moon.

Danny: This has some pretty heavy moral implications.

killthemoon_lundvikClara: Eh, I stopped Captain Lundvik (Hermione Norris) at the last moment. The Doctor reappeared and patronized me-

Courtney Woods (Ellis George): At least he had something to say.

Clara: Get out of here!

Courtney: Seriously, the last ten minutes was just this one, crying her eyes out like a little kid who got lost in a shop.

Clara: So help me, I will take you on another “class trip” if you don’t shut it. You got lucky. The last kids I took didn’t get to hang out safely in the TARDIS. They almost got murdered by robots.nightmare_in_silver

Is there any lesson that endangers enough people that Clara might actually learn something from it? I’m referring to “Nightmare in Silver,” of series 7.

The Doctor refuses when Clara asks to leave. We know about fixed points in time as the limit of what the Doctor can achieve. However many lives he saves, he can’t save everyone. And we see that despite his knowledge of most of time and space, the Doctor often gets into trouble. The series’ tension is introduced when the Companion asks how they can die in the past or future. The Doctor says that time is in flux. He usually doesn’t say more, but in this episode he elaborated.

Danny: This immortal, time-traveling space alien can see all of reality. But he travels to times and places he’s actually vulnerable, seemingly at random. And he’s just arrogant enough to believe he can solve whatever problem he finds.

Clara: Yes.

Danny: Why did he leave you to make the call? Maybe what happened was important in a way we haven’t considered yet?

Clara: Of course! I fell out with the Doctor, and I don’t trust him now, even though he trusts me more than ever. Or did. I guess our argument probably changed his mind.

Danny: I meant something of actual emotional weight, that wasn’t forced in because of “The Caretaker.” Any resolution about Moon Child? Humanity deciding on some weird version of abortion/infanticide? The Doctor’s decision to leave our fate to ourselves and maybe force us to grow up a bit and acknowledge our wider universe? The bizarre reality of his life as a near-omniscient god who is, just sometimes, nearsighted?

Clara: He tried to make a point, but I was crying.

It doesn’t take a supervillain or an apocalypse to threaten people; the universe is dangerous. Sometimes the Doctor does not know the answer. Clara’s reaction shows a lot about the character, but it doesn’t feel Clara-specific. Courtney has almost the same reaction. It seems like anyone could have stood in Clara’s place and said her lines and the episode would have been the same. Clara may grow up, or learn, or become interesting. But with no plot device to tie her to after the end of series 7, and no real personality except her relationship to Danny and the Doctor, Clara’s just… there.

courtney_moon_meme

The rest of the episode is great, go watch it. If you ignore the personal drama, and pay close attention to the Moon Child, you’ll find a hell of a story.

Original Images © BBC Wordwide. Poster by Radio Times. Courtney meme via ComicMix.

– ed: Hannah Givens, I think you will appreciate Will’s take on this. Do give it a read when you have a sec. 🙂

Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 6, “The Caretaker” Review

by William Hohmeister

Hi all. My review of “The Caretaker”, the episode 6 Doctor Who series 8, differs a bit from my other reviews. I’ve got more questions than answers.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is the titular caretaker at Clara’s school, Coal Hill. Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) has to handle both the Doctor and her boyfriend, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). The episode is pretty standard monster-of-the-week stuff. The Skovox Blitzer, a robot with an arsenal that can destroy a planet, does little more than advance the plot between the characters.

The Doctor doesn’t like soldiers. Why? None of the prior Doctors displayed this hostility. Even Ten, who hated guns and disliked authority, worked with and seemed to respect soldiers. Eleven was sympathetic towards the grunts, like Cleric Bob in “The Time of Angels.” The Eighth Doctor asked to be a warrior in “The Day of the Doctor.” But Capaldi’s Doctor displays little but scorn and contempt for people like Journey Blue and Danny Pink. Why?

I think this is a more important question than it seems at first. In “Deep Breath”, the Doctor claims he wants to fix his past mistakes. Have we seen him do that? Is there any way that this Doctor seems like he’s grown as a character from Eleven? The argument I’ve seen is that he’s more mature because he’s disillusioned; instead of trying to save everyone, the Doctor saves the people he can and maintains “professional detachment” (to quote Psi).

skovoxblitzer

The Skovox Blitzer

How is this maturity? The Skovox Blitzer is a war machine in hiding. It kills a policeman early on. We know little about it beyond that. The Doctor wants to lure it to Clara’s school to dispose of it safely. Clara objects, but goes along with it. Danny accidentally interrupts the process, which causes the Doctor to go on a rant about Danny’s stupidity. In reality, this rant should be directed at the Doctor, who, aside from reckless endangerment, never thought to create a backup plan in case someone found his devices.

The Skovox Blitzer is a war machine, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of sentience or redemption. The Doctor gives it the chance for neither. The monster reinforces the Doctor’s militant beliefs. The Doctor is so focused on destroying the threat, he ignores everything else, including:

  1. The Doctor created the threat by provoking the monster
  2. Danny’s suggestion to evacuate the school after the monster returns
  3. Clara’s dependence on orders to stay alive
  4. The Doctor only tries to negotiate when he is cornered and unarmed

Although he claims to hate soldiers, the Doctor uses the instincts of soldiers to his advantage. And the primary instinct of a soldier isn’t to kill or destroy. After seeing her with the Doctor, Danny Pink points out to Clara:

dannycaretaker

Danny Pink

You weren’t even scared. And you should have been.

Danny questions the Doctor, and does not obey; when he comes to the rescue, it goes against the Doctor’s plan. When he questions the Doctor, he touches a more sensitive nerve than we’ve seen yet. The Doctor loses his calm because Danny salutes him and points out the obvious: the Doctor has considerable more bloodlust than any soldier we’ve met in the series. The Doctor believes that fixing his mistakes means destroying threats, not saving people.

Clara has the soldier’s instinct to obey. A warrior/murderer/psychopath is driven by bloodlust, but a soldier functions on a strict hierarchy that he or she trusts to keep them alive. Clara trusts the Doctor, so when he uses her as bait/distraction, she doesn’t question him. The Doctor uses this, and has developed a paternal attitude toward Clara because of it. He says (of Danny):

You’ve explained me to him, but you haven’t explained him to me!

Not to mention his threats to kick Clara off the TARDIS if she disobeys. More than any other Doctor I’ve seen, Twelve has deliberately turned Clara into a useful weapon/tool. Though the episode explores Clara’s relationships, she is the only character left without resolution. The Doctor has always been dangerous to be around, but now he is a bad influence for his only friend.

seb

Seb!

Which makes Missy (Michelle Gomez) much more interesting. We know little about her, though we meet her assistant, Seb (Chris Addison), who introduces the dead policeman to… somewhere. It acts as a way station, I think, a way to the Promised Land, the Afterlife, the Nethersphere, and probably more. Seb also hints that Missy is god, or god-like. She certainly shows more concern for the (mostly) nameless casualties the Doctor now ignores. Which brings me to my question:

Is the Doctor still the hero of Doctor Who? Small things say “no.” The monster-of-the-week, though common to past series, was usually the focus of the episode. Instead, the monsters are nothing compared to a Doctor more willing to take the extreme/easy option.

Other things of interest: What is a Time Lord? I thought it was a species name for the former Gallifreyans, but “Listen” and “The Caretaker” state it was a social class or rank. If you know the history (and though I’ve looked it up, I can’t find a definite answer) leave m e a comment below or tweet @hohmeisw.

images © BBC Worldwide

Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 5: “Time Heist” Review

by William Hohmeister

“Time Heist” is a good episode. I do not like it. The fifth episode of series 8 Doctor Who is well-paced, has strong characters and an interesting plot, but I can’t stand it. It was co-written by Steven Moffat and Stephen Thompson. Thompson also wrote the episode I hate most in all of Doctor Who: “The Curse of the Black Spot.”

The episode is a bit disjointed because the characters each wipe their memories five minutes in. The setup is: Madame Karabraxos (Keeley Hawes), an old woman full of regret, calls the Doctor (Peter Capaldi). She met him long ago, but he has not yet met her. She asks him to save the Teller (Ross Mullan), a telepathic species with only two living members. The Doctor agrees, and assembles Team Not Dead: Psi (Jonathon Bailey), a cyborg, and Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner), a shapeshifter. Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) is also in the episode, but only for morale.scrooge

Team Not Dead plans how to break into Bank Karabraxos, the most secure bank in the universe. The bank uses the Teller to detect guilt, and melt the brains of the guilty. The Teller’s mate is a hostage to young Madame Karabraxos, who lives in her bank vault like Scrooge McDuck.

The Doctor uses the Tardis to plant equipment for the heist, and records himself as the “Architect” to give the team instructions. He uses the gross/adorable memory worms to wipe their minds, including his own. This is interesting: the Doctor is unusually open and honest prior to the heist. He makes plans to keep everyone alive, tells them why he wants to rob the bank, and tells them what treasure they will want to take. After the mind-wipe the Architect manipulates everyone, including the Doctor. The Doctor tries to remain aloof, but his confusion makes him a part of the team.

psiPsi and Saibra have short backstories, but their motivation and abilities are clear. Psi interests me more, because even before the heist he had wiped his mind to protect his family and friends. This clearly affects him more deeply than he lets on; when Clara asks how he could do that, Psi replies:

I suppose I must have loved them.

Saibra can perfectly imitate any other human, but she has a dash of Rogue: her power is not under her control. She can’t help but change when she touches someone. She and Psi each steal things to help with their particular problems as payment. Saibra also establishes the theme of the episode when she asks the Doctor:

Could you trust someone who looked back at you out of your own eyes?shapeshifter

The theme is self-loathing. Young Karabraxos uses a clone of herself as the head of bank security at each branch. When a clone fails, she burns it alive. This self-loathing will later prompt her to call the Doctor as she’s dying, but for now she’s just a rich woman in a vault. The head of security, Ms. Delphox, serves as the villain instead. This is the main problem with the episode.

The villain of any Doctor Who episode has to meet a lot of requirements. They need to be intelligent and strong, but not overpowering. If the Doctor has no chance, his win feels like a cheat, or absurd, like “The Last of the Time Lords” (series 3). If the villain presents no challenge, the episode is boring. One of my favorite one-shot villains is Miss Foster in the series 4 episode “Partners in Crime”. She’s not physically threatening, but she’s competent, has a goal, and works toward it. Most of all, she believes in her goal.

Madame Karabraxos has no goal. She seems competent for the short time we see her, but she wants nothing. Ms. Delphox is no better. As head of bank security, and with an interest in not being burned alive, she should be vicious and practical. Instead, she relies on the Teller. Deterrence seems to be the goal, but she later claims that intruders are welcome because they help test defenses. The Teller is frightening, but it lumbers along like a slasher-movie villain, and, on rewatch, presents no actual threat.

tellerThis is one of the few episodes that I disliked more after rewatching it. The most secure bank in the universe has terrible security. We see only one camera and DNA scanner in the entire building, and the camera is focused on a victim of the Teller. Saibra passes one DNA check, reverts to her own form (for no reason), and it still takes Delphox several minutes to send guards. The guards exist only to chase the team toward the Teller, which is the only source of real tension. However, the Doctor saves the day by allowing the Teller to scan his mind, which reveals that the Doctor is here to save it and its mate. Every time Team Not Dead encountered the Teller there was no danger, as a scan would reveal the truth.

After the rescue, the Doctor drops everyone off. I hope we see more of Psi: what will he do now that he can have his memories back? He’s still a danger to his friends and family. I also like how he shuts Clara down when she begins making excuses for the Doctor after Saibra appears to die.

Why was Clara along? We find out at the end: the Doctor is jealous. After she leaves he celebrates, saying:

Robbing a bank, robbing a whole bank. Beat that for a date!

How serious was the Doctor when he said “I’m not your boyfriend?”