“Just Promise Me One Thing. Just Promise You Won’t Get Me Killed…”
One of the most obvious and thrilling elements of this week’s episode of Doctor Who was the surreal and reckless sense of abandon which show-runner Steven Moffat clearly has come to terms with, with the talented, and sometimes controversial, scribe clearly at a stage in which he sure well knows his time, much like Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, is coming to an explosive climax, and with “World Enough and Time”, Moffat has successfully created a finale first act which ticks all the boxes in regards to what I personally look for in all the classic Doctor Who stories. Suspense. Threat. Horror. Three key elements that usually end up in creating some damn fine science fiction, and whilst the rather annoying pre-release press storms have felt it necessary to show off a rafter of key details and spoilers before the episode even aired, “World Enough and Time” is still undeniably and far and away the best episode of Series 10 so far, and with twists and shifts which set the battleground for next week’s explosive finale, it too has the potential to become the definitive Moffat/Capaldi exploration of the famous Time Lord.
Within the episode’s many successes, the return of the Mondasian Cybermen is an absolute stroke of genius. Whilst the 21st century incarnations of the famous Who foe have never really managed to get the characterisation and fear factor bang on, the utterly insidious look of the classic era baddies results in “World Enough and Time” genuinely being one of the most terrifying episodes of Doctor Who in years, with the body-horror type sets in which they are painfully hooked up to an unknown liquid harking back to not only the gas-mask people in “The Doctor Dances” but looking too like something out of a classic horror movie convention. The threatening nature of the Mondasian Cybermen aside, the inevitable links between the fate of the First Doctor within “The Tenth Planet”, an episode which featured the very first appearance of the Cybermen on Mondas, and Capaldi’s current incarnation are inevitable, particularly when regeneration energy is so clearly seen to be seeping out of our beloved hero. Overall, “World Enough and Time” is an excellent episode of Doctor Who, and whilst the episode would have been better served to be left to its’ own devices in terms of unravelling its’ secrets itself, grab the popcorn and get ready for a concluding piece next week which so clearly needs to keep to the standards set so far. Oh, and John Simm though.
Overall Score: 9/10
“Time To Grow Up. Time To Fight Your Fight…”
Whilst the notion of centurions within Doctor Who automatically resorts to times gone by within the era of Matt Smith, this weeks’ episode featured a budding mystery regarding the fate of the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman Army amidst a narrative which featured too a time-splitting leading alien entity and an incredibly talkative creepy crow. Isn’t science fiction great? Penned by Rona Munro, a writer already well-versed in the ways of all things Time Lord, with her previous works including the Sylvester McCoy led episode “Survival”, the final Classic Who story to air on the BBC until its’ return all the way back in 2005, “The Eaters of Light” is a passably fun tale of adventure, one which comes across as a surreal amalgamation between the BBC-ran adventure series Raven and the portal-weaving adventures within Stargate, but too a tale which feels ever so slightly underwhelming at times to really be considered anything other than just a precursor to much more interesting developments which are set to unravel within next weeks penultimate episode, adding to a year of stories which have been solid enough, but lack in a certain amount of wonder in comparison to the critical acclaim of Series Nine.
With events taking place in the homeland of Capaldi, it comes as no surprise that the inclusion of an abundance of fellow Scots results in an array of Scottish-targeted quips. most of which are expertly managed by the straightforward tone of Capaldi’s take on the travelling Time Lord, and whilst the underlying true-to-life mystery at the heart of the story laid down a possible interesting narrative, “The Eaters of Light” is ironically the most straight-forward tale of good vs. evil so far this series. Aided by an array of slightly dull secondary characters, Munro’s script does ultimately come across as slightly pre-21st century Doctor Who at times, with the cliched plot one in which I struggled to really engage with and whilst the design of the titular monsters is interesting enough, the threat in which they pose is minimal to say the least. Throw into the mix some shady and rather cringe-laden CGI, “The Eaters of Light” is not means a terrible episode, it just lacks the invention and spark of many which have preceded it.
Overall Score: 5/10
“That’s Not Just Any Tomb. This Is The Tomb Of The Ice Queen…”
Ah, the Ice Warriors. Those awfully designed, avocado shaped, freezer magnets. Whilst many contemporary Who fans would have been made aware of their existence in the slightly better than average, Matt Smith-led “Cold War” back in Series Seven, their history through the Whoniverse begins all the way back within Patrick Troughton’s stint in the late 1960’s, with their second appearance within “The Seeds of Death” arguably being the biggest fan-favourite episode in which they are the primary antagonist of the piece. Returning this week and facing battle with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor in “The Empress of Mars”, the Ice Warriors are moulded into submission by constant Moffat companion Mark Gatiss who returns as a guest scriptwriter, following on from Series 9’s fan dividing episode “Sleep No More” and whilst many are aware of Gatiss’s love for all things Doctor Who, the multi-talented sci-fi geek is behind a script which although is pleasing in many aspects, also suffers from a slight feel of anti-climax, particularly in regards to the trio of episodes most recently, and whilst Gatiss’s work on Doctor Who has never really been consistently excellent, “The Empress of Mars” is arguably the weakest episode of the series so far, if remaining to the motif of a more “classic Who” feel which has been more than rife throughout this year’s series.
Whilst Matt Lucas’s Nardole is once again cast out as side-companion, appearing only at the beginning and end of the story, Pearl Mackie is once again a real treat to be seen at Capaldi’s side, offering quick, infectious quips when necessary and holding a sense of ingrained humanity when comparing her outrageous situation to the likes of famous science fiction movies. At the heart of the narrative, the titular female leader of the Ice Warriors can only be regarded as somewhat of a major letdown, one whose one-dimensional characterisation lacks a complete sense of threat even when shooting funky lazer beams at endless cannon fodder who are transformed into anatomy defying squares of death. Whilst the endgame of the story is simple enough for even the youngest of minds, Gatiss does make up for a mediocre script with a concluding scene which links in the previous appearances of the Ice Warriors in the best fan-pleasing way possible when as soon as the high-pitched voice of Alpha Centauri was heard, my heart was won completely over and my mind was thrown back to the Pertwee years, a winning formula whenever when considering Pertwee remains my favourite Doctor to this very day. This week’s episode was good enough but still remains the weakest of the series so far. Maybe next time Gatiss.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You’re Version Of Good Is Not Absolute. It’s Very Arrogant, Sentimental…”
Whilst both “Extremis” and “The Pyramid at the End of the World” were indeed both bold and exciting tales of science fiction wonder, their role as pre-cursor for this week’s episode heeds a huge sense of pressure on the concluding part of the story this week, one which needs to sustain its’ predecessors greatness in order to really conclude whether the trilogy has ultimately worked as a whole rather than falling under the weight of the sum of its’ parts. Thankfully, taking paranoid, dystopian cues from the likes of Orwell and highlighting notions of a controlled state which has been rife in cinematic entertainment for years, “The Lie of the Land” continues the courageous recent writings by offering a narrative which concludes the past few weeks’ story in an effective and well played manner, but one which too falls short of greatness due to some middling false steps. As with most of Capaldi’s reign as Doctor, his performance continues to cement my argument that his portrayal is the first real true contemporary incarnation of the “classic” mould of the travelling Time Lord, whilst Pearl Mackie’s Bill really has the opportunity to shine this week, proving to the naysayers that her inclusion this year is indeed one of the real stand-out positives of the series.
Whilst the threat of the Monks ultimately does come across as rather limited and anti-climactic, with the trilogy not entirely providing an effective stance of their ultimate show of power, the scene in which we witness soldiers heading into battle against the background of Bill’s recorded voice, one which acts as a blocker to the brainwashing power of the Monks. is superbly done. The lack of sustained threat however does ultimately resign the Monks to a limited memorability factor, with them not entirely hitting the standards of classic Who villains by any means and this negative attribute is one of the reasons why this particular trilogy doesn’t exactly transcend to any more than something which is brilliantly bold instead of the contemporary masterpiece I believe I think it wants to be. Whilst “Extremis” is still the best of the three episodes, the differing nature of each could arguably allow for future viewings without the need to see the entire trilogy, and whilst this is a good sign for moderate viewers of the show, the overarching success of the trilogy suffers from this, but as an individual episode, “The Lie of the Land” is effective enough to be regarded as a solid win.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Do You Consent?”
Whilst the linchpin of Classic Doctor Who serials was a continual spread of episodes spread around the basis of one particular story, with the likes of “The War Games”, “Trial of a Time Lord” and “The Dalek’s Master Plan” each breaking the ten episode mark in order to completely fulfil their narrative wishes without any cause for constraint aside from a slight echo of inevitable bagginess. For contemporary Who audiences, the idea of one particular story playing over the course of months is a notion of indirect ignorance even if now and then we get an entire series which has a through-line of a narrative which attempts to link certain elements all together within stories which are primarily one-off and unrelated to the bigger picture, beginning with Bad Wolf all the way back in series one and carrying through with plot threads including the inclusion of Torchwood, the appearance of Harold Saxon and the cracks in time which cropped up across Matt Smith’s debut series. With “Extremis” last week, the continuation of that particular tale carries on this week with “The Pyramid at the End of the World” in a supposed trilogy of stories which will seemingly conclude next week, and whilst “Extremis” was an interesting precursor to the story ahead, does this weeks episode continue its’ groundwork success?
In a nutshell? Yes, and whilst the episode does include elements which are utterly preposterous and epic in stature, the bare bones of the story is rather straightforward and grounded, with The Doctor being at the centre of an impossible situation in which the separate parties around him each have differing points of view on survival. With the enemies once again being the creepy, robe wearing monks, their plan for world domination continues by using the one thing that forces any human being into rash decisions; fear, choosing the knowledge of foresight as the pawn in their domineering game of megalomania and control, whilst The Stand-esque subplot involving a mass outbreak of murderous biological material concludes with the Doctor’s sight returning for the time being, but at what cost? Although the twists and turns regarding Bill’s survival during her submission to the monks was rather obvious when it eventually occurred, the Doctor’s predicament when locked in the airlock with a detonating explosive device was effectively played, using the element of his blindness to a nerve-wracking degree which in the end has set up the play for the final endgame which is set to conclude next week. If ever there was evidence for supplying fans with longer stories into the future, these past two weeks are a strong chip to play with,
Overall Score: 8/10
“You Seem Like A Man With Regret On His Mind…”
When the opening titles roll and the words, “written by Steven Moffat” appear upon the screen amidst whirling noises of theremins and the eyebrows of the Twelfth Doctor, the unwitting desire to wonder whether the next 45 minutes will either be in the camp of superb recent episodes such as “Blink”, “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” and “Heaven Sent” or in the not-so-good area of stories such as “The Beast Below” and “The Bells of Saint John”. Whilst Capaldi does seem to get the best out of Moffat’s writing, due in part to an acting ability above the levels of which the mind can comprehend, this week’s episode, “Extremis”, is ultimately a lesser beast than the masterpieces Who fans have been treated to over the years but still a mindbogglingly brave and adventurous episode, the type of which is determined for the die-hard Who fans to watch much more than once in order to understand its’ complete complexities and impact on the season’s overall narrative endgame. Acting as a pre-cursor to the continuation of the story next week, “Extremis” answers an abundance of questions that have arisen from the series so far and unlike previous episodes, is a story primarily dedicated solely to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, something of which is rarely a missed opportunity.
With an episode which veers everywhere from the Vatican to the Oval Office, “Extremis” is an interesting experimental episode of Doctor Who which takes ques from previous episodes such as “Dark Water/Death In Heaven” in regards to the use of artificial intelligence and the notion of the finality of death not exactly coming full circle, whilst the episode’s main antagonists seem to cross wardrobes between the titular mummy from “Mummy on the Orient Express” and the Order of the Headless from “A Good Man Goes to War”, exposing skinless fingers from intergalactic portals and conveying their desires through a whispered tone of eeriness. At the centre of the narrative is the Veritas, a supposed cursed text which leads to the death of anyone who reads it and whilst the twist and importance of this particular element is definitely something of which I can safely say I didn’t see coming, it is hard to review “Extremis” as a singular episode because of the ambiguity of the ultimate conclusion which awaits us within the coming weeks. What “Extremis” does boast however is a interestingly spooky script and enough fan-pleasing elements to keep the majority of its’ audience hyped for what’s to come, even with the rather anti-climactic resolution of who indeed was the guest of the Doctor’s sacred vault.
Overall Score: 8/10
“You Sent Out A Distress Call, You Should Be Expecting Company…”
When half of the population of the UK tuned into BBC One last night to get ready for the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest, they probably would have witnessed a concluding scene of this week’s Doctor Who which left our time travelling hero in a state which can only be regarded as less than desired after a 45 minute science fiction spectacle which mixed in elements of horror, capitalism and a very rare sense of unapologetic threat which put our leading heroes in one of the toughest situations of the series so far. With (SPOILERS INCOMING) our beloved Time Lord suffering from the effects of being exposed to the vacuum of space in order to save Bill from a similar or even worse fate, “Oxygen”, written by Jamie Mathieson, the creative mind behind two of Series 8’s best episodes in the form of “Flatline” and “Mummy on the Orient Express”, served up the most thrilling story yet, placing our leading trio within the confines of a claustrophobic future space station where the crew have been replaced with a literal incarnation of the walking dead and the oxygen levels are determined by wealth rather than the importance of the human life. Cue a distress beacon and an eagerly excited Doctor, “Oxygen” proves that Mr. Mathieson is one of the leading writers of the moment when it comes to contemporary Who.
Directed by Who veteran Charles Palmer, “Oxygen” is arguably the most beautifully shot episode of the series so far, with the set design and outside shots of space a real positive of the episode, highlighting how far Doctor Who has come since the days of rubber Sea Devils and hokey dinosaur special effects. Whilst not directly the main villains of the episode, the scenes in which our heroes are being stalked by the deceased corpse’s of the station’s previous occupants is eerily effective, taking cues from previous Who episodes such as Series 9’s “Under the Lake” and “Sleep No More” whilst the narrative structure of the Doctor being trapped aboard a lonely vessel is a blueprint of which many of the classic Who tales are wholly indebted to, particularly “The Ark in Space” and one of my personal classic serials in the form of “The Caves of Androzani”. When the concluding twist does arrive, the notion of the Doctor’s blindness is an interesting development, particularly with the upcoming regeneration not exactly far off, and in a similar vein to Peter Davison’s regeneration within his final story, Capaldi’s incarnation could be set for a slow burning regeneration within a series which continues to impress.
Overall Score: 8/10
“It’s Upsetting, I Understand, But Father Says We Have To Survive…”
Listen closely. A spooky house. An abundance of creaky floorboards. A creepy landlord. Cheap rent. If ever there was a recipe for a good old fashioned Doctor Who episode, “Knock Knock”, written by British playwright and lead writer and creator of BBC’s Doctor Foster, Mike Bartlett, plays between the lines of horror and fantasy in a way in which the show knows how to do best and whilst once again this week’s episode isn’t exactly one of the more memorable contemporary Who episodes, it does manage to continue the solid start to a season which is determined to play it reasonably straight and offer light-hearted escapism rather than the mind-bending narratives previous stories have suffered from. Adding to the episode’s lucid, creepy charm, Hercule Poirot himself, David Suchet, is arguably one of the most appealing elements of the story, portraying the eerie landlord of the overwhelmingly sinister building in which Bill and her fellow student acquaintances are more than happy enough to move into after numerous attempts of finding their own “dream” home, and whilst Suchet’s character isn’t prone to fits of murderous rampages, he does manage to portray the spookiest use of a tuning fork in recent memory.
Whilst the narrative does become rather too PG rated come the conclusion of the episode, with it having more of an effective pay-off to see the unfortunate victims of the house being well and truly dead and buried, as cold as that ultimately sounds, and the appearance of the main alien species being slightly underwhelming considering the gothic-based nature the episode attempts to convey, “Knock Knock” is an entertaining episode which unfortunately for the forty minutes which precedes it has a five minute conclusion which is slightly more interesting and compelling, with the vault in which the Doctor has been tasked with protecting, a plot strand which has been the through-line for the early episodes of the season, offering bite-sized clues for who indeed is the lucky guest with a penchant for classical piano and a hunger for food with a Mexican infusion. Keep up the good work Doctor Who, you are doing a good grand job so far.
Overall Score: 8/10
Its been a difficult few weeks for Star Wars fans who have been rocked by the death of Carrie Fisher. Even more so consider her reportedly large role within the upcoming instalment of the series. Fortunately, the filming for Episode 8 has wrapped and Fisher will be making a posthumous return, but what about the final episode in this trilogy that also considers her role extremely important?
If we take a step back and look at the latest Star Wars adaptation, we can see Disney and Lucasfilms have a potential solution. Peter Cushing or as some may know him, Grand Moff Tarkin was digitally imprinted into Rogue One. Cushing, who died is 1994 was brought back to life by VFX artists and magicians to reprise the iconic role with express permission from his estate. Personally, had I not been told, I wouldn’t have known about this until after the release of the film which prompted a lot of controversy. Towards the end of the film we also witnessed a young Princess Leia using the same technology but was far more apparent.
Its being reported that Disney have already begun talks with Fisher’s estate to utilise her image as Princess Leia so they can finish this trilogy. As of what the talks will consist of or if there will be any script/story changes, we can’t be sure, but its hoped by many that if they come to an agreement, Leia will be done gracefully, not overdone and her role heavily reduced or ended appropriately.
Considering the impact of the character on the universe and the film industry, I can see a deal going ahead. Fisher’s estate owes a lot to the Leia character and the fans that have supported them the over decades and I feel that justice can be done for both Carrie and Leia to round out her career with respectfully.
What do you think of this? Would you like to see Fisher maintain her role through CGI? Let us know in the comment section below!
“All We Can Do Scully Is Pull The Thread, See What It Unravels…”
Typical. You wait fourteen years for one of your favourite shows to return and then you get hit with two new episodes within the space of just twenty four hours. It’s like London buses. Kind of. If the first episode was let down by its’ extreme determination to shove as much in your face as humanly possible with the return of the shows’ overlying mythology, then the second adheres to the secondary X-Files plot basis with the return of the “Monster of the Week” stories whilst featuring a heavy dose of looking back in regards to the long lost William, the son of both Mulder and Scully whom they gave up for adoption in Series 8. From the off, it is fundamentally wonderful to witness a programme as loved as The X-Files back on the small screen, and those that may have been let down by the premiere of the latest series will hopefully have their faith restored with “Founders Mutation”, an episode in which it reminds us of the good old tales of the paranormal in which the original series made its’ name. And oh, with added blood and gore.
After the supposed suicide of a scientist, Agents Mulder and Scully, recently back on X-Files duty, unravel the strange circumstances regarding his death, eventually resulting in the discovery of a laboratory in which testings are made upon young children, each with extreme genetic deformities as well as dangerous and powerful paranormal powers. Sounds like an atypical episode of The X-Files does it not? And in proper succinct fashion with classic monster-of-the-week episodes, “Founders Mutation” does what X-Files has always done best; show off a creepy story with a rather mind-boggling plot but keep it together with the chemistry of its’ two leads. If Duchovny and Scully were in danger of being recognised as actors who had perhaps just decided to “phone-in” their performances within this latest series, then this episode alone shows off how inherently excited and proud they must be to back in the show that quickly made them household names in the 1990’s. They’re having fun and so is the audience, with a script so stark-raving mad it verges on X-Files satire with the violence being turned up way past eleven it makes a Tarantino flick look harmless. It’s X-Files 101 and I love it.
Viewers who are perhaps less than informed with the overarching mythology of the series’ earlier seasons may be rather alienated by the plot thread of William, but it was interesting to see the correlation between the investigation and our agents’ personal lives, one in which the discussion of their long lost child has been a good way to keep relations to the earlier plot lines established across the mythology. Perhaps the realisation of Scully’s DNA being part alien will tie into the rediscovery of their adopted son, something of which may in turn be exposed in the remaining four episodes. Whatever the ultimate goal of this ever-so-short revival inevitably is, whether it be to see if interest in the show is still rife today, fans across the globe are just happy to see its’ return and with “Founders Mutation” being a stark improvement on the first episode, things are only getting better.