The Cutprice Guignol

The Fifth Year: How to Get Away with Meh

Category: doctor who recaps

Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time Review

Ugh. This review is a little late, because I’ve been spending a wonderful festive season with my family in Spain and frankly can’t think of much less I’d rather do than spend an hour repeating for the ten thousandth time exactly why Steven Moffat is a terrible showrunner and why Peter Capaldi’s run on Doctor Who has been perhaps the most consistently unlikeable in recent memory, but here we are. One last time. Let’s do this thing. Moffat starting out 2017 with some fuckery, and he’ll end it that way, too.

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Who Should Be The Next Doctor?

Yes, two Doctor Who posts in a week and the show hasn’t been on in a fortnight, but forgive me – the new sodding Doctor is going to be announced tomorrow! So, in a list that’ll be rendered pointless and probably make me look like a fool in less than twenty-four hours, let’s talk about who we want as the next Doctor!

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Every Steven Moffat Episode of Doctor Who

(scene opens on Vastra, Jenny, and Strax)

Vastra: We need to find the Doctor! Something terrible has happened in Victorian London once again!

Jenny: But where could he be?!

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Doctor Who: Trying Adventure Rounds Down Intermittent Season

Well, another season done with.

Before we get into the discussion of the season as a whole, I suppose we should talk about this week’s episode, The Doctor Falls. The Doctor ends up chased out of a city overrun with cybermen with Nardole, CyBillman, and the two Masters in tow, and winds up fighting to keep a small farming village safe from the oncoming cyber-army. It was, in many ways, an episode of goodbyes – a goodbye not just to characters, but to Moffat’s tenure over the show as a whole (yes, his kiss-off will be the Christmas special in December, but this is the last season of the show he’ll run).

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Doctor Who: Tremendous? Appalling? – Reviewer Definitively is Stumped

Well, that was something.

And something is, without a doubt, better than nothing. And, this season on Doctor Who, we’ve had nothing after nothing after nothing after nothing, relentlessly – and that makes this something feel like a grab-your-chest-and-gasp relief. But that doesn’t mean that this something is good just virtue of it being something instead of nothing.

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The grey jacket was back today, and on an unrelated note so is my hand fan.

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself: this episode opens with the Doctor fielding Missy out on a mission to see if she really has changed. Bill, Nardole, and Missy arrive in an enormous spaceship careering towards a black hole, and Bill finds herself missing a substantial portion of her chest after an encounter with a crew member spooked by a mysterious threat. She’s whisked off to the other end of the ship and finds herself with a metal chestplate – and a mysterious new companion who bears a striking resemblance to an old foe of the Doctor’s.

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Two brilliant, brilliantly-dressed women, and also Nardole, for what it’s worth

And, bloody hell, was this episode full-throttle. I mean, there was no holding back on any aspect of it: Missy swishes out of the Tardis delivering lines so on-the-nose I’m pretty sure mine’s now broken, while the Doctor and Bill swap pointed remarks about the gender of the Doctor in flashback (which, you know, since you mention it). John Simm – back at last – spends most of the episode in cosplay as a character from a Gogol play, only to literally – and I’m not making this up – pull of a mask to reveal his true form as the Master beneath it. The episode also leans into the gothic horror in a big way, with some really chilling scenes as Bill wanders through the agonized wards of soon-to-be-Cybermen. For once, Murray Gold’s outrageously pointed score doesn’t feel like too much, because this entire episode was too much – in both good ways and bad. It fucking opened with the Doctor regenerating, for Christ’s sake. World Enough and Time didn’t come to fucking play.

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Okay, so let’s talk about the biggest deal this evening: the return of John Simm. As ever, it’s always an utter delight to see John Simm hamming it way the fuck up as the Master, even if we only really caught a glimpse of him at the end of the episode as he revealed himself to Missy (and asked for a kiss, making me realize in a horrified rush that my ultimate sexual fantasy is to see these two iterations of the Master get down on each other). Yes, I think we can all agree that this reveal would have been an utterly mind-blowing TV moment had they managed to keep it under wraps, and the Next Week On of last week’s episode did leave me keeping an eye peeled for his arrival, but fuck, if it isn’t good to have him back. While I was totally satisfied with Missy (who is, as ever, just a swooningly hysterical delight in the episode), the two of them together is a tasty prospect and I, for one, am here for it. 

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This episode also saw the genesis of the Cybermen, which was pretty cool – not only did it actually give the ever-charming Pearl Mackie something to do for once, but it drew some genuinely unsettling moments out of the premise – the actual reveal of the CyberBill (CyBillman? I’m working on it) actually earned it’s impact for once as we’d seen what went into creating this creature, and her reaching for the Doctor and desperately imploring “I waited” was an unsettlingly brilliant moment for the show. Yes, I shit on Moffat a lot and he 100% deserves it, but once in a while his mad genius seems to align into something thunderously engaging – funny, scary, rich with great ideas, and executed with flair and confidence (with great direction from Rachel Talalay to boot).

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Missy has been underused in her run, but honestly if she’d been the lead of the show she’d still have been underused in my eyes.

But. And there always will be a but with this season, because of just how fucking bland it’s been. This episode, as I said above, was something, and that something looks almost revolutionary next to the endless nothings that the show has offered up in the last ten weeks (ten weeks!). This being a Moffat episode that came deep into the Moffat era, I could see all his tricks coming before he even got near them – John Simm’s character was clearly the Master in disguise from the very moment he popped on screen, the black-hole-time-distortion explanation was blindingly obvious from the start, and this whole thing (and I can’t overstate this) was as subtle as a fork to the leg. It was terrible, really, but it was entertaining and engaging and kept me glued to the screen right until the last moments, as opposed to reaching for my cat just to give me something to do through the entire third act. But TV, as a base level, should be entertaining – and Doctor Who shouldn’t earn points for this episode just because it suddenly seemed to remember that.

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Wearing the same outfit she did in the first episode, if my memory serves me correctly – relevant? Probably not, but I care.

 

Not to mention, of course, I’m no fool, and I remember my reviews for the last two first parts of season finales. And they were good, too – they were both about how great these episodes were in comparison to the rest of the season, how funny, how sharp, how scary. Then came the second parts of those stories, which have been without fail dull, contrived, and vein-poppingly frustrating. I’ve no reason to think this double-hander won’t take that route too, so check in next week for what will inevitably be a tear-stained review about a terrible, dissapointing episode.

But, right now, with a week to spare, I can say without a doubt that I enjoyed this. World Enough and Time might have been ridiculous and outrageous at points, but damn it all if it didn’t land some body blows over the course of a tight and compelling forty minutes. It’s a reminder that when the show goes big, it should really commit to the enormity of the story and let the gigantic nature of Doctor Who’s premise shine through. Yes, the show really succeeds in it’s ability to tell small, human stories, but once in a while, when it lets off the leash like this with something monstrous and alien and enormous, it gets away with making us forget that.

But, if that turns out to be another fake-out regeneration? I’ll have you yet, Moffat. And in preparation for next week’s finale, please feel free to browse through all of this season’s reviews at your leisure here.

If you like these reviews and you’d like to see more stuff like them, you can support me on Patreon!

Doctor Who: This? All Really Diversion from the Interesting Story

Right, one thing out of the way upfront: that two-second clip of John Simm’s Master at the end of the Next Week On was, without a doubt, the best part of the season to date, and if anyone was temporarily deafened by the high-pitched keening shriek emanating from my flat, I can only offer my condolences and earplugs. Slap some bread around him and call him a sandwich; hammy John Simm is back, and I can’t fucking wait. 

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*fumbles desperately with trousers*

 

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Doctor Who, Stunt Casting, and the Elusive Female Doctor

So, I write a lot about Doctor Who on this blog, and there’s a question that I haven’t addressed yet. One that, with the end of Peter Capaldi’s tenure as the show’s lead drawing to a close, has been asked more and more: why is the Doctor always a white dude?

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Doctor Who: Torpid Adventure Reveals Descent into Stagnation

I think it’s pretty telling about the season as a whole when an episode like Empress of Mars, this week’s outing, is one of the best of the series.

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Doctor Who: Turgid Adventure Really Designates Imploding Season

Whew, team. I thought last week was bad, but we’ve reached a new season low with this week’s episode of Doctor Who.

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This jacket is FUCKING GREAT though, in all fairness. 10/10 would smash

 

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Doctor Who: Thunderingly Awful – Reviewer Dissects Intolerable Showrunner

Alright, let’s get into this. This review is going to be savage and long, so get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit and we’ll get into it.

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