Saturday, 24 October 2015

You may have seen earlier our post where Steven Moffat confirms that Maisie Williams' character Ashildr won't be the next companion, but...we can confirm she will be back in episode 10 of Series 9, alongside 'Rigsy', another returning character from last years episode 'Flatline'.

During today's MCM Doctor Who panel, Sarah Dollard, writer of episode 10 "Face the Raven" revealed that Maisie Williams will return for her third episode of Series 9, as her character teams up once again the TARDIS team. However, Steven Moffat asked everyone not to reveal this until tonights episode had aired.

"Have you ever found yourself in a street you’ve never seen before? The next day, could you not find that street again? You weren’t dreaming. Your memory isn’t playing tricks. Like many lost souls throughout the ages, you have stumbled on an extraordinary secret - be grateful you survived it. The Doctor and Clara, with their old friend Rigsy, find themselves in a secret alien world, folded away among the streets of London. Not all of them will get out alive. One of the three intruders must face the raven..."

We last saw Ashildr appear outside Coal Hill School in a photo featuring Clara and one of her students, so we know she's still keeping an eye over the Doctor's companions, but what could threat could be big enough to bring her out of hiding?

Only a few weeks until we find out...

Thanks to Ryan Woodley

I’m calling it – The Woman Who Lived is my worst episode of Series 9 so far.

The perverse thing is I’ve watched it more than any other episode, trying to see if I can get it to be better in my mind. Ultimately – meh.

Obviously, there’s some good stuff here – Capaldi’s Doctor is still on form in both dramatic and comedic scenes, and I personally was quite impressed with his curio-finder as an example of the doohickey-maker’s art. The scenes showing moments from the diaries of Ashildr were moving enough, and actually brought home the price of living forever, although arguably, we’ve seen this lesson played out many a time, and frequently better – Captain Jack walked this road in both Who and more particularly Torchwood. Come to that, we’ve seen the price of living forever as far back as the 80s – remember Highlander, anyone? The particular idea of watching your children die was a new essay on the subject, but it was the work of moments. For the most part, this episode took the potential of Ashildr and turned it into a period swashbuckling bodice-ripper – Dick Turpin meets Beauty and the Beast. With aliens and death and Rufus ‘largely pointless’ Hound. Oh and of course, for the Blackadder fans, an homage to Miranda Richardson’s Shadow. I was half expecting an unconvincing grassy knoll to show up at some point.

The idea of an eternal life and a normal sized memory was actually a fascinating one to bring to mind – albeit one that flew in the face of Captain Jack being able to remember his past – and it could be said to account for the radically different performance this time round from Maisie Williams, the sense of vacancy and tra-la-la with which she sauntered and swaggered through The Woman Who Lived, as compared to the naturalistic young girl she played just the episode before. This time out, by virtue of Lady Mee’s forgetfulness and apparent amorality when it comes to the lives of we mayflies, there was little for Williams to hang her performance on in terms of character, meaning the whole thing – the character and her actions – felt like bluster, and even when she tuned in for the angry, demanding scenes, determined that the Doctor should take her with him to the stars, it was difficult to invest in that emotion because it seemed based on the need of a moment, rather than, as perhaps it should have been, a determination that went all the way back in her diaries: “Soon, the Doctor will come for me. Soon he will free me from the smallness and slowness of all this.” Having none of that underpinning made her demand seem unrooted and lacking in impact.

As for the Cowardly Lion and his escape plans – the point there surely is that the plan was so obvious that Catherine Tregenna couldn’t in all conscience have him in a scene with a character as intelligent as the Doctor without covering the plan in scorn and ridicule: “You trust him?” That meant that even had we been inclined to do so, which we weren’t, based on anything we’d seen, we couldn’t take the possibility of his plan seriously, and we knew the double-cross was coming as soon as he met the Doctor. That meant there was no real alien suspense, no real depth of characterisation in Williams’ character, much godawful bantering in the highwayman-off between Williams and Hound, a housebreaking scene that went on way too long and with its tension evaporated by the antics of a drawing-room farce and the almost inevitable clumsiness of a Bertie Wooster story, Hound telling awful jokes on the scaffold, an instance of telling, rather than showing when it came to Lady Mee’s sudden realisation that she cared about the people around her – “I do. Oh God, I do care!” – an inevitable conclusion where the two highway rogues would probably live forever, and all in all a story that felt relatively weakly plotted and weakly realised.


In fact, double-but.

There are two things that save The Woman Who Lived from being, say, this year’s In The Forest Of The Night. Firstly, there’s the case of the torn-out pages. If you imagine the death of your young babies while you watch, so traumatic an event you swear never in all your immortal life to have any more, and then you try and imagine what might be worse even than that, it gives you scope to think that this two-part story might actually yet be a three-parter, that there might be some meeting in between the Viking village and the deadly highwaywoman, which would also explain directly how Mee comes to know the Doctor as the man who stays for the battle and runs away from the consequences (and how she knows the phrase “OK” – I’d hate to think that was merely poor research). We wonder if there might be a darker time ahead (or behind) for both the Doctor and his immortal creation. Quite apart from anything else, we’re not sure you can get away with creating an immortal the way he did it, for the reasons he did it, just like that. We get a sense of a reckoning to be made for that rash act, and maybe, just maybe, Ashildr or Lady Mee sees him pay it in the past, and then, conveniently, forgets, destroys the written evidence of that dark day. Just maybe.

And then there’s the ‘Patron Saint of The Doctor’s Leftovers.’ Even as an idea that sends a shiver down the spine, voicing a necessity that hasn’t been spoken in 52 years. Where Torchwood was devised to protect the Earth from threats the Doctor would not be there to save us from, this feels like Torchwood’s Peace Corps (headed up by another immortal) – reaching out to deal with the carnage and the baggage that the Doctor’s interventions can sometimes leave behind. It’s an idea that has Ashildr (who, not for nothing is a hybrid of two great warrior races, the humans and the Mire, just saying) echoing Missy’s idea on the duality of friendship and enemyhood – enemies are easy, it’s your friends you need to watch out for. It’s also an idea that screams spin-off, and allows fans to fantasize about all the meetings that Ashildr will have – will she comfort Tegan Jovanka after the Dalek decimation? Will she be waiting for Lady Christina De Souza to help her process the Doctor’s rejection? Will she visit Amy and Rory in the States to tell them she’s seen the Doctor’s future? Martha and Mickey? Ben and Polly? Ian and Barbara? The list goes on. And as we see her there in the selfie of Clara’s pupil, we’re left again to ponder – what could it possibly be that pulls the Daft Old Man and the Impossible Girl apart?

Overall then, sadly, Tregenna’s story feels like the least inspiring and least exciting story of Series 9 so far – but there are still moments that raise it above several other stories of recent years and promise much to tease our minds with, so overall, Series 9 has yet to lower its bar too far. And there are Zygons on the horizon. Keep the faith, folks, the ride’s not over yet.

During today's MCM Doctor Who panel in London, Head Writer Steven Moffat took the opportunity to talk about the next companion, who will be replacing Jenna Coleman's character Clara Oswald after Series 9...more specifically, he talked about who it won't be.

Maisie Williams character, Ashildr, introduced in last week's episode 'The Girl Who Died', and re-introduced in tonights episode 'The Woman Who Lived', will not be the next companion - but, that doesn't rule out the chance of a return...who knows when.

Who would you like to see as the new companion?

To see a clip from tonights episode, see the video below:

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Today we bring you 10 brand new teasers for the sixth episode of series 9, "The Woman Who Lived".

"England, 1651. The deadly Highwayman 'The Nightmare' and his sidekick stalk the dark streets of London. But when they find loot that's not of this world, they come face to face with The Doctor. Who is the Nightmare in league with? And can the Doctor avoid the hangman's noose and protect Earth from a devilish betrayal?"

10 teasers for The Woman Who Lived:

  1. "Did you miss me?"
  2. "I've got a present for you"
  3. There's quite a few adult jokes...
  4. "Companion. Singular. Unattached. Alone"
  5. There's one scene where you'll really hope she doesn't...
  6. Is £20 a lot of money?
  7. "They are defenceless"
  8. Me.
  9. One past companion gets a name-check, as does a 1980's monster.
  10. "I can't remember most of it, that's the problem with infinite life"

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

After first viewing of The Woman Who Lived, I shrugged at Tom, the Northern half of the Satellite Five crew. “Worst of the series so far?” I asked.

Tom thought about it. “Probably the worst of the series so far…but still great,” he amended.

That seems pretty fair, on reflection.

While The Girl Who Died started off with comedy and developed into an object lesson in the flaw of the Twelfth Doctor, so keen to remember how the Doctor behaves that he’s ready to go beyond all rules and all authority to save himself some emotional anguish and do what he thinks is the right thing, The Woman Who Lived for the most part shows the consequences of that action, and the Doctor’s refusal to alleviate the pressure and the pain he’s inflicted. But in contrast to the linear building of tension in The Girl Who Died, The Woman Who Lived puts most of its dramatic oomph into its early sections to show that pressure and that pain, meaning there’s a sense of fizzle out towards the end. That’s in no way to minimize the impact of those early scenes, which punch hard, but writer Catherine Tregenna chooses to pace her story with a cheering victory followed by not one but two quiet scenes, which have a tendency to let the impact and the point of the story dribble out as we move towards the end.

In some respects, there’s a synchronicity between the storytelling structure of The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived – the alien threat is a bit naff and we never get a particularly clear idea of who they are or what they’re about, but having the alien to defeat serves to get the Doctor into conversations that make him confront himself and his own actions. What’s different about the episodes is the power of that confrontation, which feels lacking in The Woman Who Lived, possibly due to the lack of Clara’s thorny influence in the second episode. When faced only with the direct product of his interference and the pain it has caused, the Doctor can fall back into a more traditional mode, judging the use people make of the life they have, waxing lyrical about the life of a mayfly species like humanity and more or less acting like a slightly grumpier Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life. There’s a scene in a chimney where Tregenna tries to push the barbs of the scenario home, but the Doctor being accused by someone else is always less effective than the Doctor accusing himself, because part of us wants to immediately leap to his defence when he’s attacked by someone else, and that’s what happens here. The power of the scene never entirely hits home.

That said, there are curiosity-hooks inserted here that hint that this two-parter may at some point have an as-yet-missing third and middle part which involves some terrible day of reckoning. Imagine losing the most precious thing in the world – and then try imagining what would be worse than that. That’s a curiosity-hook and a half, and it makes us wonder about the structure of this series.
Too often though, a sense of danger in this episode is missing, even from scenes which should be brimming with tension – with the Doctor and the ‘woman who lived’ on the same quest, a scene with them discovered during its pursuit should be tense and thrilling, but feels more like drawing-room farce, with lots of hiding behind sofas and predictable clumsiness.

Likewise, there’s a human thread here that feels fairly shoehorned in, involving a standoff that dissolves into banter more or less because it can, only to gain significance at the end – again, the tension is squandered to  deliver instead the feeling of a pot-boiling period romance, overpowering the opportunity to develop much in the way of an emotional attachment to this thread, though one good thing about it is that Rufus Hound is nearly unrecognisable until close to the end, and only then because his character begins reeling off appallingly bad jokes. Intended to be a lesson in living life to the fullest, Hound’s character is never really given any depth, and so the lesson feels like it falls too flat for its purposes.  

The alien threat here has a solidly Classic Who feel, in the vein of later Tom Baker villains. It’s not quite a Nimon or a Mandrell, but it’s in that sort of league, and its story-arc is sadly predictable – and indeed predicted by the Doctor the moment they meet, and then repeatedly throughout the episode, meaning when the Doctor’s predictions come true, there’s only one character who seems at all surprised, and we wonder how they manage it when the signs have all been so pedantically pointing that way. That said, the alien is rendered in a 21st century way, and it brings a certain amount of sci-fi fairy tale to proceedings that otherwise watch like a period bodice-ripper. What’s more, it allows a cheeky reference back to a Sylvester McCoy story (as well as a David Tennant one). Our guess is it probably looked great written down or drawn, but that it’ll amount to a generally quite forgettable on-screen villain that, a year from now, people will struggle to place in its story.

The woman who lived, as a character, feels a little overwritten, with a flourishing “Yes, it is me!” feeling almost like it belongs on a pantomime stage, and a vocal trick stolen straight from an episode of historical comedy Blackadder, and the climactic revelation she comes to about her emotional involvement in the lives of peoples feels like it breaks a cardinal rule of effective storytelling (show, don’t tell) when she announces “I do care – oh my God, I do!” – to the point that ironically, we don’t believe her, or care if she cares.
The accommodation she and the Doctor come to at the end though is genuinely intriguing, and ripe for future appearances and fiction. If Torchwood exists to protect the Earth while the Doctor’s away in time and space, it feels like what’s created at the end of this episode is the equivalent of Torchwood’s Peace Corps, and the reveal at the very end of the episode suggests the hastening of the end of Clara’s time with the Doctor, whatever she herself may have to say about it.

Overall, The Woman Who Lived may well be the weakest story this series. It’s probably fair to call it the weakest story so far. But, as Tom said, it’s the weakest, but still great – the potential that’s pregnant in a few of its scenes to take the world of Doctor Who forward into a new phase gives it enough intrigue to make us want to know more, and the emotional impact we see the Doctor has inflicted on the woman who lived is sufficiently heart-rending as to still deliver a hard core to the story, even if much of the rest of it feels predictable and sentimental by turns. If this is as bad as episodes get this series, we’ll still have had one of the strongest series in years. The Woman Who Lived is still light years ahead of stories like Time Heist, Journey To The Centre of the Tardis, The Rings of Akhaten, The Rebel Flesh, The Hungry Earth, Fear Her or Love and Monsters. We’re more in the realms of Vincent and the Doctor or The Girl In The Fireplace here – naff aliens, interesting humans, and fascinating consequences to the choices the Doctor makes. While hindsight may be less kind to The Woman Who Lived, right here and now, it feels like it still delivers the mix of Classic Who in a New Who style that has marked out this series so far - simply skewed towards the more predictable end of the Classic spectrum.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Whether you love The Girl Who Died or not depends largely on which story you watch. If you watch the ‘alien invasion’ story – meh. The Mire are a bit naff in either incarnation, to be fair – big walking tanks or headfuls of teeth, they look more Sarah-Jane than proper Doctor Who, and the idea of defeating them with a dodgy puppet that transforms into a dodgy CGI dragon, and then threatening their reputation with uploading the footage of them running away to the Benny Hill theme is a fine comedy idea, but overall a bit lightweight. So if that’s what you’re watching when you watch The Girl Who Died, we can understand why you might not be entirely blown away by the episode.

Psst – the clue is in the title.

You’re not really meant to be watching Invasion of the Mire. If you were, the episode would probably have been called Invasion of the Mire. Look again. Literally, look again – it took me two watches to click with The Girl Who Died.

Now, there will be people who watch Invasion of the Mire and think ‘How rubbish were they? Beaten by farmers, eels and Benny Hill?’ There will also be those who count the gags and think ‘Oh, it’s another Robot of Sherwood, a throwaway gagfest but nothing special.’

Would you like another clue? It’s called The Girl Who Died. Laugh it up by all means, there’s some great comedy here - but don’t mistake the story for a thing of no consequence.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at the real story.

The pre-credits sequence has upside-down space Clara and grumpy, stampy Doctor action, some solid comedy, and a couple of chilling lines – check out the Doctor’s reaction to Clara’s gag that he ‘is a tidal wave.’ It’s as though they’ve casually been chatting about serial killers when she chuckles “You are a serial killer.” He looks like all his worst nightmares have crawled out from under his bed to grab him. Then, in half a heartbeat, they’re off to see the Vikings, because a sword in the gut can really put a crimp in your day, and the Vikings clearly have yet to be convinced that sonic shades are cool.

The Doctor makes a singular mistake several times in the first half of this story – the first this year by Series 8 Mummy/Flatline wunderkind Jamie Mathieson (this time co-written by Steven Moffat) – he underestimates the locals, even flat-out condescending to them with the shades and the yo-yo. What a day these Vikings are having, though – you wait your whole life for Odin to turn up, then two come along in a matter of minutes.

When the fighting Vikings are turned into the alien equivalent of Red Bull, Clara shows the kind of citizen of the universe she’s becoming – capable, clever, unafraid of dangerous situations and confident of her ability to talk her way out of things.

Which is fine unless you have an emotional Viking girl by your side, more than a little upset about having her friends and relatives juiced to death. Annnnd so the war is on.

Look at the quality of the writing that follows – if the pre-credits didn’t give this away to you, we’re in sparkling territory here, with many of the lines deserving T-shirts, but even more deserving a rewind to listen again. The Doctor puncturing the enthusiasm of his hosts – “Do babies die with honour?” His bringing them down to earth – “What are you gonna do, raise crops at them?” and the like are superb little jewels of levity or lead strewn throughout the script, but listen to the Doctor translating the cries of the baby – previously an excuse for much Stomageddon, Dark Lord Of All-style fun – and feel your heart break with the lyricism that resonates with the culture of the Vikings, their epic songs and stories.

The training sequence is an excuse for more fun, but it shows how the Doctor perceives his limitations – he can’t teach them to win, because that would bring the Mire and so many others back, drawing attention to an Earth ripe for conquest or destruction. All he can do is teach them to die with honour, which will sickly satisfy everyone in the equation.

Everyone but Clara.

Here we have the strongest evidence to date that she’s the Anti-Jiminy Cricket, the little voice in the Doctor’s head daring him to be dangerous, not so much a Guardian Angel as a Guardian Demon, pushing him to break the rules he knows exist, pushing him to do what he can to win, above all, to find that pathway to victory no matter what. And he does, and the cost of that is the death of someone he likes, someone innocent who got caught in the crossfire and used by this Doctor who can do anything to win. When he mourns the death of Ashildr, she’s ready, as ever, and as we all might be, to mince it for him, to spout the platitudes that let a person go on doing what they need to do – it’s not your fault, you did your best – and there, right there is our Doctor’s point of crisis. ‘I can do anything. There’s nothing I can’t do’ – he sounds like The Time Lord Victorious in that moment, the dangerous powerful force of will that could turn the universe inside out, and when he gets his moment, his memory of his Tenth incarnation, of Donna begging him to save jut someone, he understands who frowned him his face, screams “To Hell with you!” at time and space and causality and runs off to save Ashildr’s life by making her an impossible thing, another Jack Harkness, an immortal, because, and this is crucial, it’s what he wants to do. He finds the reason to do what he wants to do, not what he’s allowed to do, or what he should do – and you could easily argue that he gets it absolutely wrong. When Donna begged him to save just someone, the Tenth Doctor was prepared to let the whole of Pompeii burn to keep the timelines intact. “Just someone,” she pleaded, and then it was an act of mercy, a touchstone to stop the Tenth Doctor going cold. But the Twelfth Doctor has already interfered, already stepped in to cause a tidal wave, defeating a vastly superior alien force and saving the whole village. But that’s not enough of a victory for him – he wants to save one person, one special person, and for that, he says, he’ll lose any war you like. He goes beyond the rules, the laws, the approval of any silent Time Lord observers, because he wants to, because he needs that victory – because his tally of regrets is building too high. 

The speech here from Mathieson and Moffat is masterful, letting us peek inside our Doctor’s mind more than ever before, and it brings us dark foreshadows when he says to Clara that one day she won’t be there and it will hurt him so much, and haunt him everywhere. It’s a speech, and a scene, and an episode that makes us ask: what kind of cataclysm can possibly tear these two apart? Will Clara die? Will the Doctor have to escape her influence? Will he become something she can’t forgive?

The Girl Who Died takes a second watch for some fans to get beyond the quality of the comic writing to see it’s not just a comedy episode. It takes a second watch to get beyond the naffness of the Mire, to see that it’s absolutely not about them. The episode is about The Girl Who Died – in this instance at least referring to Maisie Williams’ very natural Ashildr – and the consequences of that death, most particularly on the Doctor and his view of the universe and his place in it. His actions here feed the foreboding sense of existential angst with feels like an underlying arc for this series – the Doctor going beyond, breaking rules, and putting off the consequences…until they can’t be put off any more.

If you still needed a curiosity-hook to get you into this series and to absolutely not let go, rewatch The Girl Who Died. In Series 8 he asked if he was a good man. In Series 9, the Doctor’s running to discover himself – but The Girl Who Died makes us ask whether he can live with who he’ll find.

Have you seen the news about LEGO? From December 1st you'll be able to build The Doctor's current TARDIS interior!

Thanks to LEGO and Norton and Co we have got our hands on one of the new sets to build and review. Below is our video review of the set, and our written review will be coming up shortly.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

With the recent announcement of Jenna Coleman leaving Doctor Who at the end of this series, the internet is rife with speculation of who will replace 'Clara Oswald' as the new companion for the Doctor.

At last night's Attitude Awards, writer and actor Mark Gatiss offered his opinion to members of the press, suggesting that a male companion would be "very interesting". "I've always been a fan of the boy/girl partnership from way back when," Gatiss said, following up with the comment that "It would be very interesting if the Doctor had a male companion... but then it would be a very male show."

Gatiss, who has written episode nine of this latest Peter Capaldi-starring series, added he would be "delighted" if the Doctor became a woman in the future. "I think the dynamic then would be really interesting," he suggested. 

See the video below for Gatiss' most recent Doctor Who work:

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

There’s a real temptation on first watch to dismiss Jamie Mathieson’s first script this year as the Robot of Sherwood of the run - mostly fun but inconsequential. Really though, the only similarities between the two are the fact that they’re both period pieces with some funny bits, and the monsters are armour-covered avatars of naff-ness. This one's as inconsequential as a heart attack.

It’s important to get over the idea of The Girl Who Died being a comedy episode fast or you’ll miss the real importance of its dramatic pulse. Not that it makes it particularly easy to get past the comedy idea – the pre-credits sequence bristles with the kind of electric writing you’ll expect from Mathieson after his Series 8 double, Mummy On The Orient Express and Flatline, there’s a moment that will at least have some in fandom punching the air, and we get started on the main strand of the adventure because the Doctor underestimates the seriousness of the situation. 

After the credits, we’re in solid historical territory and Mathieson has some fun with the idea that the whole ‘travelling to the past’ thing is somewhat old hat to this Doctor, as he pulls a routine that is pretty condescending to the locals, and is immediately called on it – again. Really, if there’s one subtextual message in the Doctor’s entry into this adventure it’s Do Not Underestimate The Locals. 

When your attempt to condescend to the locals is not only immediately called out, but then massively upstaged by someone with more advanced technology than a yoyo and a piece of string, you’re not having a good day in the past. And when the local tomboy (your actual Maisie Williams, surprising this newbie to her work with her comfort and natural ease in her role) and Clara get separated from the Doctor and the locals, we get another example of how far Clara has come as a citizen of the universe. When her plan to make some aliens bog off and leave the locals alone goes awry, what we have is an approaching cataclysm, and the Doctor as the only person who can stand in its way. His attempts to do so are unambitious though, and Clara tells him to find the way to win. When that way comes to him, there’s a sense of triumph to it, and a note of The Eleventh Hour – notsomuch “I’m the Doctor. Basically, run,” but certainly a sense that aliens have reputations too, and that a solid Youtube shaming would be as mortifying for them as it would be for us.
So much then for the actual alien-defeating plot.

It’s impossible to overstate how much this story is not about the alien-defeating plot though. Obviously the alien-defeating is key, it provides the catalyst, the action and ultimately, the girl who died. But you need to keep two things in mind.

Firstly, the quality of the writing here is breathtaking. Both in terms of the comedy (which occasionally tips its hat to Red Dwarf, particularly in one training sequence), but more, much more in terms of the drama, Mathieson proves he’s no Series 8 fluke. Seriously, there are lines here you’ll pause and rewind just to hear them spoken again and again. The Doctor speaking baby brings a heartbreaking lyricism to the piece this time round - no Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All, but such beauty of thought, anyone who actually has a baby will be bawling watching it, and anyone who appreciate the culture in which this story is set will note a characteristic elegance. And when the girl who dies expires as advertised, we see the dark thread that’s becoming a kind of subtle series arc, the Doctor chafing at the rules that govern his life and actions. We’ve seen the Doctor do this before, deciding to throw caution to the wind and becoming The Time Lord Victorious. And then people started dying, the Tennant Doctor taking the lesson of the deaths as his warning to mend his ways. The Twelfth Doctor so far in this series has embarked on a course that seems to magnify his own power and his own abilities and his own need to win not just against the notional bad guys but against the forces of time and death itself, over any potential consequences. In Before The Flood he changes the past to beat the Fisher King, but more importantly to save Clara, his best friend in the universe, arguing that yes, there’ll be consequences, like maybe the universe will be ruled by cats in the future, but that’s just too bad – the universe must bend to the will of the Doctor right here and right now. The Girl Who Died takes that dangerous reasoning forward in leaps and bounds, and again, Mathieson and Capaldi are a match made in heaven, the Doctor telling Clara how important she is to him, and what he always runs away from, and how one day her not being there will be more than he can bear – a forward call to Jenna Coleman’s departure, and a hint as to what the consequences of it might be on the Twelfth Doctor.

Shakespeare’s tragedies are traditionally the stories of excellent or exceptional people with one fatal flaw, and Series 9 so far has been showing us the Twelfth Doctor’s catastrophic failing – after the ‘Am I a good man?’ insecurity of Series 8, what’s clear in Series 9 is that he’s trying very hard to ‘be the Doctor,’ to be the legend his other selves have made, with all that he has. That means he’s open to learning the right lessons, but can occasionally misapply them in horrifying ways. That’s certainly what he seems to do at the climax of The Girl Who Died, screaming a “To Hell with you!” to time, space and causality, and doing what he emotionally needs to do, rather than what he should or what he’s allowed to do. In terms of the impacts that time travelers are “allowed” to make, Clara jokingly calls him a tidal wave at the start of the episode, and he’s horrified. By the end of it, you’ll know she was categorically right. 

Did I mention this really isn’t Robot of Sherwood?

On first watching, there’s a possibility you’ll feel The Girl Who Died doesn’t stand up to the hardcore vibe of Classic Who in a New Who style that was threaded through the first four episodes. If you feel that way, go away for an hour and do something else. Then come back and watch it again. Yes, the actual alien threat may be lighter and less doom-laden than the heart of the Dalek empire or the creepy dripping corridors of the ghost-infested Drum. But in terms of exhilarating character drama, The Girl Who Died is a third unqualified success from Mathieson, with Capaldi on blistering, heart-wrenching form, and Maisie Williams stealing any hearts that are left. In terms of sheer storytelling power, Series 9 is shaping up to be the strongest set of stories in recent Who history, and The Girl Who Died in no way drops the ball, instead hitting it far, far out of the park and making you need to know what happens next.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Today we bring you 10 brand new teasers for the fifth episode of series 9, "The Girl Who Died".

"Captured by Vikings, the Doctor and Clara must help protect their village from Space Warriors from the future: the Mire. Outnumbered and outgunned, their fate seems inevitable. So why is the Doctor preoccupied with a single Viking girl?"

10 teasers for The Girl Who Died:

  1. "What's to stop them re-arming?"
  2. "I'm not actually the police, it's just what it says on the box"
  3. "There's nothing you can do"
  4. Tidal waves or ripples?
  5. Electricity 
  6. "Not in the mood for vikings"
  7. Benny Hill theme
  8. "There's nothing I can't do"
  9. Why did he choose that face?
  10. "Have you trapped your finger in something again?"

The Girl Who Died airs Saturday 17 October on BBC One, with the time confirmed for 8.20pm to 9.10pm.

Created by fan-designer Andrew Clark and selected by LEGO Ideas members, the set is based on the BBC’s popular and long-running television series about a Time Lord – the Doctor – exploring the universe in a blue police box. Due to trans-dimensional engineering, the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside and this cool multifunctional set includes the console room that houses all the controls.

Featuring an opening TARDIS, detachable interior console room, exclusive graphic details and steps, fans can regenerate the Doctor and defeat the evil Daleks or Weeping Angels with the help of his extraordinary companion Clara. Once the doors of the TARDIS are closed, prepare to launch into dimensions light years away from Gallifrey!

Measuring over 5” (14cm) high, 6” (16cm) wide and 9” (23cm) deep, the model contains 623 pieces to build an authentic replica.  At £49.99 RRP, the set (#21304) includes four minifigures: the Eleventh Doctor, the Twelfth Doctor, Clara Oswald and a Weeping Angel, plus 2 Daleks and assorted accessory elements such as the Doctor’s signature Sonic Screwdriver.

For more info, click here

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The thing about two-parters is you have a choice with them. You can make them two halves of one long mood piece, or you can make them entirely separate, varying the tone from episode to episode.

With the first two-parter of Series 9, there was some sense that they’d gone with the first option – a coherence, rather than a contrast, though Missy’s skippetty-do-dah, we’re off to kill the Daleks moment threatened the prevailing darkness in the pre-credits sequence of The Witch’s Familiar.

Here there’s a sense in the pre-credits that we’re in a completely different story – with Clara and the gang still trapped on The Drum, do we begin with a focus on the idea of the ghosts and what’s causing them? No – we have the Doctor, in the Tardis, talking it seems directly to us the audience (there being no interaction from either of the two people travelling with him, and the Doctor looking straight down the lens of the camera help enforce this idea). And what’s he talking about? Nothing that seems particularly relevant at that point – the Bootstrap paradox and who really composed Beethoven’s Fifth. It’s a weird way to open Before The Flood, though just personally, I’m loving this new Keith Richards Doctor, and I’d die a happy Whovian if the Production Team replaced the current iteration of the theme tune with this more gutsy, thrashy version. Please, please, please?

After the credits, the disconnect with the urgency of events at The Drum continues – the grey grimness of Scotland in 1980, in a faux-Soviet village is very different from the dank, enclosed environment where Clara and the others could still be dying. O’Donnell, frankly, is great – she’s a more level-headed Doctorian (Shurrup, they can’t be Whovians, they know him as the Doctor – in his universe, we’d all be Doctorians!) than Osgood and her slightly needy cosplay, and we begin to plan our Twitter campaign for O’Donnell to be the next companion, especially when, once the Doctor steps away, she does the jumping up and down thing, squealing ‘It’s bigger on the inside!’ to Bennett. Level-headed, adorable and with an occasional penchant for dangling colleagues out of windows – Sarah-Jane, Peri and Leela all in one! ‘Dear Mr Moffat, please make O’Donnell the next-’

Oh, she’s dead. Well, bang goes that idea then. Back to Nut-C, the Clockwork Squirrel it is. And one thing we know from experience – in a Toby Whithouse script, there is no convenient, ‘too cool to die’ coming back from the dead. You die in a Whithouse script, you stay dead.

Unless you’re the Fisher King, obviously – big body, was on the slab. Not there any more. Anyone else get the feeling this is Doctor Who Does The Scream Movies? Pleasingly of course, the first person to die when the Fisher King stops being dead is Prentis the Tivolian. They’re a nice conceit, the Tivolians, almost the polar opposite of the Sontarans, but frankly, they’re annoying on screen, a fact acknowledged by Prentis himself before he dies – as a species, they drive invaders and conquerors round the twist.
Oh, and of course, we clock the reference to the Minister of War. We’ve seen Harold Saxon, we’ve seen the Moon exploding, we’ve seen no Minister of War. Possible future Big Bad? Also, possible future Big Bad with a direct connection to the Doctor?

Maybe this is reading in, but there’s also the tense phone call to Clara, which is just as well, because events on The Drum seem to have gone from scary, ghost-chasing thrills to sitting about and moping. People are saying that the theme of this series so far is the Doctor dying, but has anyone else noticed what’s really going on? The Doctor knows there are rules, but in both the Davros epic and here, he’s encouraged to go back in time and change the past, to change the future. In this case, it’s Clara who tells him to break the rules, to do whatever is necessary to come back to her, because she’s not ready for him to die. What, we wonder, might the consequences of his rule-breaking eventually be? We’ve seen the Time Lord Victorious before, and that didn’t work out too well for those around him – Adelaide Brooke felt compelled to stop him, even at the cost of her own life. There’s a sense that this rock and roll Doctor is more willing to push the rules with which he keeps burdening himself. What might he do if the burden gets too much, we wonder? It’s a question that’s almost put in this episode, when the Fisher King pushes the Doctor to the course of action he takes. ‘Maybe it means the universe is ruled by cats in the future or something,’ the Doctor quips about the consequences of his actions here.

Maybe. Maybe it means something much, much worse.

Also, when Bennett takes the Doctor to task after O’Donnell is killed, there’s another telling exchange. ‘This isn’t about me, I’m a dead man walking,’ the Doctor says. ‘I’m changing history to save Clara.’
Breaking the rules, to save Clara. If you were as old as the Doctor is, as lonely as this Doctor is, and if you’d lost as much as the Doctor had, what would you not do to save your best friend in the world? Would you break the rules? Would you change the universe? Is this (and the subsequent trapping of the Doctor in his own timestream) the first or second step towards a Time Lord not Victorious but Terrifying? *Cough, cough, Valeyard, cough.*

The rest of the episode pretty much rattles by – thanks mostly to the Fisher King, a creation combining bulk and fantastically disturbing physical appearance (is it just me or is there something…how to say this delicately…Vervoidy about the Fisher King’s pulsing facial flesh?) with a gloriously rich voice (thank you Peter ‘Darth Maul’ Serafinowicz), and, thanks to Whithouse’s scriptwriting chops, a vivid line in accusation that makes him more than just a big stompy monster going around killing people. Also, he’s given enough backstory that we wonder about future stories running into more of his kind, whatever his kind is. The actual solution to the Fisher King threat though feels a little slight, reminding us of many a Tom Baker story – swapped explosives in the pocket of the Graff Vynda Ka, missing power cells that blow up the dam and flood the village, tomayto, tomahto. The point is probably that the Doctor actually doesn’t change history, but instead becomes the actor that sets history as we know it in motion.

The run-around action on The Drum kicks off again, and never really stops until the casket opens and – surprise? – the Doctor emerges. Cass and Lunn declare their love and everyone alive is happy. Well, everyone except Bennett.

Only at the end does the pre-credit sequence make sense. The Doctor programmed his ghost-hologram based on what he’d seen. He ‘became Beethoven.’ So where did the idea come from? There’s something sinister about the idea on which we began and on which we end Before The Flood, especially given that our Doctor was so desperate to follow the line of ‘what he does’ that he ‘doesn’t see anyone here who’s going to stop him’ as he prepares to alter history and take the consequences - until the Tardis takes him down a peg or two. What, we wonder, is our Doctor becoming? Who, if not Beethoven, wrote Beethoven’s Fifth? Who, if not the Doctor, saved everyone’s lives on The Drum? History continues with barely a feather out of place, he says, but maybe the universe will be run by cats. Or maybe something far darker will happen.

As a two-part story, Under The Lake/Before The Flood is an example of that individual episode-tone method of storytelling, with the tension and questions piled up to bursting point in Under The Lake, and Before The Flood feeling lighter in atmosphere simply by virtue of having some external scenes and relieving the claustrophobic vibe. In terms of existential angst and the future of the Twelfth Doctor though, Before The Flood has plenty of gravitas to make us ponder and frown our week away before Fun With Vikings (or The Girl Who Died) next week.

Friday, 9 October 2015

The start of Before The Flood, episode 2 of Toby Whithouse’s Series 9 ghost story, is a radical change of pace. We know there are two people in the Tardis with him – the gung-ho Doctor fan, O’Donnell, who’s basically a much cooler Osgood, and Bennett, the crew member who perhaps made the least impact on us in episode 1. But the pre-credit sequence plays out very much like that of Listen, like the Doctor directly addressing us, almost breaking the fourth wall. It’s pretty cool, and will send Whovians scurrying to Google a particular kind of temporal paradox, and leads into an innovation that oh please, all the gods and demons of TV, should really stay in place going forward. It’s not going to – that much is evident by the end of this episode - but there’s something unique about the first five minutes of this episode that feels so right that I for one went back and played it three times before I even got beyond the credits.

Once you get beyond them, the tone takes a turn for the remarkable, not to say the timey-wimey – if Under The Lake had the oppressive, clammy breathlessness of a base under siege story, the Doctor, O’Donnell and Bennet having escaped the base lets breaths of fresh air into proceedings, which Whithouse strives to take away again by having their own situation develop into something complex and nasty, with hints of the grimness of Father’s Day, and the Tardis teaching the Doctor a lesson good and proper. In The Rings of Akhaten, the Eleventh Doctor added to his usual creed the idea that ‘We don’t just walk away’ and here, when the Doctor seems desperate enough to do just that, the Tardis forces him to be the kind of man he wants to be.


If you were a dead man walking with a time machine, what would you do? Run away? Save your best friend from the fate you accept for yourself?


The thing about Toby Whithouse’s writing is that while he sets up plenty of questions, you can be confident he will answer them all – except those that are set up specifically as curiosity-hooks to drag you forward into the series. And in this second part, that’s exactly what we get – answers to all the nagging questions from Under The Lake, along with a new villain who’s both formidable to look at, has the kind of dark brown eloquence in its voice you’d expect when you hire Peter Serafinowicz (already, among so much else, the voice of Darth Maul), but also, this being a Whithouse story, a line in argument that can stand up to the Doctor’s moral position. The Big Bad here essentially hears the Doctor out, and says ‘Yeah? You and whose army, old man.’ There’s talk of an armada, and as is often the case with Whithouse villains, any fan brain worth its lumpy greyness will go into overdrive thinking about them – as we did with the Krillitanes, who were given an intriguing backstory, as we did with the Saturnynes and their doomed planet, and as we did with the Minotaur, the cousin of the Nimon, the villain here pulls the essential trick of great Doctor Who monsters, making us want to know more and see more and find worlds where other stories could play out with them in. 

Meanwhile, trapped in The Drum, there’s a little bit of Clara Doctoring, as Sophie Stone’s Cass becomes Clara’a companion in some wandering off and running about, giving a moment of levity even in the tension as Clara gets a taste of her own medicine.

The solution to the story, when it comes, is a relatively simple bit of Tom Bakerish business – another iteration of the vibe from Under The Lake: Classic Who with a New Who feel. And some of the theories floating around the internet will inevitably be proven right – some things you think are happening are actually happening.

Where Under The Lake built pressure and tension till it became something akin to The Poseidon Adventure, and only a pop back in time would stand as a solution to it all, Before The Flood unravels the strands of the tension, then pulls them both tight, allowing us to still worry about the people trapped in The Drum, while also developing the story of the escapees into something complex and dangerous. And where Steven Moffat is the renowned king of the Diminishing Impact of Character Death, bringing people back to life time and time again, Whithouse never really sullies the memories of his characters that way – in School Reunion, in Vampires of Venice, especially in The God Complex and now here, if you’re actually, really dead, you stay dead, meaning there’s a heavyweight impact to his storytelling, and that the danger of death is something to be genuinely feared in a Whithouse script.

Before The Lake answers all but two vital questions. The first refers to a spoilerific line of dialogue, which practically screams at some degree of future story or story arc. The second concerns the reason Who-fans will be running to Google on Saturday night, and the impact of the question ‘Who composed Beethoven’s Fifth?’ That has a surprising amount to do with the solution of this episode’s issues, but it leaves a note of questioning darkness hanging in the air at the end of the episode. If not Beethoven, then who?

The search for a series arc starts now.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Today we bring you 10 brand new teasers for the fourth episode of series 9, "Before The Flood".

"On a remote Army outpost, a fearsome alien warlord – the Fisher King – sets in motion a twisted plan to ensure his own survival. The ripples will be felt around the universe. Is this chain of events inevitable? And can the Doctor do the unthinkable?"

10 teasers for Before The Flood:

  1. "Pre-Harold Saxon"
  2. What if you can't hear oncoming danger?
  3. "I've got something in my shoe"
  4. There's a new theme tune...
  5. Doctor to Doctor
  6. "You are not leaving me!'
  7. "I have to face the Fisherking"
  8. Morning breath
  9. The end is where we begun
  10. There's a scene very similar to Father's Day
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