Steven Moffat

Doctor Who S09E12

Doctor Who, Eps. 9.10–12

The curtain closes on Doctor Who series nine with the show’s first three-parter since series three and while it’s not perfect, the extended finale is a fitting end to what has been one of NuWho’s most consistent seasons.

Doctor Who S09E01

Doctor Who, Ep. 9.01, “The Magician’s Apprentice”

Unfortunately, after a fantastic setup, the season nine premiere squanders the goodwill it’s built over much of the hour by falling prey to a tired, and long overdue to be retired, genre cliché: the series-breaking cliffhanger.

Doctor Who Christmas Special Last Christmas 2014

Doctor Who, Ep. 9.00, “Last Christmas”

Doctor Who has a long history of Christmas specials, but surprisingly few have managed to capture the whimsy of the form while also having enough substance to leave an impression.

Doctor who S08E12 promo image

Doctor Who, Ep. 8.11-12, “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” a solid but disappointing end

Showrunner Steven Moffat has stayed away from two-parters for a while, but as is traditional for Doctor Who, a new Doctor means a fresh start for the show and it’s only fitting that the Twelfth Doctor get the same two-parter blowout end-of-first-series as his predecessors. After a season of teases, Missy is revealed as the latest regeneration of the Master (Missy being a shortening of the Mistress) and she’s come to Earth to turn the entire population of the planet, current and former, into a massive army for the Doctor, so they can be buddies in universal domination. As far as plans go, it makes sense for the Master, even if it is a bit disappointing. Michelle Gomez is fun in the role, particularly in “Death in Heaven*,” but seeing the Master reduced to an agent of chaos, rather than someone with a particular agenda or motivation all their own, feels more appropriate for a mid-season romp than a season-ending two-parter.

Doctor Who S08E10, "In the Forest of the Night"

Doctor Who, Ep. 8.10, “In the Forest of the Night” half-bakes an interesting idea

Despite its larger arcing issues this season, Doctor Who has had a surprisingly strong year. Each episode has featured entertaining and engaging moments and a good blend of comedy and drama. Even the season’s least substantial episode (“Robot of Sherwood”) still on the whole worked. As a Whovian, this reviewer will give the series many things. The moon is really an egg? Sure. Robin Hood was an actual living person, his persona accurately captured and unchanged by centuries of storytelling? Fine. But a giant, world-wide forest appears overnight, shields the planet from a massive unpredicted solar flare, then disappears into gleams of twinkling light and no one’s going to remember it? Nope. Sorry Who, can’t give you that one.

Doctor Who S08E09 "Flatline" promo image

Doctor Who, Ep. 8.08-09, “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline”: Clara channels the Doctor

In their reviews of “The Caretaker” and “Mummy on the Orient Express”, the fantastic Tom and Lorenzo postulated that Clara has become addicted to traveling with the Doctor, showing many of the signs of addict behavior. While this is absolutely the case, and could certainly be part of where showrunner Steven Moffat is planning to take the rest of the season, with “Flatline”, another aspect of Clara and the Doctor’s arcs this season finally becomes clear—Clara is becoming more like the shifty, callous late Eleventh and now Twelfth Doctors, and the Doctor is none too happy about it.

Doctor Who S08E06 "the Caretaker" promo image

Doctor Who, Ep. 8.06, “The Caretaker”: Lighthearted fun undermined by judgmental disrespect

Remember when the Doctor was nice? Let’s not even reach that far back: remember when he wasn’t an asshole? “The Caretaker” should be a lighthearted episode, a character-heavy look at what happens when Clara’s two worlds come crashing together. Instead, the episode’s lighter moments are weighed down by the Twelfth Doctor resuming old habits and treating Clara just as disrespectfully as the Eleventh Doctor. After weeks of promising developments (Clara’s front and center in “Deep Breath”, “Robot of Sherwood”, and “Listen”), after thoughtful, honest conversations between the Doctor and Clara and episodes that took their time, with “The Caretaker”, writers Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat put the two right back where they were last season.

Doctor Who, S08E04 promo pic, "Listen"

Doctor Who, Ep. 8.04, “Listen” a visceral, gripping bedtime story

Steven Moffat loves childhood fears. He’s mined them for some of nuWho’s most effective villains: Something lurking in the dark (the Vashta Nerada), a threat waiting to pounce the moment you look away (the Weeping Angels), and now, the monster under your bed. These creatures tap into the intense, pervasive fears so many experience as children and like its predecessors, “Listen” is hugely successful drawing from this well. It also takes a common and, when explored, curious habit and exploits it for significant dramatic potential: why do people talk to themselves when no one’s around? Both ideas have been explored by Moffat to some extent already (“The Girl in the Fireplace”, the Silence), and so here he puts them together, hoping that between the two, there’s enough new material to make the story work.

Doctor Who, S08E02 promo pic, "Into the Dalek"

Doctor Who, Ep. 8.02, “Into the Dalek”: Excellent character work outweighs familiar third act

The Daleks aren’t going anywhere, but with massive Whovian Peter Capaldi’s Dalek story out of the way, they’ll hopefully go on hiatus for a while and take their tiresome plot retreads with them, leaving behind the significant structural and character-based improvements demonstrated here. It would seem many of the season eight premiere’s most prudent choices are here to stay; only two episodes into the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure, there’s already a lot to be excited about.

Doctor Who S08E01 promo pic

Doctor Who, Ep. 8.01, “Deep Breath”: Two steps forward, one step back

There’s a new Doctor on the TARDIS, one with the energy and gravitas to bring significant and much-needed change to the series, and on the whole, this episode is a promising start for the Twelfth Doctor. Unfortunately, as big a difference as the Doctor’s regeneration has on the show, in the end, he is only the lead—the buck stops with the showrunner, and if Moffat’s unwilling to step away from his favorite and at this point, very overused toys, it seems unlikely the series will get the fresh start it deserves.

Doctor Who Christmas Special promo image

Doctor Who 2013 Christmas Special, “The Time of the Doctor” a disappointing, frustrating mess

Doctor Who Christmas Special promo imageIn short, “The Time of the Doctor” features a plot that, while it is easy (on the Moffat scale) to follow, almost immediately fails the, “But why?” test. Why does the fleet understand what “Doctor who?” means? Because the plot needs them to. Why doesn’t the Doctor take the townspeople out of harm’s way with the TARDIS? Because. Why do the Doctor and Clara need to be naked, for that matter? Because. The answers we finally get to lingering questions aren’t satisfying, the promising new character of Tasha Lem is a pretty straightforward copy of River Song, and the gender politics are terrible (and in this reviewer’s opinion, destructive). The Doctor may have some fantastic scenes, including the final moments with Clara before his regeneration, but he treats her terribly and she doesn’t for a moment stand up for herself. After the wonderful “The Day of the Doctor”, this final story for the Eleventh Doctor is a significant disappointment, highlighting all of the most problematic elements of his tenure.

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