TV Review: Doctor Who S10E07 ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’

Hello!

So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

“Your world is ending, you can do nothing, but we can save you.”

This week on Doctor Who, the Doctor and Bill try to pick up the pieces scattered in the aftermath of last weeks episode. That episode featured a completely simulated version of earth so that the aliens, referred to as the Monks, could study earth. One very strange piece of this ongoing puzzle seems to be a large stone pyramid which appeared overnight at an army base. The Doctor is called in by the UN to investigate. It doesn’t take him long to work out that it is the group of Monks from the fabricated earths who put it there, but the question of why they were monitoring earth and what there plan is was something much more pressing. It is obvious to see that the Doctor still hasn’t told Bill about the condition of his eyesight, something which he isn’t letting on to be visibly frustrating. This is challenged though later in the episode.

It turns out that the Monks have ‘seen’ the earths destruction will happen within the next year. Thus the reason they were monitoring earth was to work out a best way to help earth survive the terrible things that were going to happen sometime in the future. This is all well and good until you think about the reason why these Monks are trying to help earth, as they would probably be the first aliens (other than the Doctor) to do so. That being that at this point there isn’t one. Here we come to the question of the Monks wanting ‘consent’ from the highest figure of authority for them to save earth, what is in it for them though we still don’t know. If past dealings with aliens are anything to go by though, to go through with it wouldn’t be good. The Monks show them all a vision of the destruction of earth at humanities own hand and it prompts the small group to want to act. So, against the advice of the Doctor of course, the UN Secretary tries to give consent for protection no matter the cost. Unsurprisingly there is a catch to giving consent to the Monks. It needs to be given for the right reasons. The secretary gave consent out of fear, and so he died at the hands of the Monks, as did the other military officials who tried giving consent through strategy. The only time consent didn’t kill the one giving it was from Bill. The reason? Love. It will be interesting to see just how much this reflects on the Monks and their motives as we watch the episode next week.

As the doomsday clock appears on every device possible, it comes to light that as humanity has a hand in its own demise there is a chance they can stop it. Before their second visit into the pyramid the military leaders agree not to go to war which of course does nothing for the doomsday countdown. Which in this case, the Doctor works out, it is counting down until the first destruction domino that dooms earth rather than the moment the earth is destroyed. Conclusion: something will be released somewhere, quite possibly by accident, and thus lead to the destruction of earth. Nardole’s first thought is that it is something biochemical gets released on earth, which the Doctor instantly latches onto. So while the Doctor is still jumping to conclusions and tracking down the lab responsible Bill is left to deal with the Monks along with the military higherups. This as we already know doesn’t go so well, and here come the pinnacle scenes of the episode.

Interestingly enough, this episode didn’t live up to the epic thrills of the episode last week, and the first part of this story. So as a two-part, and newly discovered three-part story, it is the least strong episode. Despite the moments which definitely kept me on the edge of my seat: the Doctor unable to get out of the room with the poisonous gas bomb because he was blind and couldn’t punch in the code. Or those on the more emotional side: Bill giving consent to the Monks to help earth on the grounds that they would give the Doctor his sight back so to save him. It is impossible not to see how this episode serves more as an information dump which leads into the action than an action episode itself. More talk less walk – or run in this case. Which in some cases works, but here I feel the episode needed a little more, it was a definite ‘one of three’ type episode. Apart from these few problems I did enjoy the episode, aside from the stress. Honestly though, give me Bill saving the day any day of the week and I’ll be happy! Though it will be interesting to see just what Bill’s ‘consent for help’ did for earth, and whether or not it really did work out in humanities favour.

Rating: 7/10

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TV Review: Doctor Who S10E06 ‘Extremis’

Hello!

So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

“I’m not sure I believe anything, but belief is all I am right now.”

This week on Doctor Who the Doctor visits the Vatican, or so we thought, until about thirty-five minutes into the episode, where we realise it is far from it. Honestly, until you rewatch this episode, it may be hard to get your head around – in this case it is place as well as time which is loopy, well, beyond loopy. We start the episode ‘A long time ago…” and in Doctor Who terms that means hundreds of centuries. Finally, will we be finding out who is in the Vault? Though at this point we don’t know either way, we do meet an old friend of the Doctor’s, Missy. She is on trial, for something we haven’t seen her do yet, but time will tell. This scene plays out in between the larger plot of the episode. Quite cleverly, we never quite see enough to connect the dots until the very end of the episode.

Back on earth the Doctor has an unexpected meeting with the Pope, only he doesn’t recognise him as he is still blind after the events of the last episode. This plays a larger and much more problematic part in the episode later on. On realising his mistake, he voices what we’re all thinking “You don’t do this. The Pope doesn’t zoom around the world in his Popemobile, surprising people.”. The reason, we find out, is because the Vatican’s library there is a text, but the language of the text is lost. They did however manage to translate the title somewhere along the line as ‘Veritas’, literally meaning ‘the Truth’. The thing about the text though is that everyone who has read the text has died, and their translations have disappeared soon after. A new translation had been made but anyone who worked on it, as well as anyone who read it is now dead too. The big thing is though that they don’t just die, what the Pope reverse to as a secret which drives all who know of it to take their own life. They then precede to ask the Doctor to read the Veritas. Yes, I said read. The complication of the Doctor’s lack of eyesight aside, if reading the text means death you would think the Doctor would refuse…but, no. Of course, the Doctor has a device which will temporarily restore his eyesight, the downside of this though is that it takes time off his lifespan. He shortly crashes Bill’s date to pick her up, and she, the Doctor, and Nardole, along with the Pope go to the Vatican’s library. Not without a very frustrated Bill, and I don’t blame her, I wouldn’t want the Doctor and the Pope crashing my date either!

It doesn’t take long for Bill to notice something is up with the Doctor, as it is difficult to miss the sunglasses which he is wearing inside. What she doesn’t know though is that the glasses work as a scanner feeding into the Doctor’s mind – he can see vague outlines of things, and the sonic glasses also give readings of nearby people. This isn’t the only thing odd though about the whole situation. Apart from the unusual number of deaths due to a three-page text, the library, and the mysterious clawed hand which takes the Pope’s translator into the wall that is – he isn’t seen or even mentioned again. In an attempt to further hide the secret of his eyesight from Bill the Doctor sends her and Nardole to investigate further while he sits down with the translation of Veritas. I was surprised that Bill didn’t put up more of a fuss, or even question the Doctor further about the glasses – though she still did do so, it wasn’t with her same determination or flare. This doesn’t take away from her character at all though, as once away from the Doctor she begins to question a lot more, and in turn, so do we.

It is here that the episode gets, well strange, and we realise who the big bad is for the episode, and honestly, it’s not what is expected. I mean, portals to other places start opening up in the walls, and Bill and Nardole are asked to say numbers aloud and end up saying the same ones in unison, this episode goes from strange to stranger within a matter of minutes. This made for a very exciting episode, once the explanation had clicked in my mind it was still only just easy to see how everything had worked out the way it did. Who would have suspected an earth simulation created by aliens to practice taking over the world with? Not me that’s for sure! This episode had me still puzzling over the ins and outs of the logistics of it all, but I’m getting there, and it looks like the next episode will (thankfully) continue this plot. Something else this episode did was give us context both for both Nardole’s reasons for sticking with the Doctor, along with an explanation for who is in the Vault. With the revelation of it being Missy (the Doctor’s childhood friend, and enemy), it is no surprise that she was in there in the first place. However, this does open up the question as to why she is there, something we will soon discover I am sure.

Though complicated, this episode delivered on excitement and mystery, as well as introducing not just a terrifying alien race, but a smart alien race. It will be a long wait to see just how the Doctor really gets out of this debacle, but I have a feeling whatever happens, it will be epic. It will be a long wait but I am looking forward to next week’s episode!

Rating: 8/10

 

TV Review: Doctor Who S10E5 ‘Oxygen’

Hello!

So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

Now it feels like space!”

This week the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole go camping, well, they go to space, but in the Doctor’s eyes it’s the same thing (questionable, I know). I hope I never have a camping trip like this though. This is Doctor Who, so deep space unsurprisingly means deep trouble. As always, before the opening credits roll all seems well. Just a couple of ship mates doing repairs, right? Wrong. Or just about…within minutes we have more space men, but they aren’t space men, at least, they don’t look like space men anymore. If anything, they look more like space zombies – something I never thought I’d write.

So, rolling with the camping metaphor, “To really feel it you need the space equivalent of a wafer-thin sleeping bag and a leaky two-man tent.” Bill gets to choose the ‘campsite’. As far as metaphors go, that disastrous sounding camping trip is the equivalent of what happens once the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole step out of the TARDIS and onto the space station. It is here that they realise this isn’t any ordinary space station. Reason: The lack of oxygen. Pretty necessary for survival, right? Thanks to a very large air bubble created by the TARDIS, the three are free to roam wherever they want. It isn’t long before they find their first space zombie (this is the best term for them – as ‘the walking dead in spacesuits’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it), and if it’s not creepy enough already, it’s completely still, stuck standing in its space suit. The cause of death is obvious, but where are the other thirty-five space zombies which the Doctor’s sonic-screwdriver picks up on the ships scanner. Question two, where are the survivors? The group go forth to find those survivors, and the source of the distress call. Easier said than done – their path is soon blocked by an empty, automated space suit and what appears to be a rather angry ship, if sucking all the air out of the room is anything to go by.

As it turns out, the real reason though behind the deaths of thirty plus workers on a mining space station, apart from the obvious that is, is the suits. The space suits here control the air supply for each worker and there was a crew wide instruction sent out to all suits to “deactivate your organic component”. Not ominous at all then – and the best bit? The only way to breathe on this station is to put on a suit. So, as the Doctor put it, “On the bright side, we’re dying already.”, and on went the suits. This brings up a whole new set of problems. What with the four the doubting survivors, thirty-six space zombies chasing them to the centre of the ship, and Bills faulty suit, you start to question what else could go wrong? Whatever it is you’re thinking, it won’t be that. Trust me.

Despite what promised to be an exciting and even creepy episode, for me, in places it fell short of my expectations. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what was there. For all the running from space zombies, and Bill’s malfunctioning suit, this episode managed to keep me on the edge of my seat, there is no question of that. So, as the group prepare to go outside the space station to try and reach the centre and Bill’s helmet chooses that timely moment to disable, I was almost as panicked as she was. It is here that the episode started to decline, it was as if it reached the climax too early and was constantly trying to reach that point again. Which brings me to the next big reveal of the episode, and something which will definitely come into play in episodes to come. As the doors continue to open and Bill continues to lose oxygen the Doctor does the only thing he can do to save her – he gives her his helmet.

At this point I am really not coping, it’s not that the episode was actually scary, but the thought of not being able to breath puts me on edge. So, as the montage of disconnected images play to show Bill coming in and out of consciousness I can’t help but hold my breath. The Doctor’s sacrifice of his sight is what really stands out in this episode, not his speech after Bill’s supposed death where the suit that kills her in the first place, in all its dysfunctionality, saves her life. That is what I felt was meant to be the turning point of the episode, but it didn’t quite make it after such a nail-biting series of events.

It will be interesting to see how the Doctor’s loss of sight will play a part in episodes to come, especially as Nardole pointed out that the Prisoner in the Vault can sense any weakness in the Doctor. Still not many clues though as to who the Prisoner is, but time will tell. Overall an exciting episode, but a little lacklustre in terms of its ‘epic’ conclusion. After that bout of crazy though give me a leaking tent over space zombies any day!

Rating: 7/10

 

 

TV Review: Doctor Who S11E04 ‘Knock Knock’

Hello!

So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment. 

“If you could save the one who brought you into this world, wouldn’t you?”

Doctor Who this week brought us back to earth with Bill moving into a student share house with a group of friends. After trying numerous places and none of them working for them, they leave the real-estate agent in a very dejected mood. This is until an old man says to them, “Excuse me, but are you looking for somewhere to live?”. Much to my horror they choose that place, as really, even desperate students would question the creepy old guy who came out of nowhere. The Doctor of course is asked to help her move house, and with a time traveling space ship at your disposal, who wouldn’t? I know I definitely would! The Doctor instantly, and quite literally smells something off about the place and insists on helping Bill bring her stuff into the house not just to the door. Much to Bill’s embarrassment, leaving her to introduce the Doctor as her grandfather. The house in question isn’t really a house, but more of a castle. With a mysterious tower, draughty corridors, and creaking floors and walls, I agree with the Doctor when he says to Bill quite seriously “You’re going to live here?”. The place has creepy written all over it, not to mention the quiet but ever present Landlord (David Suchet) who seems to know more than he was letting on.

It is safe to say that this old castle-like house is definitely no normal house. Before the credits have even rolled one of the house mates who was early to move in disappears with muffled screams behind a closed door. This episode promises a classic Doctor Who thriller, with a solid mystery to boot. As the episode progresses, in true ‘share house student’ style the other students don’t question the fact that this guy doesn’t leave his room, and so the character is soon forgotten, he does turn up later in the episode though.  It’s not long before the housemates, including Bill, and now the Doctor, begin to question just how ‘normal’ both the house and Landlord are. Strange sounds come seemingly out of nowhere, bringing out something different in each of the housemates. The flippant guy who completely dismisses the noises as some sort of animal. The two girls who seem to feed off each other’s fear while still managing to doubt the reality of the situation. The guy who takes the strangeness in his stride and ends up following the Doctor around for most of the episode. Then one poor girl who must have had some previous trauma begins to panic as the house closes them in, she gets out but only manages to get as far as the driveway before she is swallowed up too. Then there’s Bill who, though she is versed in the peculiar after her first few trips in the TARDIS, still naturally begins to get freaked out by the antics of her new house. Like the Doctor though, her logic stays strong and she ends up figuring it out.

It is here though that the episode met it’s peak. Though at a concept level the episode had the potential to be something very scary, and very cleverly plotted out, it seemed to fall short of my expectation. After the house has closed all the characters in and has picked off all the characters one by one until just Bill, the Doctor, and the creepy Landlord are left. Well, along with who we think is the Landlord’s daughter, but is actually his well preserved mother. Yes, mother. It is here the episode starts to loose momentum. Here we see Bill embodying my thoughts as my mind clicks over and I understand why all those people had to die. This is the moment where the creepy becomes sentimental, and the scary just becomes emotional. The house was eating people to keep the Landlord’s mother alive, which after such a strong and rather nerve wracking start falls short of my expectations. Though the sentimentality of the episode brought up connections with both Bill and the Doctor who have both lost their mothers to death in some form, which brought an emotional connection the episode needed. As a lover of the thriller genre though, it is easy for me to criticise the faults of the plotting of this episode, but we do need to keep in mind that Doctor Who is classified  a ‘family show’. Once you think about it though, with episodes like the Series 3 episode ‘Blink’ it is hard not to hold these sorts of episodes to a higher standing and critique them as such.

Plotting problems aside, in terms of character development, and the development of the relationship between the Doctor and Bill this episode shone. Honestly, it was the comic moments between the Doctor and Bill which in my mind, made the episode. I will never tire of the friendly banter between these two, especially Bill’s questions, which the Doctor answers begrudgingly but truthfully. Thanks to this, I was able to forgive the somewhat disappointing plot. Another thing this episode featured a lot more was the Vault. We see the Doctor and Nardole speaking to whomever is in the Vault, the mysterious inhabitant was also playing the piano. This leads me to believe that the Inhabitant is somewhat human, or maybe even Timelord (the Doctor’s species) as the Doctor seems quite familiar with them. Maybe even friendly, as in truth, who brings a prisoner Chinese takeaway food? Really?

All up, this wasn’t one of my favourite episodes but I am interested to see how it fits into the larger arc of this series. I’m looking forward to next week!

Rating: 6.5/10

 

 

TV Review: Doctor Who S10E03 ‘Thin Ice’

Hello!

So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment. Here goes, Episode 3 – Thin Ice:

“If your future is built on the suffering of that creature, what is your future worth?”

This week’s episode lands us back on earth in Regency London, and in true Doctor Who style, the Doctor and Bill found themselves there completely by accident. As according to the Doctor you do not steer the TARDIS (his trusty time machine) you reason with it. Something which, more often than not, seems to get the Doctor into some sort of trouble. It was in no way different this week.

Regency London brings the Doctor and Bill much more than they bargained for. They’ve arrived at the last great Frost Fair of 1814, and The Thames is eating people. Drawn into the open by lights under the ice, people are being dragged below the ice and eaten by a massive sea creature. However, with only select pickpockets knowing the truth the festivities go on with the towns folk none the wiser. With the help of a small group of these pickpockets the Doctor and Bill find out the truth of what is going on below the ice. Interestingly though, they find the real danger to be above the ice, rather than entirely below it. This comes in the form of Lord Sutcliffe, the architect of the whole plan to keep the Loch Ness-esc creature chained under the lake, feed it, and harvest its’ waste for fuel. In addition, he is rude, racist, sexist, and an all-round disagreeable man. On account of this he receives a timely punch to the jaw from the Doctor, something which is very satisfying I can assure you.

Though advertised as a somewhat relaxed, and even humorous episode, ‘Thin Ice’ delivered something much deeper, and much darker than I’d expected. This brought out a very different side of Bill, one where she really began questioning who the Doctor is, and what type of person he is. Overwhelmed and emotional over the death of a child, a situation which she had no control over, Bill lashes out. Here we see something which is so much more than confusion, and anger, Bill is lead to question both hers and the Doctor’s purpose for traveling like this. So, when given the choice to save or to condemn the creature under the lake she doesn’t just initially refuse to do so, she also questions why she must choose at all. The decision over life and death is one which she has never really needed to spare much thought for, so faced with it now it is beyond overwhelming, it scares her.

Our misunderstood creature of the week is just as much a victim of the greed of humanity as the humans who fell to their deaths in its’ jaws. This is where the darker aspects of the episode kick in. Yet again the companion is left to consider both the fate of humanity and how it will be remembered, and make a choice. In this way, the episode ‘Thin Ice’ is a reflection of the second episode of series five in which the Doctor’s companion Amy has to make a very similar decision. This similarity doesn’t take away anything from the episode, as here the episode is set in the past, where the consequences of Bill’s decision are much more possible to a have a visible impact on the future.

Though this episode did finish on a more positive note, it will be interesting to see just how Bill’s new knowledge of the Doctor will impact on their relationship. Her questions on how many people he has seen killed, and also on how many people he has killed himself gave Bill answers she was half expecting, half shocked to find out. I’m curious to see whether the question of the darker side of the Doctor will raise its head again as the series progresses, especially as the knowledge of the Doctor’s 2000 years has the potential really change the way a companion sees the Doctor. In terms of the Vault under the university, we still have little to work with, though tonight’s episode revealed a rather sinister knocking coming from the other side of the Vault doors which seemed to rather rattle Nardole. This, and the fact that the Doctor isn’t meant to leave earth because of the Vault, doesn’t hint that there anything good being kept there.

Both the performances from Pearl Mackie (Bill) and Peter Capaldi (the Doctor) were absolutely stellar. Like I said before, we got to see a very different side to Bill’s character tonight, and Mackie brought a very raw, and very real feeling emotion to the screen which I loved. I hope we get to delve deeper into Bill’s character soon. While, Capaldi, as usual brings a beautiful, old soul feel to the Doctor, especially in his argument with Bill. These two are just getting better and better this season. Overall, a solid episode character development wise, making up for the slight lacking in the plot department. The message however, and the darker points of the episode were very well executed. I’m looking forward to next week!

Rating: 8/10

I hope you have a great week!
Anna 🙂