Impressions of Flatline

When I first saw the trailer for “Flatline,” I have to admit that I wasn’t terribly impressed.  Unlike the trailer for “Mummy on the Orient Express,”which left me eagerly looking forward to seeing it, the trailer for “Flatline” made almost no impression on me.  Well, technically, that’s not true.  It briefly made me think of the tenth Doctor episode “Fear Her,” but that didn’t raise my expectations for it.  However, despite my feelings going into it, I really enjoyed “Flatline,” and it provided me with one of my favorite moments of the season.

Doctor Oswald picks up the miniaturized TARDIS

Doctor Oswald picks up the miniaturized TARDIS

The plot is a unique one.  The Doctor and Clara end up landing in Bristol, in a low-income development, only to discover that the TARDIS has become even smaller on the outside than it usually is.  Clara manages to get out, but the Doctor becomes trapped inside.  Clara has to take on the Doctor’s role as she investigates the mysterious disappearances of people who live on the estate with the help of a young graffiti artist named Rigsy.  Together, they discover that the earth is possibly being attacked by two-dimensional beings who, with the Doctor trapped in the TARDIS, seem unstoppable.

The story in this episode was strong.  Sure, there are probably just as many holes in logic as any other story, but the story kept me so involved that I didn’t start wondering about them.  As is the norm for this season, it had a strong pre-credits sequence that really set a creepy tone.  On a rather trivial note, I also have to admit that I loved seeing the tiny TARDIS.  Additionally, I thought the episode did a great job of balancing the creepiness of its antagonists with the humor of having the Doctor trapped inside his tiny TARDIS.  The Addams Family gag was executed well, as were the humorous ways the Doctor and Clara interacted in this story.

It was also interesting to see the show take on the idea of beings who live in only two dimensions.  There is a lot of talk of dimensions on the show, but they are not often the focus of the plot, as they were in this case.  While this is not the first time that we’ve encountered a miniaturized TARDIS (the first time was in “Planet of Giants” at the start of the show’s second season), everything else felt very fresh.

I also enjoyed the realization of the “boneless” on screen(although I do think they could have had a better name).  It’s quite a challenge to have your antagonist be creatures who are basically formless for most of the story, and whose only communication is the numbers 22 and 55, but the show pulled it off well.  Which leads me to another strength of the episode, the direction.  The episode was very visual; the effects of people and objects getting pulled into two dimensions were really important to the success of the story and I have to say that I think they pulled it off nicely.  They were well realized when they started to take on three-dimensions as well, with the jerky movements of beings who were still learning to control their form (although I’m not sure why they abandoned the giant hand form, which seemed pretty unstoppable).

Rigsy explains the mural to Clara.

Rigsy explains the mural to Clara.

One of the flaws of this episode, however, was its supporting characters.  Rigsy gets developed more than the others, but pretty much everyone else was…well, a redshirt.  The rest of the graffiti removal crew is not developed at all, except for the incredibly unlikable, Fenton, whose only discernible personality trait is his hatred of everyone who he considers beneath him (basically everyone living on the estate).  While it was yet another exploration of class this season (which seems to be a bit of a reoccurring theme), it would have been nice to learn something more about him. Although the fact that he isn’t reformed by the experience was an interesting and unexpected turn of events.  Unlike Jamie Mathieson’s previous story, “Mummy…,”where I really believed that the supporting characters had a life outside of the story, these characters were, forgive the pun, flat.  While I was not wishing any harm on the removal crew, I can’t say that I was really that upset when they died either.

This lack of development may have prevented me from feeling what I was supposed to feel about Clara taking on the mantel of the Doctor.  While this isn’t the first time the companion has “become” the Doctor (Amy in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” leaps to mind), this is clearly not meant to be a good step for Clara.  I thought the episode would help her to understand the Doctor better, seeing as how she has given him a hard time this year about his lack of feeling for those who have died around him.  While it did do that, the Doctor also feels badly that Clara was able to take over his role so easily.  He chides her for celebrating victory at the end of the episode when so many people died.  In that moment, the Doctor and Clara have truly switched roles, as he has become her “carer.” Unfortunately, some of the impact was lost on me due to the lack of development for the characters who died.  It felt to me that Clara did what she had to, and saved as many people as she could.  However, it was probably a bit unnerving for the Doctor to hear his methods so coldly dissected by Clara as she figured out what she needed to do.

It was also interesting to see Clara break out of the “soldier following orders” mold into which she had lately been fitting.  She spends most of the episode literally being the Doctor’s eyes and ears, doing whatever he said.  When communication was lost, however, it was nice to see her find her own solution.  When she realizes that she can’t rely on the Doctor, she realizes she needs to figure out how she would solve the problem, not try to guess what he would do.  It was good to see Clara’s character gain a bit of her agency back.  And as for the final scene with Missy…I’m not sure what to make of that yet.

At Clara's suggestion, the Doctor moves the TARDIS, "Addams Family" style (and now that MC Hammer song is stuck in my head).

At Clara’s suggestion, the Doctor moves the TARDIS, “Addams Family” style (and now that MC Hammer song is stuck in my head).

Of course, this episode also furthers the look at how compulsive a liar Clara has become.  In a scene which I thought was ridiculous (and was probably my least favorite moment of the episode), the otherwise smart Clara answers a call from Danny while in a perilous situation with Rigsy.  Since she has told Danny that she has stopped traveling with the Doctor, she has to lie to Danny to explain what he is hearing.  Aside from the horribly unbelievable lie and ridiculous behavior, the conversation reveals to the Doctor that Clara has been lying to him.  He handled it pretty much as I would expect him to, not really being upset at Clara for lying in principle, since he considers lying a necessary survival skill, but annoyed that she was able to lie to him (I think it wounds his pride a bit that she was able to fool him) and is a bit concerned for her.

I haven’t said too much about the Doctor because this was a “Doctor-lite” episode, but the Doctor was front and center in my favorite moment.  I loved the Doctor’s monologue to the boneless.  I thought Peter Capaldi delivered it perfectly, as it starts out very calmly and full of regret, but it slowly builds into a powerful confrontation.  After watching the Doctor struggle with exactly who he was all season, it was good to see him fully embrace being the Doctor.  After struggling with the idea of whether or not he is a good man or a hero, he was finally confronting an enemy who was clearly evil (although we never get to learn about the boneless’ motivation, it was clear they needed to be stopped).  They were acting like monsters, so he could wear the mantel of the one who stops the monsters with no guilt.  Watching him deliver that speech was a real highlight for me.

The Doctor sends the boneless back to their two-dimensional world

The Doctor sends the boneless back to their two-dimensional world

Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed both of Jamie Mathieson’s contributions to Doctor Who this season.  Although I think “Mummy on the Orient Express” was the stronger of the two, they both dealt with some interesting ideas and themes while keeping the stories engaging.  He even managed to create two interesting antagonists, despite the fact that neither one gets to speak.   I’ll definitely be looking forward to any future scripts from him.

Impressions of Mummy on the Orient Express

The preview at the end of last week’s episode left me with the impression that this might be a “companion-lite” episode. Especially given that the Doctor and Clara parted on, well, bad terms at the end of the previous story. So you can imagine my surprise when the TARDIS arrives on the Orient Express and the Doctor and Clara walk out, seemingly as friendly as ever. At first, I thought that this didn’t bode well for the episode; however, it turns out that “Mummy on the Orient Express” was exactly the kind of episode I was hoping for. It was fun, yet creepy, and still managed to deepen my understanding of the characters and their relationships.

The Doctor meets his mummy.

The Doctor meets his mummy.

The story begins with the Doctor and Clara setting out on their final adventure. One last trip, before Clara gives up her “hobby” and focuses on Danny and her normal life. The Doctor has taken Clara to the Orient Express…in space. It’s a faithful recreation of the famous train, down to the period costumes worn by all the passengers. Their final trip is far from peaceful, however, since there is a mummy-like creature, called the Foretold, who can only be seen by a person 66 seconds before it kills them. As the passengers are dying one by one, the Doctor, and the other experts purposely recruited for this voyage, must solve the mystery of the Foretold, before there’s no one left.

What really made this episode work for me was the story. It managed to span a range of emotions without seeming disjointed. The scenes where the Foretold appears to its victims were genuinely creepy and the idea of “starting the clock” for each victim provided a heightened feeling of suspense. In contrast to the creepiness of the Foretold, the conversation between the Doctor and Clara when they first boarded the train was actually rather sweet and touching. I loved how Clara was attempting to discuss her feelings, but this made the Doctor uncomfortable, so he just wanted to avoid them and talk about the planets instead. Additionally, despite covering some serious subjects, there was also a lot of humor peppered throughout and the overall tone stayed light.

Another aspect that made the story work were the colorful supporting characters. Although they were not all given a great deal of screen time, the supporting characters were memorable, so I cared when the Foretold came to claim them. I especially enjoyed David Bamber as the conductor, who really made an impression with limited screen time. Frank Skinner as Perkins was also fun to watch, but I was left wondering a bit about his character. Did anybody else notice that he didn’t really directly interact with anyone but the Doctor? I spent most of the episode wondering if he really existed. I’m assuming the character was  a real person, since the Doctor invited him to travel with him on the TARDIS, but his lack of interactions with others stood out to me. Maybe it was reflecting a class issue, since he was a member of the crew, not a passenger or management?

The conductor nears the end of his 66 seconds

The conductor nears the end of his 66 seconds

Another key to the episode’s success, was the effectiveness of the Foretold, both visually and narratively.  I loved the look of it, and I thought the look went along with the image of what the Foretold actually was, a soldier who should be long dead, but is kept alive thanks to old technology.  Plot-wise, revealing who the Foretold actually was worked for me as well.  I know there’s a lot that wasn’t explained, but the Doctor managed to solve the mystery around the Foretold to a satisfying conclusion, even if there are a few loose threads at which you could pick (like how did the legends know that there was a word that would make it stop…).

The main unresolved plot point for me was who exactly was Gus? Was he simply a computer that was out of control?  If not, who was behind him?  What happened to Gus at the end is a bit up in the air, so will we learn more about this in the future?  And how did he know who the Doctor was?  Will this connect back to Missy or something in the finale?  Will this reappear at some point, or is this simply an oversight that will never be addressed?  Seeing as how often Moffat has gone back to re-address something that I thought was left unresolved in the past, I’m curious to see if Gus is ever referenced again (and maybe due to my childhood love of Whose Line is it Anyway? I wouldn’t mind the return of John Sessions)

While this episode was a rather lighthearted one, it still links with many of the overarching themes this season; first, it plays into the soldier theme of the season.  With the Foretold being a soldier still fighting a long-ended war, this is the second antagonist in three episodes who is a lost soldier looking for orders (which the Doctor provides).  This places the Doctor as a commanding officer, just like Danny said he was, so I can’t believe that this is just a coincidence.  I also could see in this episode the parallel (that I’m not completely fond of) between the Doctor as delivering orders to Clara.  One of my problems with “Kill the Moon” was the fact that Clara was so reliant on the Doctor to tell her what to do, when I’ve seen her as very independent and wiling to think for herself.  In this episode, I was struck by the part where the Doctor wants Clara to bring Maisie (the next victim) to him.  He tells Clara to lie to her, to tell her that the Doctor can save her, and Clara objects to this.  However, a moment later, she does it.  It made me wonder if these last few episodes are positioning Clara as a “soldier” lost without orders from the Doctor.

The mummy passes right through the Doctor

The mummy passes right through the Doctor

Besides seeing some parallels between Clara and the Foretold, I saw some parallels between Clara and the Doctor.  The final scene in the TARDIS establishes that both Clara and the Doctor are addicts, addicted to the exciting lifestyle they have.  The Doctor went on the train hoping for trouble, because a pleasant trip would be boring.  Clara, when faced with the fact that her time with the Doctor is over, can’t handle it and decides to go on traveling with him, like an addict who can’t stop.  Clara has also become just as adept as the Doctor at lying, which this episode shows.  The Doctor has often kept things from Clara lately (like the fact that he suspected trouble on the train), but this episode shows that Clara is his equal in fabrication.  In the aforementioned scene from my previous paragraph, Clara is able to lie to Maisie with ease, and at the end she lies to both Danny and the Doctor to avoid giving up her travels with the Doctor.

Which, of course, leads me to the other big issue dealt with in this story, the Clara/Danny/Doctor situation.  While I have had some problems with Clara in the past few episodes, I was liking her again here.  Probably this had to do with the fact that her loyalty seemed to swing a bit more towards the Doctor again, which helps since I am generally going to side with the Doctor (unless you are torn between Rory and the Doctor, in which case I say that I will go with Rory every time, because Rory is awesome).  I’m not sure that I like how this episode positions the Clara/Doctor/Danny dynamic, however, because it does seem to frame it as another triangle (like the Amy/Rory/Doctor one), and it didn’t start out that way at all.  The good friends/equals that the Doctor and Clara were at the beginning of the season shifted to a more paternal dynamic in “The Caretaker,” and becomes almost romantic here.

Furthermore, I am going to be very annoyed if Clara has any more “wobbles,” like she did in the last episode.  Clara’s actions here, however, I think take away a lot of the moral high ground she’s been holding over the Doctor; she is now lying to both Danny and the Doctor and I don’t see this working out well for her.  I just hope that Moffat isn’t setting her up for a big fall.

Of course, I couldn’t discuss this episode without acknowledging the references to the past.  Echoes of Tom Baker resounded through the episode, from the cigar case of jelly babies to the return of mummies as an antagonist, last seen in “The Pyramids of Mars.”  Also like “The Pyramids of Mars,” the Doctor’s reaction to death was a topic of discussion again.  Much like when Sarah Jane took the Doctor to task for not caring when Professor Scarman killed his brother, others criticize the Doctor for his rather cold reaction to the deaths in this episode.  However, the same point is made that the Doctor is operating from a practical, clinical position; if he grieves the deaths of the people he’s met, he is losing time over something he can’t change; by focusing on the problem, he can possibly prevent other deaths from occurring.  It’s clear that he is not going to be the cuddly eleventh Doctor, but he does care about human life; he’s doing his best to save as many people as he can.

The Doctor and Clara at the start of their farewell voyage.

The Doctor and Clara at the start of their farewell voyage.

Overall, this is one of my favorite episodes of the season so far.  It deepened my understanding of the characters, while still being entertaining.  After being disappointed by the last few stories, this was the perfect episode to remind me of what I love about the show. It was a clever homage to the Agatha Christie type murder mystery (the murder of people in a confined space, dying off one by one…), but in a completely Doctor Who way.  How many other shows could pull off a mummy…on the Orient Express?  While I may have some concerns about where some of the seeds planted in this episode are going, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this episode.  I felt this season had a bit of a wobble in the past few episodes, so I’m hoping this means that the show is back on track.  And in better shape than Clara…

 

Impressions of Kill the Moon

This season of Doctor Who seems to be largely about subverting audience expectations.  At first, “Kill the Moon” seems like it’s an episode that goes for scares, but approximately a third of the way in, the episode takes an unexpected turn.  Much like in “Listen,” we are left with no real villain at the end.  And, those final few scenes…well, I’ll get to that later.

The Doctor, Courtney, Clara, and Lundvik watch as the moon hatches.

The Doctor, Courtney, Clara, and Lundvik watch as the moon hatches.

“Kill the Moon” begins back at Coal Hill School, with Clara upset because the Doctor told Courtney she wasn’t special.  As a result, the Doctor takes Courtney to be the first woman on the moon.  Instead of landing on the moon, however, they land on an old shuttle, loaded with nuclear bombs that is about the land on the moon.  The travelers learn from the astronauts on board that the moon’s gravity has increased tremendously causing high tide everywhere at once.  These astronauts have come to find what is on the moon and kill it.

I enjoyed most of this episode and I found myself involved in the story.  The early part of the story was genuinely scary as the spider-like creatures attacked.  I didn’t realize how much I had been wanting a just plain scary Doctor Who until the episode shifted its focus, and I found myself feeling a bit disappointed.  However, I was still engaged as the story became more of a morality play.  I wasn’t completely sure why the spider creatures (I know they were really bacteria, but I don’t care) just stopped being an issue after they had killed several people, but I accepted it and went along with the story.

The moral dilemma was an interesting one.  The idea of one possibly innocent life versus all the life on the planet was familiar (it reminded me a bit of “The Beast Below” and even had a very similar resolution).  Since I’m very late on this write up, I’ve heard a few other people’s opinions on the episode, and I have to admit that the idea that the episode was really about the issue of abortion didn’t cross my mind while watching it, but I can definitely see how that could be a theme.  That even helps to explain Courtney yelling about how “It’s a baby!” and the references to it being born, instead of hatched.  I’m not one hundred percent sure what it would be saying about the issue, so I’m not sure it dealt with the issue terribly effectively, but I can see how it could be in there.

This brings me to the part of the story where my opinion of it completely shifts: the ending.  First of all, I didn’t really like that it was Clara who had to decide to stop the bombs.  I know that was necessary to lead to the final scenes (which I liked even less), but it would have liked to have seen the problem resolved another way.  Perhaps Lundvik, the astronaut, could have had a change of heart or humanity (well, really Europe judging from what we could see from the moon) could have done the surprising thing and voted not to kill it.

Clara broadcasting the decision to humanity

Clara broadcasting the decision to humanity

Or, in the story that I would have liked to have seen, Courtney could have made the decision.  What would’ve made her more special than to have saved the life of the alien and to have saved humanity from making a big mistake?  As it was, she was completely unnecessary to the story.  Think about it: would the story be any different if she hadn’t been there?  Aside from her getting to use one of what I assume was a DVD from “Blink” and quite oddly carry cleaning products within easy reach at all times (was she prepared for more “spillage?”), she didn’t really do much.  The idea of her posting pictures of the Doctor on Tumblr was amusing, but, again, not really necessary to the plot at all.  I was left wondering why, exactly, Courtney needed to go on this particular adventure.

The final scenes, however, are where I really had a problem with this episode.  While I have enjoyed the fact that Clara feels perfectly comfortable standing up to the Doctor, her argument with the Doctor at the end bothered me.  I wasn’t completely against her point.  It was a tremendous amount of pressure for the Doctor to place on her, to decide what essentially amounts to the future of humanity, so I can see how she would be upset by it.  And the Doctor was being manipulative, in his own way, by saying that he was leaving humanity to make the decision for itself, but still leaving Clara there.  He even says that he knew she would make the right decision, so he wasn’t really giving up control of the situation.

I felt that Clara was a bit too self-righteous, however, and I found myself on the side of the Doctor.  He genuinely looked a bit hurt to me that Clara wasn’t pleased by what he did.  I see his misjudging the situation as a mistake, since I think he sometimes forgets what it’s like to not be him, with all of his knowledge and past experiences.  I even felt that perhaps he did that because he thinks so highly of Clara.  Basically, I guess I’ve found out that I will forgive a lot from the Doctor, but it doesn’t help Clara’s case when she is threatening to slap him so hard he’ll regenerate (I’m not a big fan of the slapping this season).  I also feel like he’s not a human, so I guess I don’t expect him to be held to exactly the same standards.

Of course, if you’ve been reading my recent posts, you’ll know that I have no great love for Danny Pink.  Despite trying to blame my feelings on lingering dislike from the last episode, I still find myself at least partially blaming him for the problem between Clara and the Doctor.  It seemed to me almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy; Danny told Clara the Doctor would push her too far, and, sure enough, in her very next adventure with the Doctor, he pushes her too far.

I guess ultimately, I just feel like Danny is too controlling.  It’s like Clara is ready to leave the Doctor just to please him.  As someone who always hopes that there will be a time when traveling with the Doctor is fun again, I’m also not a big fan of his constant insistence that Clara’s travels with the Doctor are just like his time in the army.  I’m fully aware, however, that this is a direction in the writing as of late, and was there before Danny arrived, so he is just a symptom of the current trend, not the root of the problem.

Is that still the fourth Doctor's yo-yo?

Is that still the fourth Doctor’s yo-yo?

For the second week in a row, Doctor Who has left me feeling confused about an episode.  Only when I gain time and perspective on this season will I probably figure out what I really felt about the past two episodes.  As much as I enjoy Capaldi’s Doctor, I’d like to see the show be a bit less hard on him.  I really feel like they’re doing a bit of a Colin Baker-ish storyline with him and I hope that he is able to stick around long enough to resolve it (unlike poor Colin).  Until then, I’m hoping for episodes that can combine the danger with a dash of fun.  Which is why the trailer at the end of this episode had me looking forward to next week’s “Mummy on the Orient Express.”  After the last few stories, I wouldn’t mind one that I could enjoy all the way through…

Impressions of The Caretaker

Occasionally, an episode of Doctor Who comes along that leaves me… confused.  Not confused about the plot, mind you, confused about just what I thought of it.  It took me a long time to figure out how I actually felt about “The Caretaker.”  Were there aspects of it I liked? Of course.  But, there were some aspects of it that I pretty strongly disliked as well.  Finally, after giving it a lot of thought, I realized that, for me, the bad far outweighed the good.  However, unlike other episodes that I’ve disliked, there’s still something to this episode that makes me keep thinking about it.  So this episode remains a bit of an enigma to me, even after I’ve been able to pin down my feelings about it.

This image sums up the story.  Danny and the Doctor arguing while Clara is caught passively in the middle.

This image sums up the story. Danny and the Doctor arguing while Clara is caught passively in the middle.

The plot of the episode is ultimately unimportant.  There is a killing machine, Skovox Blitzer, that the Doctor needs to stop, so he goes undercover as the caretaker at Coal Hill School.  All this is simply an excuse to put the Doctor, Clara, and Danny under the same roof, resulting in a conflict that catches Clara between Danny and the Doctor.

I felt that this story had a great deal in common with “The Lodger,” my favorite Gareth Roberts story.  Once again the Doctor has to function in a “regular” situation, one where he has to come into contact with people just going about their everyday lives.  However, unlike “The Lodger,” the low stakes were a distraction in this story.  In “The Lodger” the focus is on the Doctor and his relationship with Craig, but there is a feeling of menace in the background.  There are a lot of unanswered questions, and the vagueness when it comes to the explaining who the aliens were is a flaw in that episode, but it is even more the case here.  Where exactly did the robot come from?  It was attracted to the artron emissions, but how did it get there? And, for that matter, how did the Doctor know it was there? The robot really felt like an afterthought; instead of adding anything of interest to the episode, it was simply a plot device.

On the positive side, it was entertaining to see the Doctor interact with Clara, Danny, and the others at the school.  Whenever the Doctor tries to pass himself off as a normal person, the results are generally entertaining, and this episode was no exception.  This was the best part of the episode.  It was also fun to see Clara growing increasingly frazzled as the lines she has drawn between her world with the Doctor and her everyday life were getting blurred.  The scene between her and the Doctor when he was at her classroom window was one of my favorites.

Also, much like “The Lodger,” there is a lot of humor in this episode.  The fact that the Doctor assumed that Clara would be dating the English teacher who resembled Matt Smith was amusing, as were many of the earlier interactions between the Doctor and Clara. I also have to admit that I had to laugh at the idea of the eleventh Doctor living among the otters.  The humor was a large part of what made this episode enjoyable, and but it wasn’t quite enough to counter the aspects that bothered me.

The "caretaker" pops his head into Clara's classroom in a humorous exchange

The “caretaker” pops his head into Clara’s classroom in a humorous exchange

First, one part that  made me curious was Courtney.  While I enjoyed the bit with her parents at the parent night, I’m not sure where the Courtney storyline is going.  I could see this Doctor becoming interested in a “disruptive influence,” but I never saw anything that would suggest that the Doctor and Courtney had really formed any kind of bond.  I know he was upset, so he probably did something rash,but why exactly did the Doctor decide to take her in the TARDIS?  Since she seems to be in the next episode, it’ll be interesting to see how the relationship between the Doctor and Courtney evolves.

One thing I definitely didn’t enjoy was the shift in the dynamic between the Doctor and Clara.  Up until this point, I felt that their relationship was one of close friendship.  There relationship was very balanced, power-wise, with a lot of give and take between the two.  In regards to Danny, the Doctor was competing with him for Clara’s attention, but that was the extent of it.  In contrast, this episode shifted the dynamic to more of a father-daughter dynamic.  In this episode, the Doctor is very much in charge (evidenced by his choice to not reveal his plan to Clara), and Danny seems to need to seek his approval; the Doctor suddenly became an over-protective dad.

My biggest problems of the episode, however, stemmed from Danny. There were times in the episode that I liked his character and then their were times that I didn’t.  At first, it was incredibly difficult for me to figure out why, but I think I’ve finally been able to put my finger on what my problems are.  First, in regards to Danny’s relationship with Clara, I still don’t really enjoy them as a couple.  This episode makes it clear that Moffat has done what he did with Amy and Rory, having time pass faster for the characters in the show than is passing in real life.  Apparently, Clara and Danny have now been dating for over a year, but I still don’t feel invested in their relationship.  I keep hoping that will change, but, so far, it still feels forced to me.

Besides my lack of investment in the relationship, I also had some problems with the dynamic between Danny, the Doctor, and Clara.  Clara has been a very self-sufficient, independent character this season.  However, this character took away a lot of her agency.  The Doctor and Danny fight, while Clara remains largely silent.  I’ll be the first to admit that, in this episode, all of the characters do things that are wrong.  The Doctor is even ruder than usual and Clara uses the invisibility watch to sneak Danny onto the TARDIS (which I felt was a horrible breech of trust with the Doctor).  However, even though I probably shouldn’t, I can excuse some of thier behavior because there are many positive things that I know about thier characters.  I can write these of as mistakes that they might have to make up for, but still, mistakes from which they can recover.

This episode left me wondering if maybe Clara would be better off with Adrian...

This episode left me wondering if maybe Clara would be better off with Adrian…

Which, of course, brings me to Danny.  I felt that he was just far too alpha male for me to like at the end of this episode.  I think he had every right to be upset to learn that Clara had kept a major part of her life a secret from him (at least, once I realized that they had been together for over a year).  However, I did not like the attitude he had about her experiences with the Doctor.  I didn’t think that he should sit in judgement of her time with the Doctor.

He also had every right to be upset with the Doctor, after the way the Doctor treated him.  On the other hand, I thought that he went way too far in his argument with the Doctor on the TARDIS.  For a while I couldn’t figure out why the argument didn’t sit well with me.  Certainly the Doctor is often responsible for the deaths of others, as an officer might be, so Danny wasn’t completely off base.  I thought maybe I just resented the fact that Danny was now judging the Doctor without knowing him.  After all, the Doctor is not an officer sitting back on the sidelines sending other people in to fight for him; he is often  on the frontline, so to speak, putting himself at risk too.  After reflecting on it, however, I realized that the reason that I felt so uncomfortable about this argument was because it only happened because Danny had agreed to sneak on the Doctor’s TARDIS without his permission.  A lot of the blame for that falls on Clara, but I didn’t think Danny had the right to violate the Doctor’s personal space and then attack him.

This still was not the part that bothered me the most.  That came in Danny and Clara’s final scene.  That conversation bothered me in two ways.  The first was when he told her that he should have been scared when leading the robot to the Doctor.  I don’t like the way that Danny always assumes that he knows more than Clara does.  She has seen things that he could never even imagine and has probably been in more life or death situations that Danny.  It feels a bit condescending that he has taken on the role of protector and is now telling her what to do.  Which leads me to my second point, I didn’t like the way that he gave Clara the ultimatum at the end.  He spoke to her as if she was a child, and he was the parent who was going to protect her.  I’m sure that this stems from whatever trauma is in his past, but he doesn’t really understand the situation yet.  He is perfectly justified in being concerned for Clara, now that he knows that she is often in dangerous situations, but I don’t like the fact that he is giving her orders now. Clara needs a man who will be able to stand up to her, but not one who is going to control her.

No, I didn't talk about heaven this week.  But Capaldi's former castmate, Chris Addison popped up there this week.

No, I didn’t talk about heaven this week. But Capaldi’s former castmate, Chris Addison popped up there this week.

Overall, I started out enjoying this episode, but, by its conclusion, my feeling towards it had changed quite dramatically.   The plot is paper-thin, but that doesn’t always hinder my enjoyment of an episode.  I enjoy a good character study, but not when all of the characters behave in ways that makes me like them less.  Up until this point, I had been really enjoying this season; this episode caused me to worry about where this season is going.  It seems as if Clara is being set up for a fall, which would be a disappointment after she has been such an unusual, self-sufficient female character.  Since I don’t enjoy being this negative about a character and an episode, and I didn’t mean to suggest that the this episode has ruined the entire season for me, I’m going to end with a happy thought.  As long as Coal Hill School is a part of the storyline, there’s always the remote chance that one of my favorite characters could make a small appearance.  Maybe I’d like Danny more if I knew that he had the support of a certain science teacher who is now the Chairman of the Governors…