The Long Way Round: Hell Bent

“Nothing’s sad ’til it’s over, then everything is.”  While the Doctor delivers these lines to Clara early in “Hell Bent,” I can’t help but feel that these lines express Steven Moffat’s feelings (and I would assume RTD’s feelings) about endings as well.  Every parting in the new series of Doctor Who is an emotional, heart-wrenching goodbye.  Endings are filled with sadness.  However, this episode is a bit less bleak of an ending than some; it puts a bittersweet coda on the exit of Clara Oswald.  Don’t worry though, there was still plenty of sadness to go around.

The Doctor says his goodbye to Clara

The Doctor says his goodbye to Clara

Overall, I found the episode a bit uneven, but what I found really stuck with me was the dialogue.  Therefore, I’ve decided to approach this episode through a series of memorable and/or important quotes.

“I heard the Doctor had come home. One so loves fireworks!”

Honestly, except for the parts with the Doctor and Clara in the diner, which I’ll get to later, the first 20 or so minutes dragged for me.  Maybe that’s because I just kept wondering why the Doctor seemed to grow up in the Dust Bowl.  Who is the woman in the barn (which makes its third appearance on the show, after “Day of the Doctor” and “Listen”)?  If the Doctor is a high-born Gallifrean, than why does his childhood home feel like an orphanage?

I did enjoy the touch of the Doctor dropping his spoon when told to put down any weapons (nice callback to “Robot of Sherwood”). It was a bit amusing to see how the Doctor just utterly ignored everyone until the president himself came (and interesting to see him draw a literal line in the sand), but overall it felt like filler.  Why did the Doctor have to wait too long for everyone to turn on Rassilon?  Was it just to have that old west showdown kind of feel to their meeting? The powerful Rassilon comes across more like a petulant child, which doesn’t make him seem like the best leader.  How did he get everyone to listen to his idea to trap the Doctor in his confession dial?  The door is clearly left wide open for a possible return of Rassilon, but I won’t be waiting with bated breath.

I did however, enjoy the return of Ohila.  I’m not clear how she got there, but it was kind of amusing to see her and the Sisterhood just barge in on the Gallifrey high command and make snarky comments. Apparently  at the end of things one should expect immortals there to heckle you.  Of course, she is also there to let the Doctor know that he is going too far.  She accuses him of being cruel or cowardly by banishing Rassilon and the rest of the High Council, which is basically saying that he has stopped being the Doctor again.  I’d love to see the Sisterhood used in a more meaningful way again, but I enjoyed their appearance here.

Everyone finally turns on Rassilon

Everyone finally turns on Rassilon

“Stories are where memories go when they’re gone.”

As I mentioned previously, the part of the beginning that I did enjoy was the scenes in the diner between the Doctor and Clara.  I enjoyed the way that those scenes played with my expectations.  It began and I thought the Doctor was checking on Clara who no longer remembered their experiences.  However, right from the start Moffat put in clues that Clara knew more than she was letting on; the example that jumps to mind is when the Doctor’s guitar starts to play (a guitar version of Clara’s theme, no less) on the diner’s speakers.  Clara doesn’t even react, which immediately made me start to suspect that she knew exactly who the Doctor was.

“You like a cliffhanger, don’t you?”

Another quote from the scenes in the diner, but I just had to include it because it made me chuckle.   I do love the meta-commentary on the shows abundant use of cliffhangers.

“Back to normal, am I? Only time I’ve been a man, that last body.  Dear lord, how do you cope with all that ego”

At this point the story picks up a bit, although, let’s face it, this episode isn’t really a terribly plot-heavy episode.  The Doctor learns what the Time Lords know about the hybrid from the General before demanding the use of the extraction chamber to save Clara.  The scene between the Doctor, Clara, and the General was where the episode began to pick up for me.  Clara remains Clara, observant and clever even though she is terribly confused and I really enjoyed Peter Capaldi’s performance.  The look on his face as he let the General offer Clara explanations made it clear that he was about to do something that he knew he really shouldn’t.

I really enjoyed the General throughout the episode.  While Ken Bones played the General, he was almost the lone voice of reason among the Time Lords, proof that they were not all corrupted.  I was enjoying his performance so much that I was a bit disappointed when he started to regenerate (I did like that the Doctor checked to make sure that the General wasn’t out of regenerations before shooting.  I guess that’s Time Lord courtesy).  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the General regenerate into T’Nia Miller, a black woman.  First, I liked that the show was taking the traditionally male role of a general and suggesting that it was traditionally held by a woman.  Plus, let’s face it, most Time Lords that we see on screen are male.  I enjoyed the fact that Steven Moffat clearly wanted to depict on-screen that Time Lords can change their race and gender at any time.  The quote above even shows that he was specifically making the point that a Time Lord can be one gender for all of his or her regenerations and then suddenly be regenerated as the other gender.

On a side note, when I was double checking the names of the actors who played the General, I was very disappointed to see that the credits bill Ken Bones as the General and T’Nia Miller as the female General, as if normal is male and female is an exception.  I’m a bit disappointed that the show would label the characters in such a carelessly sexist way, especially after what seemed to be a move against sexism.

The General, Gastron, and Ohila try to figure out what is the Doctor's plan.

The General, Gastron, and Ohila try to figure out what is the Doctor’s plan.

“The Time Lords have a got a big computer made of ghosts in a crypt guarded by more ghosts.”

Trying to figure out exactly what was going on in the cloisters was enough to make my head spin.  I remember the matrix from the classic series, but it has clearly been majorly upgraded since then. I could have used a bit less of the slightly confusing cloisters in this episode as well. The random Dalek, Cyberman, and Weeping Angels didn’t really seem necessary, and I’m a bit fuzzy on what the Cloister Wraiths were protecting (since all we really saw were corridor-like rooms, but the Cloister Wraiths looked cool.  They were a striking visual as they glided around with their flickering screen, screaming faces.  As for the rest of it, I’m going with the Doctor’s handy cheat sheet for Clara and the audience before I develop a headache.

One of the creepy Cloister Wraiths.

One of the creepy Cloister Wraiths.

“My time is up, Doctor. Between one heartbeat and the last is all the time I’ve got.”

The heart of the episode was the relationship between the Doctor and Clara.  This being Jenna Coleman’s final episode, Clara does get her share of moments, even though her role in the beginning of the episode was limited to her scenes in the diner.  I was happy to see that this episode did not deminish Clara’s bravery in “Face the Raven.”  She continues to accept that it is her time to go, trying to convince the Doctor that her life wasn’t worth fracturing all of time.  And I loved seeing her face off against Ohila and the General, distracting them while the Doctor stole another TARDIS.  I also can’t let that pass without mentioning how excited I was to see the original console room.

The moment that really stuck with me however, was the conversation between Clara and the Doctor in the cloister.  It’s played perfectly by both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.  Without even saying a world, it’s clear how well these two characters know each other.  Clara sees a change in the Doctor and realizes that he has been through a lot since she last saw him.  He knows that if he looks at her she will read the pain in his eyes, so he tries to look away, to not let her see.  Once again they are both trying to look out for the other.  Clara’s reaction when she learns that the Doctor spent 4 1/2 billion years trapped in his confession dial solely to bring her back from the dead shows that she is both incredibly moved and angry at the same time.  And somewhere Adric just cried.

“Even the other immortals are gone, it’s just Me.”

It’s not until the final third of the story that Me enters the episode.  Once again Maisie Williams does a great job of giving Me a slightly different, almost wiser air as she can appreciate the beauty in sad events, something the Doctor seems incapable of doing.  She’s a bit underused in this episode, basically popping up to become Clara’s companion in the end, but she makes the most of her limited screen time, even if she does essentially disappear during the Doctor and Clara’s farewell in the TARDIS.

I’m also going to admit that Steven Moffat got me again when the Doctor said it was “me” knocking.  The Doctor has been to the end of the universe several times; it seems impossible that he wouldn’t run into himself there.  I held out hope for a moment that maybe, just maybe, it was Orson Pink and Moffat had found a way to explain his existence, but no such luck.

Clara and her companion head off to Gallifrey, the long way round

Clara and her companion head off to Gallifrey, the long way round

“By your own reasoning, why couldn’t the hybrid be half Time Lord, half human?”

The other reason Me seemed to exist in this episode was to troll the audience.  As she started this speech, I was thinking, he’s not actually going there, is he?  And of course, he didn’t, not really.  Moffat actually leaves the whole hybrid thing a bit unclear although it does seem that the prophecy must refer to the Doctor since he is the one willing to destroy a billion hearts to heal his own.  Still all three of the possibly hybrids are, at that moment, standing in the ruins of Gallifrey, so there really isn’t a definitive answer.

“Nobody’s ever safe.  I never asked you for that, ever…These have been the best years of my life and they are mine.  Tomorrow’s promised to no one, Doctor, but I insist upon my past.  I am entitled to that.”

This was my favorite moment of the episode.  I loved seeing Clara stand up to the Doctor and tell him that he did not have the right to take away her memories.  It felt like a bit of a redemption for the horrible ending that RTD gave Donna (I really, really, really hated that memory wipe).  And considering that Clara was willing to face her death and put an end to all of this, it was clear that it was the Doctor who really needed the memory wipe.  I think he realized this as well.  I’m pretty sure that he knew that Clara had managed to reverse the polarity, and he accepted it as a consequence of his going too far this time.

He and Clara’s final moments were touching, as he basically told her how to be a Doctor, which seemed to indicate that he had some idea of what she might do.  I happen to love pears, so I’m disregarding that part of his advice, but the rest of it was sound.  I will admit that I love the idea of Clara and Me traveling around the universe, even though it once again allows a death to not really be a death on Doctor Who.

“When something goes missing, you can always recreate it by the hole it left.”

I’ve heard many interpretations of the final scene in the diner.  Personally, I think the Doctor really doesn’t know that it is Clara to whom he’s speaking.  At first I wasn’t sure why Clara wanted him to know that it was her, but I think I’ve figured out an explanation that works for me.  Time and time again we’ve seen Clara looking out for others; I think this was her final act of looking out for the Doctor.  One of the last things she asks him is if he’s going to look for Clara, and he seems to want to find her again.  I think Clara wanted to plug up the hole a bit, so that he wouldn’t waste time trying to find her or wondering about her.  By making her TARDIS dematerialize around him, she let him know that he had been talking to Clara and that she was okay.  This was so he wouldn’t feel the need to search for her.

Clara takes a final look back at the Doctor (as Elvis watches)

Clara takes a final look back at the Doctor (as Elvis watches)

Overall, while this episode didn’t quite live up to the promise of “Heaven Sent,” it had a lot of good points.  Despite this being a rather dark season, it ended on a positive note.  The Doctor puts on the maroon velvet coat and become “the Doctor” again. Clara still has to go back and “face the raven,” but she has all the time in the world for adventures until that moment.  What better ending could there be than to see their TARDISs pass each other in the vortex, each off on a new adventure.  While I was sad to see Clara go, I think she got a good exit.  For a while, at least, she gets to essentially be her own Doctor, which was no less than this strong character deserved.



In Need of Nepenthe: Face the Raven

After last week’s “Sleep No More” a Macbeth reference, this week’s episode title, “Face the Raven,” calls to mind “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. As I suspected, it is an appropriate poem for this episode. “The Raven” is about grief and loss; a nameless narrator grieves over his lost Lenore. After this episode (and possibly in the episodes before due that Doctor Who timey-wimey storytelling), the Doctor will grieve over the loss of Clara.  While I was not looking forward to Clara’s departure, I have to say that I loved this episode.


Clara faces the raven, but not without the Doctor standing behind her.

This was Sarah Dollard’s first story for Doctor Who, but I certainly hope that it won’t be her last.  This story grabbed me from the beginning.  Rigsy’s return meant that we didn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining how the Doctor gets involved in the situation or why Clara cares so much about him.  The focus gets to remain where it should be: on the Doctor and Clara in what seems to be their final adventure.  It was also a nice touch to bring back Clara’s “companion,” to remind us of how like the Doctor she has become.

The episode begins with a very light, humorous tone, a perfect beginning because it reminds us of why Clara enjoys traveling with the Doctor: it’s fun.  It all seems like business as usual as the Doctor decides that he will save Rigsy and it feels as though the episode is going in the direction of a fun romp.  As the episode progresses, however, it very subtly shifts its tone and Dollard very gradually raises the episode’s stakes until Clara’s death feels like the natural consequence of the events of the episode.

The plot sucked me in as well.  The countdown tattoo was an intriguing hook to get us to the trap street. Additionally, the refugee camp with a perception filter was a clever idea, and it’s an idea I almost wish could have been explored more.  I found myself wondering how some of the street’s denziens wound up there: what exactly does a Cyberman do to need to seek asylum?  The introduction of the Janus species was an intriguing one as well.  I know a lot of people felt the trap street was a rip-off of Harry Potter‘s Diagon Alley, but I enjoyed it.  I also liked the idea of Ashildr/ Mayor Me running a refugee camp.  It showed how much she has learned over the years that she was able to set up the camp, while her use of the quantum shade shows that empathy is still not one of her dominant characteristics.

An episode like this really benefits from having Maisie Williams playing the role of Mayor Me. While it’s still a bit ambiguous just whose side she’s on, Maisie’s performance at the end made it clear, without saying much, that she was horrified that she couldn’t help Clara.  I don’t think she means to do the Doctor any harm, but she will do what she has to do to protect her refugees. We still don’t know who it is that wants the Doctor (the logical bet would be Missy, but that may be too obvious), and in this episode she says that she made a deal with “them.” I guess we’ll find out soon.

Peter Capaldi turns in yet another great performance in this episode.  He obviously takes a bit of a backseat to Clara, but he is fascinating to watch.  He never upstages Clara during her death scene, but he is always reacting to what she is saying. He manages to hold his emotions in (as this Doctor would), but his face shows all the various emotions he is feeling. He shifts from rage to sorrow to love all without needing to say a word. Unlike the Doctor, I was moved to tears by his and Clara’s parting moments, and no small part of it was because of the heartbreak the Doctor was experiencing.


FACE THE RAVEN (By Sarah Dollard)

The Doctor attempts to threaten Me into saving Clara from the quantum shade.

All this leads me to the reason this episode worked so well: Jenna Coleman. Clara experiences almost every possible emotion in this episode and Jenna Coleman is fantastic at portraying them all. I can’t be the only one who’d love to see those encounters between Clara and Jane Austen, right? The opening of the episode showed Clara’s love of excitement (my one bone to pick would be that the scene of her dangling out of the TARDIS was a bit unnecessary and over-the-top since the opening moments already made that clear) and the consequences in this episode flowed quite naturally from her established personality traits and the choices she made.

This episode played almost as a Greek tragedy. Clara’s hamartia was what brought her down in the end. She was full of hubris, but also compassion. She wanted to help Rigsy so much that she did something foolish, without having all of the information. This is not unlike the Doctor, always putting himself in danger for the sake of others, sometimes without really knowing all the facts yet. Unfortunately, as he points out, he is less breakable that Clara, a point that she lost sight of in her overconfidence.  In this episode, Clara’s transformation into the Doctor seems complete. Ultimately though, what brought about Clara’s death in this episode was her belief not in her own cleverness, but in the Doctor’s. She believed that there was no problem that he couldn’t solve, which is why she could be reckless.

At first I wasn’t sure I would be satisfied by this episode’s conclusion because it was looking like Clara would die because of her recklessness and I wanted Clara to have a heroic death. However, she faces death as only Clara Oswald could, bravely and still thinking of others. She uses her final moments to first ease Rigsy’s guilt and then to help the Doctor.  She accepts that she is the one responsible for her predicament and does not want anyone else to share in any part of the blame.  Clara doesn’t waste any time bemoaning her upcoming death or feeling sorry for herself; instead, she takes charge of the situation and uses her final moments as best she can.  She knows the Doctor so well that she knows what he needs to hear. She takes on a very maternal role at the end, comforting the Doctor and ordering him to not seek revenge for her death.  She knows that losing her will hurt him deeply, and she doesn’t want her ultimate legacy with the Doctor to be a negative one. The last we see of Clara, she bravely faces the raven, not running away from it as others do.



Rigsy paints the TARDIS in tribute to Clara.

Still, I find it hard to believe that this will truly be the last we see of Clara. I will be very surprised if she doesn’t turn up in some way in the finale. Generally, the showrunner writes the exit for the companion, and I can’t imagine that Moffat would let somebody give Clara her final words. Whether it will be in a dream, a flashback, a point earlier in her timeline, or one of the Clara splinters I have no idea.  Even if she does get resurrected (as it seems to be one of the recurring themes), I don’t think it can diminish the power of her exit here. Currently, this episode is my pick for the best of the season.  Clara’s departure was very moving and a fitting exit for one of my favorite companions. Now I just need this Raven to take thy beak from out my heart…

The Zygon Invasion

“The Zygon Invasion” is the first of yet another two-part episode.  It’s a much more traditional two-part episode than the previous pair, ending with every one of our protagonists either seemingly dead or on the verge of becoming so (I think there’s more to Kate’s situation than we saw. She couldn’t possibly have not known that policewoman was a Zygon, right?). While it didn’t  pull me in as quickly as “Magician’s Apprentice” or “Under the Lake,” it still sets up an interesting story that left me eager for next week.

The opening message from both Osgoods (which I'm sure will come into play in "The Zygon Inversion")

The opening message from both Osgoods (which I’m sure will come into play in “The Zygon Inversion”)

The last time Doctor Who used the Zygons, they were basically a subplot in “The Day of the Doctor.”  The real focus was on the three Doctors working together and the Time War. The last time the Zygons were the focus of an episode was in the fourth Doctor story, “The Terror of the Zygons.”  This episode is really the first time in the new series that the Zygons take center stage. Despite their rather cumbersome appearance, the episode does a good job of making them scary and interesting.

The Zygon’s abilities have changed a bit over the years. They no longer need to keep the person they are duplicating alive.  They only need them as long as they need information from them. Additionally, the Zygons have developed the ability to pluck people from your memory to turn into. While this makes them even more dangerous (it’s not hard to understand why the soldiers have so much trouble shooting the Zygons in the village when they look like their loved ones), it does raise some questions. How did the Zygon in the village know Johnny’s name? Walsh (played by Rebecca Front, so it’s another The Thick of It reunion on Doctor Who) seemed to think that the copy wouldn’t know any personal information, but just what are their mind-reading capabilities? They were even able to know who was controlling the drone in an earlier scene, so I’m curious to see if we get any further explanation in the second half.

Moreover, we learn the terms of the peace that the human and Zygons negotiated at the end of “The Day of the Doctor.” Twenty million Zygons have taken human form and now live on the earth. Most are happy with this arrangement, but there is a splinter group that is taking action against this agreement. They want the Zygons to live openly, not live in a disguise, and are willing to destroy all humans and Zygons who stand in their way.

Apparently all the Zygons took the form of British people, so the influx of Zygons meant an influx of "British" immigrants around the world.

Apparently all the Zygons took the form of British people, so the influx of Zygons meant an influx of “British” immigrants around the world.

Peter Harness wrote last year’s divisive “Kill the Moon,” which many saw as being about abortion. I had many issues with that episode, but I have to admit that the abortion aspect didn’t cross my mind until I heard others discussing it. The commentary on current political issues in “The Zygon Invasion,” however, is impossible to miss. One can draw all sorts of parallels between the attitudes towards the Zygons and current attitudes towards immigration (made even clearer by the anti-“British” graffiti and writing found in New Mexico). The focus is on Middle Eastern immigration in particular, with the Zygon splinter group having some parallels to Isis.

This episode also sees the return of Osgood after her death in last year’s finale.  Once again we have a resurrected character, although we learn that there have been two Osgoods ever since the peace negotiations. We also have another hybrid, as we learn that Osgood and her Zygon duplicate have been working together to preserve the peace and no longer consider themselves either Zygon or human, but both.  It was good to see Osgood coming more into her own in this episode. She still wears a tribute to the Doctor, the question marks on her collar, but she is no longer almost solely defined by her admiration for him. The job of being the peace and the death of her sister had clearly made her grow as an individual.

One of the highlights of the episode was Jenna Coleman’s performance as Bonnie. I’m not sure how surprised people were to learn that the Clara we had seen for most of the episode was, in fact, her Zygon double. I thought Jenna Coleman did an excellent job of acting just a bit off. Just from the way she moved when she walked out of the apartment, it was clear that this was not Clara. Jenna Coleman also delivered lines slightly differently than she does as Clara, but not so different that Bonnie wouldn’t have fooled the others.

Even Jenna Coleman's body language and facial expression makes it clear that this is not Clara.

Even Jenna Coleman’s body language and facial expression makes it clear that this is not Clara.

In addition to the performance, Peter Harness wrote Clara’s dialogue well. It was generally what Clara would say, but a few things stuck out as slightly odd. Clara’s continued questions about the weapons against the Zygons, for instance, seemed a bit out of character. As a brief aside, I assume that Harry Sullivan developed the gas after his encounter with the Zygons in the “seventies or eighties” (nothing like catching a reference to the U.N.I.T. dating controversy to reaffirm just how deep your Doctor Who obsession is). Her comments to Jac about being middle-aged also seemed completely out of character for Clara.

I noticed many of these same traits in the Doctor during this episode, so I can’t help but think that he is a Zygon as well. He still seemed like himself when he met with the Zygon leaders on the playground. After that scene, however, we don’t see the TARDIS again and he just seems a bit…off.  He starts referring to himself in the third person and using inflections that he doesn’t usually use.  Why didn’t he use the TARDIS to get to Turmezistan? Why does he now seem to embrace being president of the world?  I suspect it’s because he’s not himself. If he is a Zygon copy, I wonder if this might all be part of his plan; he’s working with the peaceful Zygons and using a copy to make them think they know where he is and what he’s doing.

One of my favorite moments in the episode, the Doctor consulting with the Zygon leaders. Yes, those cute children are, in fact, big blobby things.

One of my favorite moments in the episode, the Doctor consulting with the Zygon leaders. Yes, those cute children are, in fact, big blobby things.

I don’t feel that I can comfortably state my opinion of this episode yet. The first half sets up some interesting conflicts, but much of it depends on the second half. Unlike the other two-part episodes, this one seems to require a second half that will be tonally similar and continue to develop the same ideas.  The title, “The Zygon Inversion” has me intrigued. Does it refer to the shift in power from the peaceful Zygons to the splinter group? Does it refer to a reversal we have yet to see? Or does it refer to the nerve gas that will physically invert the Zygons, turning them inside out? I guess I’ll have to wait for Saturday to find out.

Going back Before the Flood

“Before the Flood” opens with the Doctor breaking the fourth wall and providing the viewer with a hypothetical example of the bootstrap paradox. The bootstrap paradox is a paradox of time travel that occurs when a future event is the cause of a past one.  This creates an endless loop that makes it impossible to determine the moment of creation of the event. From this, it’s pretty clear that as the episode unfolds, we will see another example of a bootstrap paradox and, of course, we do.  This isn’t the first time that Doctor Who has dealt with such a paradox.  In fact two fairly recent scripts by Steven Moffat spring to mind: “Time Crash” and “Blink.”  While both deal with the bootstrap paradox, this episode is the most in-depth exploration of it on the show to date.

The Doctor faces off against the Fisher King.

The Doctor faces off against the Fisher King.

My biggest disappointment of the episode was the Fisher King. While he looked impressive, he really didn’t make that big of an impression in the story.  I enjoyed the aspect of going back before the flood, but I found the Fisher King very forgettable.  We learn very little about him; he and his armies conquered the planet Tivoli before being ousted by the Arcateenians.  Prentis has brought him to earth to bury him, but he is clearly not dead.  Why did the Arcateenians think that he was dead?  Did he fake his death to be brought to a new planet, or was he in some sort of deep coma?

Furthermore, his plan is to create enough ghosts to have his signal be strong enough to call his armada to the planet, at which time he will “drain the oceans and put the humans in chains.”  How is he creating the ghosts?  I’m guessing we don’t get an answer to that question because Doctor Who doesn’t want to get too into the question of souls, but I wouldn’t have minded even a vague explanation.

Additionally, why does he want to drain the oceans?  Is his desire to drain the oceans the reason he’s named The Fisher King?  Did he drain the oceans on Tivoli? Because I’ve also puzzled over the meaning of his name.  I can see a slight parallel to the Arthurian Fisher King (it’s from this character that the Terry Gilliam film draws its name) in that he is an impotent king (being stranded leaves him powerless) who has to rely on others to save him.  However, that makes his name rather prescient, and it’s a weak connection at best.  One could, perhaps, make a slight parallel between the Doctor’s mission in going back before the flood and a grail quest, but that doesn’t really work for me either.  Maybe it doesn’t really have any deeper meaning and I’m over thinking this…

O'Donnell shares her excitement at being in the TARDIS with Bennett.

O’Donnell shares her excitement at being in the TARDIS with Bennett.

I wrote quite a bit about the crew of the drum in my post about “Under the Lake.”  In that post, I criticized the lack of development of O’Donnell.  Well, she did get more development in this episode, only to die as soon as I began to really become invested in her character.  I guess this shouldn’t surprise me; if you look back at Toby Whithouse’s previous episodes, he has not shied away from killing the characters with whom the audience connects.  The first person to jump to mind was Rita in “The God Complex,” but the sheriff in “A Town Called Mercy” is another example.  In the case of O’Donnell, I was very sorry to see her character go, but it was necessary to support the overall theme of grief and loss.     Without her death, the only characters who die are characters the audience doesn’t get time to know or who the audience doesn’t particularly like. The death of O’Donnell is the death that really counts in the episode.

I’ve also read some criticism of O’Donnell’s character after “Under the Lake” aired, saying that she was just like Osgood.  Certainly, the parallels continue in that both of the Doctor fan girls met with an untimely end (which means that I’m sure some will suggest that Steve Moffat is taking out his hostility by killing fan surrogates in the show) I, however, thought that she developed past basic fandom in this episode.  It’s revealed that she previously was military intelligence until she dangled a colleague out the window after a sexist remark.  She is clearly a strong-willed, determined individual who doesn’t like being told what to do.  It made perfect sense to me that she would adopt the Doctor as her hero, since he is someone who plays by his own rules.

Getting back to the theme of the episode, we see themes of grief and loss ultimately culminating in the idea of living in the moment (or carpe diem to reference another Robin Williams movie).  The idea of seizing the moment emerges through the relationship of Cass and Lunn.  Their relationship had a solid foundation built for it in the first part of the story, even though nothing overt was said or done.  At Bennett’s urging, they finally confess their feelings for each other.  This allows a story that is largely about loss to have something good come out of it.

The main focus, however, was on the idea of grief and loss and I loved the way that it contributed to Clara’s character development.  Again, the seeds for this development were laid in the first part of the story.  It seemed as if the name Danny Pink was on the tip of both Clara and the Doctor’s tongue during their exchange in the TARDIS, even though nothing specific was said about him.  His name is still not spoken in this episode, but his presence is felt even more.  Through Clara’s phone conversation with the Doctor, it is clear that she is still grieving for Danny.  He is the main reason she is not ready to lose someone else, and, it becomes clear, the reason for her lust for adventure; she wants to keep busy so she doesn’t have to think about Danny.  What better way to not think about something than to place yourself in peril that requires all of your attention to survive? She also mentions her loss a bit more explicitly with Bennett, when she realizes that he was in love with O’Donnell, telling him that he has to keep going, despite his loss.

The Fisher King faces the oncoming flood.

The Fisher King faces the oncoming flood.

Overall, I enjoyed the episode.  My disappointment with the Fisher King didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the episode as a whole.  I thought the second half remained scary, even if it wasn’t quite as scary as the first half, while turning the narrative in slightly new and interesting directions.  The second half developed subtle aspects of the first episode that lead to richer character development and a story that stuck with me long after the episode ended.  One aspect of the show that I’ve enjoyed under Moffat’s tenure is his tendency to want stories that deal explicitly with time, instead of using the time machine concept to simply place the Doctor in a new setting.  Exploring the bootstrap paradox places time right at the heart of the story. This two-parter has now become my favorite Toby Whithouse story.  Maybe one day I’ll even be able to get over my disappointment that he failed to make “A Town Called Mercy” truly a western.  Maybe.

The Doctor and Clara go Under the Lake

After the weight of the season premiere, it seemed that the series was due for a change in tone. Traditionally in the Moffat era, this means a lighter episode with more humor, like “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” or “Robot of Sherwood.”  While it is true that this week’s episode, “Under the Lake,” had it’s fair share of humor, the episode is scarier than the aforementioned episodes. It’s still a change in tone from the previous two, but in a slightly different way.

The ghosts

Would you want to meet these two on an underwater base?

“Under the Lake” uses a familiar structure; it is essentially a base under siege story. The Doctor and Clara arrive about 100 years in the future at an underwater mining base (in a flooded town) to find that ghosts are picking the crew off one by one. The ghosts only started to appear after the crew salvaged an alien craft from the lake bed.  Since ghosts shouldn’t exist, this intrigues the Doctor who stays to investigate.

The story was very well paced and plotted; it kept me engaged from the opening moments. The story mixes moments of suspense with lots of humor without seeming disjointed because a lot of the humor comes from the responses of the characters to the bizarre situation in which they find themselves.  Moffat’s best episodes are scary while exploring a deeper fear and/or theme. This episode doesn’t reach for those lofty heights (so far the scares are just for suspense), it’s a welcome change of pace from the more serious opening episodes. It’s not profound, but it’s entertaining; it’s as much of a romp as a horror based episode can be. It’s full of interesting ideas, like people being turned into radio transmitters or the idea that the ghosts won’t kill you until you have read the message (which is also very strikingly depicted visually). The story keeps moving from one development to another; as the Doctor says, each answer just leads to more questions.

Watching Clara in this episode, I couldn’t help but wonder if we are seeing the seeds bring planted for her departure.  She can’t wait to rush into dangerous situations and seems even more gung-ho than the Doctor. The Doctor even expresses some concern about her lust for adventure and his “duty of care.” Obviously, this could lead to Clara’s demise in a dangerous situation. However, the line that caught my attention was the Doctor telling Clara that there is only room for one of him in the TARDIS. As Clara continues to become more independent of the Doctor, will it lead to conflict? It might be a throwaway line, or it might be a seed that will grow through the season.

As for the Doctor, he is thoroughly enjoying himself as well. In Clara’s words, he’s like “a kid who’s had too much sherbet.” This episode is another chance for Peter Capaldi to display his comedic skills, as the Doctor gets to have many funny lines. After all the questioning of his identity that the Doctor did last season, it’s nice to see him having fun.  Beings that shouldn’t exist excite and intrigue him, so even though the TARDIS wants to leave, he has to stay.

Of course all of the Doctor’s problems from last year haven’t disappeared; he still has trouble relating to people, and Clara apparently still functions a bit as his carer. While I didn’t see how the cards would be particularly helpful in reality, they were amusing and were an opportunity to pay tribute to Lis Sladen and Sarah Jane (I’m not sure in what situation that card would be useful again, but I really don’t care).

The Drum's Crew

The Doctor deciphers “the dark, the sword, the forsaken, the temple,” which really seem like awfully vague coordinates to send out into space.

What really makes this episode work is the crew of “the drum.”  From their introduction, they captured my interest. They feel like a team that had been in an isolated situation; they care about each other and they seem to have a great deal of camaraderie.

But besides functioning as a group, they have distinguishable personalities as individuals. I know a great deal has been made of it already, but it’s refreshing to see Cass, a deaf character who is a leader who happens to be deaf, not a character who is deaf because it’s a plot point. She’s a strong, engaging character. She is a good leader who takes on the responsibility for events, while still trying to protect her crew.  She’s also intelligent; even the Doctor has faith in her instincts. The bond between Cass and her interpreter/translator Lunn is also clearly depicted. Lunn actually serves as more of a plot point than Cass, since he is the only one who hasn’t been inside the spaceship which helps the Doctor solve one of the puzzles of the ghosts.

Bennett, the scientist, is another supporting character that I enjoyed. He approaches their situation with a sense of humor. For instance, when he decides to stay and help solve the mystery he warns his fellow crew members, “At least if I die, you know I really will come back and haunt you all.”

Of course with this many characters, some of the characters are not as well-defined.  Pritchard was basically the greedy company man, who was willing to put the crew at risk. He reminds me a bit of Paul Reiser’s character in Aliens, but not as evil.  When the ghosts killed him you felt a little bad, but really, he was the one you would have chosen to get killed next. Although his ghost did get a great reveal.  O’Donnall is probably the least developed personality of the crew.  Making her a fan of the Doctor is a bit reminiscent of Osgood, and so far that is her main characteristic. Of course, this may change with the second half of the story.

The only other characters we meet in this story are the ghosts themselves. I have to say that I love the look of them. The alien from the planet Tivoli is the perfect first ghost; human looking, yet just different enough to up the creepiness factor. The eyeless faces keep the murdered crew members clearly recognizable, but that just makes them more disturbing. And the silent yet constant speech just added to their mysteriousness for most of the episode.

This being the first half of a two-parter, it did, of course, end in a cliffhanger. Seeing the Doctor’s ghost coming through the water was the perfect place to end it and leave the audience wanting more. While the audience knows that the Doctor is not actually dead (or else the show is going in a radically different direction), it does leave you wondering how on earth he is going to get out of this one.

I have to admit that I'm getting used to the Doctor's sonic sunglasses faster than I thought I would.

I have to admit that I’m getting used to the Doctor’s sonic sunglasses faster than I thought I would.

Overall, I found “Under the Lake” tremendously entertaining, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the second half. I’m intrigued to know how the Doctor became a ghost, but more than that I’m curious to see how telling the story backwards (meeting the ghosts first and then going back to see how the trouble started) works. The reason I’m a bit cautious is that I must admit that I haven’t really loved any of Toby Whithouse’s stories. In several instances, it was the ending in particular that disappointed me.  Even “The God Complex,” which many people love, ultimately didn’t quite work for me. I’m hoping that this story will deliver on the promise of its first half.

Thoughts on Last Christmas

“Last Christmas” was Doctor Who meets Alien and Inception with Santa thrown in for good measure.  Like “A Christmas Carol” and “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe,” this Steven Moffat penned Christmas episode references stories already familiar to the viewer.  It is also more in line with the aforementioned Christmas specials than with last year’s “The Time of the Doctor” in that Christmas plays a large role in the plot.  While I did have some issues with the special, it was an enjoyable, if not exceptional story.

Santa and the Doctor face off.

Santa and the Doctor face off.

The ultimate purpose of this episode was to bring the Doctor and Clara back together after their goodbye at the end of “Death in Heaven.”  The Christmas theme served that purpose well, since when else are you more likely to reunite with people (in a fictional story, at least) than Christmas?  The plot, in a nutshell, is that Dream Crabs have attached themselves to the Doctor, Clara, and a few other people; these Dream Crabs induce a dream state while they attack, so the challenge is to find a way to wake up…with Santa’s help, of course.

The best parts of the episode were the parts with Santa and his bickering elves. If I were brainstorming a list of people who I thought should play Santa, Nick Frost might not have been the first person to jump into my mind.  That being said, however, I really enjoyed his Santa.  His Santa provided some nice comic relief and kept the episode from ever getting too dark.  He played all the different dream versions of Santa well, from the awkward, slightly bumbling Santa on Clara’s rooftop to the John Wayne-ish western hero when he rescues everyone in the infirmary.  Additionally, although the contrast was less dramatic, I enjoyed the dynamics between the Doctor and a hero with a much sunnier personality, just like I did in this season’s “Robot of Sherwood.”  I also found the scenes with Santa’s two bickering elves very funny.  It seemed appropriate that this version of Santa would travel with sarcastic sidekicks.  Plus, Dan Starkey finally got to show his face on camera and proved that he has good comedic timing, even without being covered in latex.

Santa's "comedy elves" before they arm themselves with  toy and balloon guns respectively.

Santa’s “comedy elves” before they arm themselves with toy and balloon guns respectively.

Another strong aspect of the story was the time at the base.  The characters were developed enough to keep my interest, but I found myself wishing that they could have been on-screen together a bit more.  Once you know that they are all dreaming that they are at the base, it could have been interesting to go back and see more clues to that in their interactions.  This is an interesting episode to view a second time because there are a few clues that something strange is going on (like the random turkey (?) leg that the Professor suddenly starts eating), but there could have been a few more.

In terms of the characters as individuals, Shona was definitely the most developed and memorable character; her dance through the infirmary alone would probably guarantee that.   The other two female characters, Ashley and Fiona, had enough development to keep them interesting, even if they didn’t get as much screen time as Shona.  The only character that I felt wasn’t really developed much was the Professor, which was a bit disappointing.  I loved the appropriateness of having Michael Troughton, Patrick Troughton’s son, involved in a base under siege plot. Unfortunately, he never has much to do, and I can’t say his death bothered me all that much.  In fact, I didn’t even remember that anyone had died the first time I watched this story.

Another strength of this episode was that it was successful in its ultimate purpose, that of reuniting the Doctor and Clara.  The episode featured the usual strong performances from both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman (do I even have to mention that anymore?).  In particular, I enjoyed Jenna’s performance in her dream Christmas with Danny; she had just the right mix of happiness, confusion, and melancholy.  Also, I have to admit that I liked her dream Danny far more than I liked the real Danny.  The scene between the Doctor and the 90-year-old Clara was also touching, as you saw how much Capaldi’s Doctor really does care for Clara; the way that he was so tender with her was a nice way to expose this prickly Doctor’s soft underbelly once again.

The Doctor and Clara celebrate Christmas.

In a reversal of roles from the previous Christmas special, the Doctor helps the elderly Clara pull the Christmas cracker.

The parts that didn’t work as well for me were the “borrowed” aspects, the first of which was the Inception-like second half.  I know Inception isn’t the only movie to deal with dreams versus reality (even Doctor Who has dealt with the topic before in episodes like “Amy’s Choice”), but the dreams within dreams within dreams really had a similar feel to the movie without really adding anything new to it.  Instead of the spinning top to test dream versus reality, we had Santa and the manual test, but other than that I would have liked to have seen Steven Moffat make the idea a bit more his own.

I had less of a problem with the facehugger-like Dream Crabs.  I enjoyed the Professor’s reference to Alien (which is, of course, also Steven Moffat acknowledging the visual similarity between the two creatures), as well as the Doctor’s response, “There’s a horror movie called Alien? That’s really offensive. No wonder everyone keeps invading you.”  The idea that they would create a dream-like state to keep you passive while they killed you was definitely a new twist on them (I amuse myself by picturing this story with the War Doctor, instead of Capaldi’s Doctor).  They also were suitably disturbing, especially when attached to people’s faces and opening up (what exactly they were opening up, I’m not sure, but it sure looked creepy, and it was all in a dream anyway).  It just didn’t help a story that already felt a bit derivative to me to have another component that so blatantly referenced to another popular film.

Meet the North Pole base crew.

Meet the North Pole base crew.

Ultimately, I felt that the end, when everybody returned to reality, left more loose ends than it should have.  What happened to the Dream Crab that was on the Professor’s face?  Since he died, is it going to move on to someone else now?  How did the Dream Crabs get to those specific people? The Doctor’s explanation of collateral damage just doesn’t work for me.   Even if it was for a very short time, how had nobody in Fiona’s family noticed that she has a huge scary thing attached to her face?  Why did everybody that woke up react fairly calmly to a thing with wriggling legs that dissolves into a pile of ash in front of them?

On the other hand, the fact that most of the episode is a dream cleared up any questions I had earlier in the episode.  I was wondering why exactly Shona had to go through the infirmary in the first place, other than to do her dance, but then I realized that there was no explanation and there didn’t have to be one.  After all, how many times in dreams do you do something that make no sense at all?  I am not a Moffat hater, as some people I know are, but I have to admit that I was left thinking that dream states might be the perfect forum for Steven Moffat to tell a story; he does have a tendency to leave a lot of loose ends, and loose ends don’t matter in a dream.

The people with "facehuggers" get ready to attack.

The people with “facehuggers” get ready to attack.

Overall, I enjoyed the episode, but I’d file it with many of the other Christmas specials: entertaining, but ultimately forgettable.  However, when I saw that the first thing on Shona’s to-do list was to watch Alien, I wondered if more of that could have been a dream than we were led to believe. Were the Dream Crabs so much like the facehuggers because they were part of the dream as well, a part that Shona contributed?  The fact that they exist when everyone appears to have woken up for real makes this unlikely, but maybe there’s more to this dream state than we know. She also has The Thing from Another World on her list, so that would account for the base in the shared dream.  The tangerine that we see when Clara gets back into the TARDIS at the end could indicate a dream state too, but, logically, I know that’s just there to suggest that maybe Santa is real after all (a nod to Miracle on 34th Street, which was also on Shona’s list).  Maybe that’s how Moffat is going to resolve the Orson Pink dilemma: Danny’s death was all a dream (in which case he’s now borrowing his ideas from Dallas).  Don’t worry, I haven’t actually become lost in elaborate and ridiculous theories; I’m just pushing my random idea as far as I can.  Still, it does leave you with something to think about…

Thoughts on Death in Heaven

The Doctor is “an idiot with a box and a screwdriver passing through, helping out, learning.” After a season long in which the Doctor wondered just what kind of man he was, he finally figures it out. He’s not a hero, a Dalek, a good man, or an officer, he’s just an idiot trying his best. Of course, a great deal has to happen in “Death in Heaven” to get the Doctor to that realization. Unlike its predecessor, which was a promising beginning to the finale, “Death in Heaven” was more of a mixed bag. It started out with a great opening scene of Clara saying that she is not Clara Oswald, but the Doctor, leading to the altered credits (although I never believed her). However, from there the finale goes a bit bigger than it needed to, resulting in some ideas that don’t seem fully thought out. Basically, I can break my feelings about the episode down into three categories: what worked, what didn’t, and what was problematic.

What Worked

Mary Poppins, I mean, Missy arrives in the cemetery.

Mary Poppins, I mean, Missy arrives in the cemetery.


There was one aspect of this episode that I absolutely loved.  One part that almost makes up for the parts that didn’t work for me: Missy.  I found Michelle’s Gomez’s portrayal of Missy riveting.  When she revealed that she was the latest regeneration of the Master, even though it was not a terribly surprising twist, I realized how perfect her portrayal was.  In my opinion, she is one of the scariest villains Doctor Who has ever had.  I don’t mean scary in a kind-of-afraid-to-look Weeping Angels way, but more in a Heath Ledger’s Joker kind of way.  She was ruthless and unpredictable, with a complete disregard for human life, which is scary in and of itself, yet she was also super-intelligent with a diabolical plan.

Even though it broke fandom’s heart, I thought the scene between her and Osgood was brilliant.  You can see her taking note of the pride the Doctor shows in Osgood’s intelligence, and developing her plan.  She then taunts Osgood before sadistically disintegrating her, all to make the Doctor suffer (I think out of jealously as well; she can’t have someone else diverting the Doctor’s attention away from her).  Her choice to deliberately step on Osgood’s glasses was just enough of a touch to show that this was personal, not just another routine killing.  The scene is effective in showing how little feeling Missy has for anyone as well as the strength of her obsession with the Doctor.

Missy with Osgood, moments before she kills her

Missy with Osgood, moments before she kills her

Speaking of the relationship between the Doctor and Missy, I felt that this episode made explicit the subtext the Doctor/Master relationship has always had.  There has always been a bit of a respect between the Doctor and the Master, with each wanting to show that he is the cleverer of the two.  Indeed, they have sometimes had to work together, putting aside their differences for a larger purpose.  Sometimes, even in the classic series, it has felt like the Master was trying to get the Doctor’s attention.  Therefore, the idea that the Missy’s grand plan was to make the Doctor realize that he wasn’t that different from her worked.  The idea that even the Master could get lonely and want her friend back fits with the image that I have of the Master.  After all, who is more like the Doctor than the Master?  They have always been like two sides of the same coin.

I have a few other random Missy thoughts before I move on to what didn’t work.  First, I also liked the heightened femininity that Michelle Gomez gave the character.  Her reapplying lipstick before killing the guards on the plane was a nice touch, because it made me think of how the Master always loved to play a role; I feel like she was “performing” being a woman in a very over-the-top Master kind of way.  I also kind of loved the weird Mary Poppins-ish touches; I feel like Mary is a woman who the Master could appreciate.

What Didn’t

The aspect of the episode that really didn’t work for me were the Cybermen.  True, the Master was always teaming up with other alien races, so it’s appropriate that Missy has Cybermen as part of her plan.  It’s also a far more successful collaboration for her than in the past, because this one doesn’t end with her having to work with the Doctor to save herself from the force she created.  However, I really didn’t feel like the Cybermen belonged in the episode.  I found their storyline rather confusing and non-sensical, as if their appearance wasn’t really thought out.

I had so many questions about the Cybermen that it actually hindered my ability to enjoy the episode.  Almost every time they were on-screen, many questions flooded my brain, keeping me from getting swept up in the story.  Instead of getting involved in the plot, I was pondering details like: why are bones seemingly the only organic component of these Cybermen?  The bodies in the 3W facility, as well as those in graves from 200+ years ago have nothing organic left but bones.  Why is the organic component necessary at all; they have metal exoskeletons, so why would they need bones? Plus, Missy took the mind of Gretchen, the soldier who the Dalek antibodies disintegrated, so it doesn’t seem like the consciousnesses she’s taking can only go back to specific bodies.

Doctor Missy Selfie

Missy prepares to take a selfie with Doctor and her Cybermen


My questions don’t even stop there.  How exactly does the Cyberpollen work?  This has never been a part of the history of the Cybermen before, that any part of a Cyberman can build a whole new Cyberman.  If they had this capability, why haven’t they used it before?  Or did Missy invent the way to use it? Or did she just invent the way to use it on the dead?  And, if Missy invented it, why does the Doctor talk about it as if he is quite familiar with it?  And how does it know where to travel to get to the dead bodies?

Honestly, I have even more questions than these, I’m just tired of writing them.  It seems to me that Missy could have created a different race of robots to download the consciousnesses into that wouldn’t have opened up all these questions because they would be something new.  These Cybermen just didn’t feel at all like Cybermen to me; it seemed like they could have been any robotic species.

Another aspect of the story that just fell flat for me was the Danny/Clara relationship.  There were a few nice touches, like when he hangs his head when Clara says she is an excellent liar, but the big emotional moments just fell flat for me.  I have never felt invested in their relationship, so the big tearjerking moments left me cold.  For instance, instead of getting caught up in the emotion of Danny begging Clara to turn on his inhibitor and, essentially, killing him again, I was thinking about how the Doctor was right, that he might kill Clara instantly.

I know I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help but compare him to Rory, and in that comparison, Danny doesn’t come out on top.  Since I was acutely aware of how much he was putting Clara at risk by turning on the inhibitor, I found Cyber-Danny rather whiney.  Rory would have withstood anything to protect Amy; Danny is willing to risk killing Clara.  If he really just wanted to die, he could have blown himself up.  Plus, why does he take her to the cemetery in the first place?  If you are trying to protect someone, do you bring them to the place where there is the greatest concentration of the enemy?

Clara embraces Cyber Danny.  Apparently nothing inhibits his love for Clara.

Clara embraces Cyber Danny. Apparently nothing inhibits his love for Clara.

Then I still have issues with the relationship between Danny and the Doctor.  Once again he’s a jerk to the Doctor in the cemetery when he should be more concerned about Clara and the future of the world.  He’s the one who begged Clara to turn on his inhibitor, and then he taunts the Doctor when he gives in and lets Clara do it.  It’s like putting down the Doctor is more important to him than anything else.

I also was left wondering a few things about Danny (and Dodo-why was it the Chaplet funeral home?).  Was he not under cyber control because he didn’t push the button to disconnect?  That was my assumption, but it was never really made explicit.  Also, even though he denies it, doesn’t Danny essentially become an officer at the end?  The word “officer” is defined as: a person in the armed services who holds a position of responsibility, authority, and duty, esp one who holds a commission.  Doesn’t that describe Danny at the end, since he is the one giving orders to a large military force?

The final troubling aspect for me was Danny’s decision to send the boy he killed back.  I didn’t necessarily have a problem with his decision, but with the idea of the boy being able to return.  He was a consciousness, so how did he have a body when he returned?  It opens up a whole can of worms about the afterlife that Steven Moffat is never going to address, because it would mean really tackling some heavy issues. While I am not a Moffat basher, I’m not really a fan of these “magical” events that he often relies on to avoid explaining things.

What Was Problematic

While it was not a big issue for me, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the Doctor as president of the world.  On the one hand, it was almost worth it to have the Doctor’s dig at Missy about how many times she tried to become ruler of the world, and now he’s its president. I also rather enjoyed the line about the salute explaining all of military history.

I could also see its function in the plot.  For one thing, it allowed for U.N.I.T. to enter the picture, which was appropriate, since the Master was really the thorn in U.N.I.T.’s side during its time on the show.  The fact that he was only president while on the plane also served to confine the Doctor, Osgood, and Kate with Missy in a place from which there was nowhere to escape.  It also plays a part in the Doctor’s journey of self-discovery, since here is another person forcing him to take the mantle of officer and presenting him with an enormous army.

However, nothing ever really came of it.  The Doctor, perhaps to emphasize the fact that he is not an officer, never does anything while he holds the title of president of the world.  And once the plane is blown up, it is never mentioned again.  Unfortunately, this makes the whole storyline feel a bit superfluous to the plot.

The Doctor looks at the enormous, random picture of the Brigadier hanging in the plane.

The Doctor looks at the enormous, random picture of the Brigadier hanging in the plane.

The man reason that I felt that I had to add a category of what was problematic, however, was due to the Cyber-Brigadier.  First, I thought it was a bit odd to have a gigantic picture of the Brigadier in the plane, but honestly, I was just happy to see him.  If that had been all the tribute paid to him in this episode, I would have been happy.  I found it a bit odd when Kate said that all her father had wanted was for the Doctor to salute him, since I don’t think the Brigadier gave that much thought (and, despite what the Doctor says in this episode,  I don’t think he would have had any luck trying to get the third or fourth Doctors to salute), but, again, I could accept that.

The point at which it all gets troublesome is the end.  It does make sense for the Brigadier to shoot Missy, since the Master certainly caused him endless problems when he was the head of U.N.I.T.  However, the fact that the Brigadier was turned into a Cyberman is, well…problematic.  In my head, I made up a story to explain his presence.  I like to think that the Brig was intelligent enough to not disconnect, so he still had some awareness of who he was.  Since we saw the other newly born Cybermen staggering around confused, I like to think that the unflappable Brigadier woke up a Cyberman and kept his head, just as he always did when confronted with the unknown.  He assessed his tactical advantages, and then he got to work, protecting his daughter and the world, just as he had always done.

Now, was this the best way to pay tribute to the character? Probably not.  What exactly happens to the Cyber-Brig at the end?  If he’s going to blow himself up, he’s a bit late.  And, I don’t really like the idea of a reanimated Brigadier (never mind the fact that it makes me wonder if there was a Cyber-Jamie or Cyber-Amy in that army).  But, I have to admit that the scene in the cemetery is the most touching part of the episode; it does actually bring tears to my eyes every time I see it.  Logically, I have some problems with it, but emotionally it works for me.

"Never trust a hug. It's just a way to hide your face."

“Never trust a hug. It’s just a way to hide your face.”

While the episode had its ups and downs, I have to admit that I loved the final scene between the Doctor and Clara.  While we know that this was not, in fact, the end for Clara and the Doctor, they could not have parted  in a more appropriate fashion.  The Doctor misunderstands the meaning of Clara having Missy’s bracelet, which leads him to tell Clara that she can be with Danny because he has found Gallifrey, which makes Clara lie about Danny returning, so that the Doctor can return to Gallifrey without worrying about her…Given the history between the two characters, what could have been more appropriate than to have them both lie their relationship out of existence? However, Santa might have something to say about the matter…