A Good Man Goes to War
Episode / March 22, 2016

Aired 4 June 2011 Considering the fairly intricate and twisting plots Steven Moffat has presented in many of the episodes he has penned, ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ surprisingly offers a more straightforward tale as Doctor Who concludes the first half of this series. Still, there is an epic blockbuster feel to proceedings and a heavier dose of action than recent episodes have featured, and events easily weave their way to the cliffhanger ending that sets up the concluding run of episodes nicely, offering some much needed answers along the way. In a bit of neat role reversal from ‘The Pandorica Opens,’ the Doctor calls in several favours to assemble an army of his own following the revelation at the end of ‘The Almost People,’ affording him a tremendous victory- though perhaps not as epic as the fates had proclaimed. The trap that is set as well as the creation and use of another Time Lord of sorts to destroy the Doctor is certainly a unique and fascinating plan of action, though it does seem quite circuitous and present just to serve the plot going forward. Still, it’s hard to argue just how incredibly effective and shocking the faux…

The Almost People
Episode / March 21, 2016

Aired 28 May 2011 ‘The Almost People’ picks up events immediately where ‘The Rebel Flesh’ ended, and in continuing its story completes easily the most traditional of Doctor Who tales in a very long time. This is no strike against the episode, though, as it remains thoroughly entertaining up to and through its shocking epilogue. The sense of confusion due to the doubles that pervaded the atmosphere last time returns and, if anything, is actually increased, helping to steer events to their logical conclusion and demanding the characters’ and the audience’s attention. Matt Smith quickly becomes even more of a presence than he normally is thanks to the addition of his Ganger. The time it takes for the duplicate to become adjusted and stable allows for some fun callbacks to previous Doctors, but it’s apparent throughout that Smith is thoroughly enjoying himself as events progress, convincingly playing off of himself and even holding conversations with himself. Again, this is no easy task, but each of the duplicated humans manages to portray their two versions exceptionally well, Sarah Smart again doing yeoman’s work as Jennifer becomes more integral. Mark Bonnar and Raquel Cassidy offer very strong and convincing performances as well,…

The Rebel Flesh
Episode / March 21, 2016

Aired 21 May 2011 Following two wildly different standalone episodes, Doctor Who returns to a more traditional tale with ‘The Rebel Flesh,’ the opening installment of a two-part story. With the pacing slowed down, writer Matthew Graham allows for a deep exploration of the characters and their choices in a near-future situation. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land in a twenty-second century monastery that is being used as a factory. To minimize risk with acid and more dangerous situations, the workers employ the use of technology that creates doppelgangers of themselves (called Gangers in the story). However, rather than creating a robotic replacement or some other base equivalent, the technology creates sentient beings with the same memories and emotional capabilities as the humans. This, of course, allows for powerful storytelling opportunities; as a strong solar storm wreaks havoc with the system, the established situation and means of doing things quickly change. In general, the Gangers are brought to life effectively and given a bit of a sinister appearance- as long as they are not performing superhuman feats of stretching and such that strain the CGI verisimilitude and budget. However, the instability of their forms adds an intriguing aspect to their…

The Doctor’s Wife
Episode / March 21, 2016

Aired 14 May 2011 After the enjoyable but relative misfire of ‘The Curse of the Black Spot,’ Doctor Who returns to form with another standalone episode that proves just how spectacular a single episode can be without tying into the underlying plot threads. ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ is an emotional masterpiece, easily accessible to casual viewers while offering a much deeper and more rewarding experience for long-time fans as well. Writer Neil Gaiman takes an ingenious and audacious concept- transferring the very heart and soul of the TARDIS to a conscious being and giving it a voice- and offers a wonderful exploration of the being who has been by the Doctor’s side since the beginning so very long ago. Appreciating that there will always be some viewers who detest anything that changes the very core mythology of the show, the revelation that the TARDIS chose the Doctor on Gallifrey and has actually been in control of the destinations over the years rather than the Doctor struggling to control and navigate is an absolutely superlative one. Full credit must be given to Suranne Jones, who plays the part of a personified TARDIS exquisitely. The constant shift of emotions and somewhat erratic nature…

The Curse of the Black Spot
Episode / March 20, 2016

Aired 7 May 2011 Following the intriguing cliffhanger showing the young girl regenerating at the end of ‘Day of the Moon,’ Doctor Who takes events in a different direction entirely, electing to save that resolution until another time. What is presented here in ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’ is very much a standalone tale, bringing pirates into the fray for one of the surprisingly few times in the programme’s history. The setup for the story is quite good as crewmembers of the ship are taken- seemingly to their deaths- by a Siren when they become injured or hurt and a black circle manifests on them. An old seafaring vessel is hardly the safest of places, and so seeing the fear and trepidation in the brave sailors’ eyes and movements is quite telling. The entire crew, even as they disappear at a rapid rate, is played quite well, but Hugh Bonneville as Captain Avery is a true standout. Quite rightly given the plot, though, the entire episode hinges on its Siren, and fortunately the luminescent CGI version of Lily Allen is hauntingly effective. The set and production values, as always, are extremely high as well, easily making the ship and…

Day of the Moon
Episode / March 18, 2016

Aired 30 April 2011 ‘Day of the Moon’ serves as a fantastic conclusion to the events set up in ‘The Impossible Astronaut,’ maintaining the pace and thrills throughout. However- as is increasingly the case with Doctor Who– despite the utterly excellent series of events that filled the running time, it’s the ending that will garner the most attention and discussion. The young girl undergoing an apparent regeneration opens up a whole new series of questions not only regarding who she will become but for the entire programme in general since no Time Lords should remain. There are some clear hints that Amy is the girl’s mother, even though Amy seems to think she is not pregnant and the Doctor’s scans prove inconclusive, but what exactly does that mean if true? As for the conclusion of the story proper, it likely comes as little surprise that the moon landing was used to swing events against the Silence, but the progression of events leading up to this all make perfect sense and the overall execution of the recording within the moon landing video is absolutely a memorable victory considering how great the threat is that the Silence pose. The jump ahead three…

The Impossible Astronaut
Episode / March 18, 2016

Aired 23 April 2011 Doctor Who wastes no time in setting major events in motion in ‘The Impossible Astronaut.’ Despite weeks of teases that one of the main characters was going to die in the season opener, it’s unlikely that the Doctor himself made it to the top of many prediction lists. And while there will undoubtedly be some clever plot devices and actions that allow these events to change in the 200 years before they occur in the Doctor’s personal timeline, it’s still a shocking sequence to be hold especially since, as it stands, the speed with which he dies does not allow for regeneration. ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ is an ambitious episode with ambitious scope, filmed on location in the US and offering sense of worldwide peril rather than a more isolated threat as usual. While there are many threads already being weaved into events, it’s the Silence mentioned so frequently in the previous run of episodes that offers the most satisfying connection. Finally the Silence is revealed, a visually sinister race that has the unnerving ability to be completely forgotten when not being looked at directly. The scenes featuring this new race, even as they stand in the…

A Christmas Carol
Episode / March 17, 2016

Aired 25 December 2010 With a unique spin on the basic premise of Charles Dickens’s beloved A Christmas Carol, Steven Moffat’s first holiday outing is a great success, offering a standalone and yet very emotional tale that ranks among Doctor Who‘s best Christmas tales so far. After a very fast-paced and funny opening sequence featuring a crashing spaceship with Amy and Rory aboard, the action quickly slows down and switches its focus to a more traditional Christmas setting. Micahel Gambon’s Scrooge equivalent in Kazran Sardick is soon introduced. He ends up being quite a complicated character, though at first he is presented as a man who has the ability to save thousands of people but refuses to do so. Through time travel and several machinations of the Doctor, this crusty exterior is slowly broken down as Sardick’s deeper emotions and motivations reveal themselves. It likely doesn’t need saying, but Gambon is superb in this role, bringing a sense of both sympathy and empathy to his character. Because of the time travel device, though, it allows the Doctor and the audience to understand why and how he has become the man he is as well as to see his retroactive response…

The Big Bang
Episode / March 15, 2016

Aired 26 June 2010 As it turns out, the scope and ambition of ‘The Pandorica Opens’ was only the beginning as ‘The Big Bang’ continued with and even surpassed those aspects of its predecessor, resulting in a very satisfying conclusion that demands the attention of its audience. Following a necessarily lengthy recap of ‘The Pandorica Opens,’ events then shift forward in time 1,894 years to a young Amelia Pond saying her prayers during ‘The Eleventh Hour’ before effortlessly shifting her to the British Museum where she comes upon the Pandorica. Steven Moffat again proves adept at tying together all of his previous episodes, continuing with the feel of every episode along the way being important. However, the intrigue increases as Amelia turns out to be the only one who can open the Pandorica, resulting in the bigger mystery of the older Amy being revealed within its confines. Fortunately, that mystery ends up being one of the easier ones to explain as the Pandorica keeps its prisoner in stasis. But the weaving back and forth was just beginning as, back in the past, Rory meets up with the Doctor, now sporting a fez. This version of the Doctor is using a…

The Pandorica Opens
Episode / March 15, 2016

Aired 19 June 2010 Any questions about how well Steven Moffat could handle the opening of a two-part series finale are firmly laid to rest with ‘The Pandorica Opens,’ a superb opening instalment that begins to shed light on to just how much planing has gone into this series as a whole. With new scenes pertaining to several preceding stories and bringing seemingly minor and disparate events from other episodes to prominence, Moffat proves that he is a master at connecting the tales under his stewardship into one true narrative. And so viewers are taken on a bit of a pre-credits whirlwind tour at the beginning, first showing van Gogh from ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ at one of his darkest periods as he his haunted by a premonition. The painting that represented that premonition then passes through the Cabinet War Rooms with Bracewell and Churchill from ‘Victory of the Daleks’ and throughout history to eventually wind up in the hands of River Song as Cleopatra. The premonition of the painting? The TARDIS exploding, complete with date and map references. Stonehenge provides the main setting for the proper tale featured in ‘The Pandorica Opens,’ and confirmation quickly comes that the Pandorica…