Last Christmas
Episode / February 22, 2016

Aired 25 December 2014 It’s a bold move to fill the vast majority of an episode’s running time with a dream, but that’s exactly the risk that Steven Moffat takes with ‘Last Christmas,’ and it pays off wonderfully. Unlike the previous yuletide offering ‘The Time of the Doctor’ that had to provide a memorable send-off for Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor while dealing with a heavy burden of continuity issues, ‘Last Christmas’ is less restricted and able to focus solely on what happens with the Doctor and Clara going forward, and it’s all the better for it. For any episode- but especially for a Christmas episode- ‘Last Christmas’ has some properly dark and scary moments, although comedy is never far from the surface either. Doctor Who has flirted with the horror genre throughout the preceding series, but the menace and atmosphere is truly ratcheted up here. The Dream Crabs end up indirectly borrowing some aspects from Moffat’s previous creations as the characters are told not to look at them and not to think about them, but ultimately the close-up of a salivating creature and a direct Aliens reference leave no hesitation as to what type of base-under-siege story this is going…

Death in Heaven
Episode / February 21, 2016

Aired 8 November 2014 If there was any fear going into ‘Death in Heaven’ that the scope, ambition, tension, and potential consequences built up in ‘Dark Water’ would be more tempered, those qualms were quickly put to rest. With a sheer disregard for life, Missy brutally racks up the kill count right from the start, adding an audacious emotional weight that Doctor Who rarely explores since so often its characters are so strongly protected. The most distressing death came at the hands of Missy as she callously murdered Osgood, returning from her fan-favourite stint in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ while decked in an outfit boasting callbacks to both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. It’s a testament to Ingrid Oliver that her character garners so much loyalty and emotion in such a short time frame. Missy’s deplorable actions were hardly limited to Osgood, though. Kate Stewart gets thrown out of a plane, Seb is gunned down, Colonel Ahmed is sucked out the plane, and even the Doctor is left plummeting to his doom. Doctor Who is no stranger to providing some interesting, and sometimes eccentric solutions to its predicaments and impending death scenes, and that certainly is the case here.…

Dark Water
Episode / February 19, 2016

Aired 1 November 2014 ‘Dark Water’ is a chilling episode, tapping into one of humanity’s primal fears while bringing back some of the Doctor’s most dreaded foes. While Steven Moffat, much like his predecessor Russell T Davies, has sometimes been criticised for failing to fully capitalise on the momentum his story arcs set in motion ‘Dark Water’ offers a more linear and calm opening instalment to the two-part finale than is usual, putting aside a need for complicated temporal affairs or explanation for events. The story starts its emotional impact with a particularly shocking moment as Danny is hit and killed by a passing car. Showing this from Clara’s perspective is an incredibly moving storytelling device, and Jenna Coleman’s fantastic range makes it believable as she fully swings back to Danny’s perspective and threatens to strand both the Doctor and her in the most perilous of locations if the Doctor could not somehow go back and save Danny. It’s at this point that her commitment to Danny becomes fully evident, her heartbreaking willingness to throw away every single key to the TARDIS a tangible threat that the Doctor could not ignore. Of course this was never going to happen, but…

In the Forest of the Night
Episode / February 18, 2016

‘In the Forest of the Night’ bucks the recent trend of Doctor Who episodes and goes in a wholly different direction, offering something a bit slower and subtler. The threat, rather than a tangible monster as is usual, is a solar flare heading for Earth that could cause a mass extinction. With no warning, a dense forest has also grown across the world overnight, carrying with it some ecological undertones, and that is the core conundrum facing the characters throughout the tale. It’s another strong offering for this series, more of a character piece than action piece, but ‘In the Forest of the Night’ does undoubtedly suffer somewhat for not having a core antagonist at the centre and so not being able to offer a continued dramatic sense of tension. Fortunately, the remainder of the episode takes care of its business very effectively and efficiently. Viewers are quickly introduced to Maebh, a Coal Hill pupil played by Abigail Eames, a lonely girl making peculiar gestures. She knows about the Doctor and without understanding why knows that she needs to find him; this is achieved quite quickly since he happens to be in London… in the middle of that newly sprung…

The Caretaker
Episode / February 15, 2016

Aired 27 September 2014 The first five episodes of this series of Doctor Who have featured a wide array of settings and tones, all the while managing to start piecing together Danny Pink as Clara’s love interest as well the enigmatic Missy. ‘The Caretaker’ finally takes the time to slow things down to allow all of the characters to actually talk and to think about their situations, offering another strong episode in the process. Before the credits start up, Clara is already put through a whirlwind montage as she tries to save the universe in the TARDIS, keep her job at Coal Hill School, and blossom her romance with Danny. It’s all too apparent that this is an impossible lifestyle for her to maintain and, reasonably, Danny starts asking for explanations for her erratic behaviour and cancellations while she wants time to figure things out and how honest to be. Wisely, then, ‘The Caretaker’ takes place at Coal Hill School in the present, with the Doctor trying- predictably and humorously unsuccessfully- to blend into the background as he tries to solve a mystery of his own. It’s a testament to ‘The Caretaker’ for just how much is resolved so effortlessly,…