The Woman Who Lived
Episode / March 4, 2016

Aired 24 October 2015 ‘The Woman Who Lived’ comes as something as a surprise; even though it is presented as a second part to ‘The Girl Who Died,’ the tone and story it offers is radically different in almost every sense. Maisie Williams returns but has long forsaken her name Ashildr, here playing a highwayman who has little memory of her earlier life. What follows is a relatively sombre affair, a study on just what immortality means to the girl living forever. No moment is more touching than when Maisie explains that, although her body may be immortal, her mind is not, and the vast number of books that she has written in order to keep some semblance of recollection of herself is a haunting visual of just how much- both good and bad- she has been through and lost. Interestingly, Clara is largely absent from the episode until the end, and in the process Ashildr becomes a sort of mirror for the Doctor himself. The Ashildr here is often cruel and harsh with her humanity only showing up at the last possible moment to save her tortured soul, a reflection of this incarnation of the Time Lord, and it’s…

The Girl Who Died
Episode / March 3, 2016

Aired 17 October 2015 ‘The Girl Who Died’ finally brings Maisie Williams’s heavily publicized guest role to fruition, and although the story offered in the first thirty-five minutes featuring a Viking village battling against the robotic Mire is a solid one, it’s the last ten minutes or so that will surely be remembered in the long run. From the start, it’s clear that the Doctor knows something about Ashildr, and those suspicions are confirmed as she comes back to life just moments after dying from heart failure. Casting a big name in Williams means that this turn of events will certainly have bigger ramifications in the long run- or at the very least in the next episode to close out the two parts. But her return to life brings with it several questions as well. First, Capaldi mentions that his face is a reminder, undoubtedly hearkening back to ‘The Fires of Pompeii,’ but what is it reminding him of exactly? Maybe more importantly, though, is the question of what the Doctor means when he calls her a hybrid. There has been a lot of talk about hybrids since Doctor Who returned to screens in 2005, but just a couple of…

Before the Flood
Episode / March 2, 2016

Aired 10 October 2015 ‘Before the Flood’ has the momentous task of providing a satisfactory resolution to last week’s ‘Under the Lake;’ not satisfied to rest on his laurels and simply offer more of the same, though, writer Toby Whithouse splits up the Doctor and Clara and offers something wholly unique. The opening half ended with the Doctor seemingly turned into a ghost and floating towards the underwater base, and ‘Before the Flood’ begins with the Doctor breaking the fourth wall while talking about Beethoven and the Bootstrap Paradox. It’s a bit jarring, but that opening exposition ties in neatly to the resolution at the end of the episode, and just like that the proper adventure begins. Inevitably, the Doctor is a hologram projection rather than a ghost, but the story does maintain enough intrigue that the possibility of Doctor being dead remains viable. The Doctor’s exchange with his ‘ghost’ self is perfect, and special mention must be given to Peter Capaldi who continues to outshine himself with every single performance. At this point it just feels like the role of the Doctor had been waiting for him to come along, and he continues to dominate scenes with a hauntingly…

Under the Lake
Episode / March 2, 2016

Aired 3 October 2015 Toby Whithouse returns to the worlds of Doctor Who for the first time since ‘A Town Called Mercy,’ penning a very good opener in ‘Under the Lake’ that makes use of many of the most trusted stylings of many classic Doctor Who tales that have come before it. In 2119 Scotland, an underwater mining corporation has salvaged a mysterious ship; the commander is quickly torched by the ship’s engines but is soon revived- albeit still clearly dead and with menacing black holes for eyes- and joined by another ghostly figure in a top hat. Featuring a claustrophobic base under siege, a seemingly endless amount of corridors, and a diverse multinational crew, the setup is certainly nothing new, but the end result is something quite special, indeed, as the Troughton era meets Capaldi’s Doctor head on. Daniel O’Hara makes his Doctor Who directorial debut here, and it’s apparent from the start that he knows exactly how to maximise on the sense of claustrophobia and tension that the setting affords. Just as importantly, though, is that the ghostly threat is brought to life exceedingly well. The CGI effects are superb, embracing the human basis for the figures, and…

The Witch’s Familiar
Episode / February 23, 2016

Aired 26 September 2015 Straight away, ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ proves just how beneficial the two-part nature to a Doctor Who story can be. It’s rare that the Doctor actually has a chance to sit and discuss motivations and aims with his foes, but the Master and Davros have occasionally been the exceptions, never more so than here. Davros is dying, the Doctor touchingly at his side because he asked him to come, and the poignant conversation between the two that is interspersed throughout the episode is unequivocally an all-time highlight of the series. The Doctor and Davros have always been written as equals, each standing firmly on one side of morality. And while the Doctor has occasionally had to venture into morally grey territory, it’s only during this conversation that the extent of a possible overlap between the two really becomes apparent. The Doctor has recently been one to search himself in hopes of finding if he is a good man or not and, ultimately, his continued kindness and loyalty to his deadliest foes must surely put him closer to good, even if Davros calls that compassion a cancer and is correct in saying it will kill him. Yet, while…

The Magician’s Apprentice
Episode / February 22, 2016

Aired 19 September 2015 With no new lead actor to introduce at the start of this series, Steven Moffat wastes no time in catering to the true fans of the series. Michelle Gomez’s Master/Missy, Julian Bleach’s Davros, and the Daleks all make their return, and the action picks up right from the start, beginning to set up plot points that will surely have ramifications later in the run. Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is introduced dramatically as he attempts to rescue a young boy from a visually fantastic and harrowing field of handmines. The moment the boy reveals his name as Davros, though, the tone instantly changes and the Doctor suddenly shows a rare moment of uncertainty, superbly channeling Tom Baker in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ as he holds the early fate of one of his most dreaded foes in his hands. It also brings back the continual inner turmoil of the Twelfth Doctor in needing to decide if he is a good man or not. The dilemma of that opening scene is left unresolved, and Capaldi actually remains off-screen quite a while afterwards, wanting to remain hidden; the benefit of the added emphasis on two-part stories this series is that…

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…