The Name of the Doctor

Two prequels to this one: one released before the episode but set after it, and the other released after the episode but set before it. Timey-wimey…

She Said, He Said: We find Clara wandering around on a set filled with old props, pondering the nature of the Doctor and how she has to avoid failing in love with him. We then see that she’s actually talking to a completely inanimate Doctor, and the topic moves on to how she now knows exactly who he is, so I assumed that this was one of her trips through his timeline. But then the second half of the short sees the Doctor in the exact same scenario, recapping the whole Clara arc in front of a stationary version of her, so it’s just a narrative device.

Clarence and the Whispermen: In one of the most disturbing contributions to the Who canon, a condemned man (presumably the eponymous Clarence) is visited in his cell by three scary faceless creatures (presumably the eponymous Whispermen), who force some Gallifreyan co-ordinates into his memory, and as a result he’ll survive the execution but never sleep again. It’s pretty dark, it has to be said.

Blimey, that was a lot of preamble. Here’s a little more. This is one of very few episodes from the Moffat era that I’ve already watched more than once, as it was part of the warm-up on the day of the 50th. After my enthusiasm for the show was at an all-time low throughout most of Series 7, the finale couldn’t have whetted my appetite for the anniversary special more.

I mean, we start on bloody Gallifrey, and we see Hartnell stealing the TARDIS. Holy shit. Then there’s Colin, Tom, Sylv dangling from his umbrella in Iceworld, Pertwee driving Bessie, Troughton running around in a fur coat and Davison trapped in that big net thing from Arc of Infinity… All seven of the classic Doctors, in full physical motion in some form or other, all within the pretitles. I repeat: holy shit. It blew my mind at the time, and that was before I’d seen the entirety of the classic series. There’s even a reference to the Valeyard later on, for fuck’s sake.

This is the anniversary special starting six months early, but the more recent mythology is represented too, with the Paternoster Gang playing a pivotal role in arranging the “conference call”, which entails getting off their tits, to reunite with Clara and introduce her to River Song. Her chronology was quite confusing at first – it wasn’t until much later that we learn that this is post-Silence in the Library for her, and therefore she is in fact dead. I thought I’d missed a story where she and the Doctor had split up or something – I don’t really see why we’re supposed to think they can’t just have another regular adventure with a version of her from some point in her past, which is what this story seemed to imply.

It’s an episode that manages to combine tension and pace, constantly developing and progressing, while still unmistakably all being preamble for a handful of big revelations. It’s arguably better the second (or third) time around, when you know where it’s heading and can just enjoy the ride. And when you don’t mistakenly think that one of the big revelations is that the Doctor’s real name is “Please”, given that that’s what he says immediately before the door to his tomb opens.

Unsurprisingly, Richard E Grant is brilliant, far surpassing both Dr Simeon and the version of The Great Intelligence from The Snowmen now that they’re one and the same. As alluded to earlier, the Whispermen were fantastically creepy, to the extent that the idea could have been used for something more substantial than some one-off henchmen. I can’t decide whether TGI sacrificing his very existence in order to ruin the Doctor’s life is deliciously evil and deranged, or simply a bit of an overreaction to being defeated by him like four times.

Of course, as soon as he dived into the Doctor’s time-corpse, and we saw him in all the scenarios we saw Clara in earlier, it was obvious where she was going to end up. While I didn’t quite buy the soufflĂ© metaphor, it was a very satisfying answer to the mystery, as it means that “our” Clara – the one we’ve been following since The Bells of Saint John – is the original Clara. She chooses to become the impossible girl in order to save the Doctor, and that’s something that goes a long way to turning her from a slightly distant enigma to a relatable protagonist.

There are obviously a few logical niggles (it’s perhaps best not to contemplate how the fact she knew about Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen makes this a bit of a predestination paradox), but they’re easy to ignore in the face of such a satisfying and resonant emotional conclusion. The same goes for the Doctor and River – much like with the Paternoster lot’s conference call, the only rational explanation for the Doctor being able to interact with her ghost is that it’s all slightly magic, but who cares the scene between them is so good?

And then finally there’s the biggest reveal of them all – one that we never knew was coming, but that managed to trump the one we’d been waiting all series for. It’s still as spine-tingling and glorious as ever. I remember being utterly blown away by the idea that there could be an extra incarnation of the Doctor, outside of the conventional numerical system, but I bought into it straight away. Without actually spelling out what terrible thing this version did to deserve being disowned, you know exactly what it is, and it’s the perfect teaser for the 50th. Now that we know just how brilliant John Hurt’s Doctor is, it’s even better.

RATING: 9

HALF-SERIES AVERAGE RATING: 6.38

SERIES AVERAGE RATING: 6.46

  • Seasons/Series watched: 33 of 36
  • Stories watched: 239 of 275
  • Individual episodes watched: 798 of 839

Oh crikey, that’s a really bad average score, the second worst of all time behind Colin’s season of 45-minute snoozefests. There are a handful of good episodes, but a disproportionate amount of stinkers, and this finale is the only truly great episode to compensate. Throughout the modern era, each Doctor’s third series has been his worst – although it’s definitely not Matt Smith’s fault, as almost all of the problems have been with the arcs and the companions.

The night is always darkest before the dawn. With The Name of the Doctor, my least favourite portion of the revived series is already over – it’s the first huge step forward towards a new golden age. The very next episode is the dazzling centrepiece, but I’ve got a few minor diversions to get through first, to further build the anticipation for the big anniversary party…

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Nightmare in Silver

I remembered this one as being an absolute stinker, and that may have affected my reaction to revisiting it, as I found it was nowhere near as bad as I feared. I mean, all the ingredients are right: Neil Gaiman, Cybermen and a solid cast that includes Tamzin Outhwaite, Jason Watkins and Warwick Davis, a man I’ve seen in the Shepherd’s Bush branch of M&S Simply Food on two separate occasions, eight years apart.

But then of course there’s also Angie & Artie, two characters so rubbish I had to double check what they were called before typing their names, even though I only finished watching the episode ten minutes ago. Neither of them are particularly well acted, but character-wise, Artie seems like a decent kid, even if he is crap at chess. Angie on the other hand can fuck right off, the precocious, ungrateful little shit. She puts herself in harm’s way because she’s rebelling against nothing in particular, and even when she’s helping to save the day by figuring out who Warwick Davis is, she’s incredibly smug about it.

And obviously the Cybermen are always a bit of a risk, post-1960s, as you never know what you’re going to get. These are a new breed, supposedly a mixture of the proper ones and the parallel universe ones, and seemingly with a little bit of the Raston Warrior Robot thrown in for good measure, judging by their speed. I quite like the design, with the usual caveats that they’re not supposed to all be identical, and that the sleekness doesn’t really help to reinforce the basic idea that they’re part organic. Nor does them being able to completely remove their heads, or send their hands for little walks – they are just generic robots, still.

Despite my misgivings I did enjoy the action sequences, but they were few and far between, with the story instead focussing on the Doctor’s internal battle with the Cyberplanner. Two sides of the Doctor’s personality battling each other is a great idea, but I really don’t like Matt Smith’s choices for the Cyber half. I was expecting it to be more… Cyber-y, but it’s somehow more emotional and unstable than the Doctor normally is. Plus, chess is boring, and it was really obvious that “our” Doctor was bluffing when he said he had a special secret move to win, which the Cyberplanner is really bloody thick for not figuring out.

(By the way, Red Dwarf did the whole two-versions-of-the-same-character-playing-chess-to-the-death thing way better in Queeg. And speaking of Red Dwarf, the military badge that the Doctor gives Clara in this episode later turned up on Rimmer’s brother Howard in Trojan, thanks to the presence on both series of costume designer Howard Burden.)

Anyway, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that I did in fact hate this episode after all, but I think what’s happened is that these issues were so big on first viewing – in the context of a half-series that was turning out to be thoroughly disappointing – that I’d forgotten all the good stuff. I really liked the army of nerds, and Warwick Davis was great in a much more serious role than he’s normally afforded. Clara was on decent form too, taking charge of the situation and consistently making correct decisions, with the impossible girl stuff largely given a week off ahead of the big climax.

RATING: 7

The Crimson Horror

Another one of those that I vaguely remembered, but without any of the details. For instance, I could have sworn this was set in a sweets factory, rather than a match factory that sounds like it should be a sweets factory. I also knew that this was a Paternoster Gang story, but not just how integral they were to it.

You don’t even see the Doctor or Clara until a third of the way through, with the gang acting as the main protagonists, especially Jenny. It’s her who infiltrates the factory and discovers what’s going on, finally stepping out of the shadows of her easier-to-define colleagues to show what she’s capable of. Thankfully, as well as her special skills of lock-picking and kung fu, she’s also got the charisma to pull off the role of Doctor surrogate, laying all the groundwork to set up the plot that he’d normally be responsible for.

All this was in aid of a shock reveal that the Doctor had been there all along, locked up by a blind woman and dyed red. In fact, he had done all the same investigations as Jenny, which were conveyed to us in a neat little montage that also contained references to Tegan – no idea why, but I liked it. The Doctor then de-reds himself by locking himself in an airing cupboard, a process that’s never fully explained, which is a little distracting.

After this exciting opening half, the story starts to stall a little thereafter, despite a strong villain in Diana Rigg. It just sort of plods along with a lot of running back and forth, broken up by the occasional bit of hiding and watching, and doesn’t really get going beyond that. It all relies on the key revelation that the mysterious Mr Sweet is a parasitic leech clamped to Diana Rigg’s tit; I can’t remember how I reacted to it at the time, but the earlier foreshadowing where she sprinkles salt down her cleavage reminded me of the twist, so I didn’t feel the impact this time.

Still, it’s all perfectly pleasant, if a little pedestrian, and any episode with Strax in it has to have something going for it, especially when he’s rebuking his horse for getting lost. His role as the Doctor’s mercenary is a little problematic, though – it’s OK for him to be gleeful as he’s lasering henchmen to death, but it’s a little weird that the Doctor’s happy to have such carnage take place in his name.

We saw very little indeed of Clara in this episode, which doesn’t really do much to flesh out her still nascent character. She spends the majority of the time preserved in a jar, but she does get a little coda at home, where the kids she babysits have discovered she’s a time traveller and demand to go with her. This is why companions shouldn’t go home between adventures – it makes life complicated for them, and now we’ve got to sit through a story with those two brats in tow.

RATING: 6

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

As has happened all too often recently, this is an idea with absolutely bags of potential, but an execution that’s ultimately disappointing. The concept of journeying through the TARDIS and exploring its labyrinthine properties is one that’s been done before (relatively recently at that), but a whole episode dedicated to it is something else. Visually, it was certainly far more impressive than the likes of The Invasion of Time, yet somehow overall it failed to be as interesting.

There were plenty of nice moments, sure – Clara finding the big Time War book, the TARDIS deliberately changing the corridor layout to mess the people – but it lacks anything mind-blowing, surreal or even surprising. It’s the wasted opportunity that makes this one so poor – there are endless possibilities of what the TARDIS could contain, and what does it show us? A swimming pool, a library, a bunch of props from recent episodes, a big CGI Eye of Harmony, a big white room and some corridors. It’s all fine, but it’s all stuff we already knew about. The TARDIS should be beyond our imagination, but imagination is exactly what’s missing from the writing.

It’s almost as if there was a lack of confidence to really go for broke on the basic premise, which would explain the unnecessary addition of some slightly naff and utterly forgettable monsters. It didn’t need that, and it certainly didn’t need so much extraneous stuff around the salvage crew. I don’t feel I’m quite qualified to talk about the casting choice for these particular roles, but there’s something about it that makes me mildly uncomfortable. The biggest issue, however, was that they were all rubbish.

The acting is often poor, and the characters themselves are irredeemable shits. They are the cause of all the bad things that happen to the Doctor, and they’re among the least sympathetic guest characters we’ve ever met. The only one with any scrap of decency is the robot one, but the later revelation that he’s not even a robot makes the other two even worse. Their brother had a terrible accident, so they brainwashed him and enslaved him. Lovely. Why should I give a shit about any of this?

My abiding memory from first broadcast was one of intense frustration that we didn’t learn more about Clara. That scene at the cliff-edge (perhaps the most surprising TARDIS location in fairness, although they’d recently done a similar thing in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship) really felt like it was going somewhere, and then it just didn’t. It felt at the time like we were being teased, and while it’s not as bad when you’re revisiting it, it’s still not actively good.

Besides, everything gets undone at the end anyway, including any small amounts of character or arc development that may have taken place in that scene. The episode might as well have not been made.

RATING: 5

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This is probably the last episode about which I remembered absolutely nothing from the original broadcast. The title meant very little to me prior to tonight, and even watching yesterday’s “Next Time” trailer failed to jog the memory. There is one major aide-memoire this time round though – the main woman in it was subsequently cast as Verity Lambert in An Adventure In Space And Time, and therefore I couldn’t help imagining that all of this was happening to Doctor Who‘s first producer.

It seems like an apt night to be watching what is unashamedly an old-fashioned ghost story, although such a thing is not really my cup of tea. I’m not really one for superficial scares like loud creaking noises or glimpses of things in lightning flashes – it’s too easy to take them off them off the shelf and use them in lieu of advancing the plot, and that’s what this felt like at times.

On the plus side, at least there weren’t actual ghosts; as you know, I can only really get on board with supernatural stuff in Who when there’s something vaguely sciencey behind it, and I enjoyed watching the Doctor figure it all out. That said, the psychic girl was seemingly just a bit magic, but they get away with it because she’s a well-performed, likeable character. The same went for the Professor – not much meat on either character, and I can take or leave their romantic subplot, but they seem like nice people who you don’t mind spending time with.

Then there’s Clara. Still nothing at this stage to endear us to her – even old psychic Verity seemed to conclude that there’s precious little depth to her – but now she’s slagging off the TARDIS and wondering why it doesn’t like her. It seems at this stage that the TARDIS is a good judge of character. It’s an obvious point, but the mystery surrounding who Clara is takes up all the time that’s usually reserved for actual character development. It’s not grating on me as much now as it did at the time, as I grew to like her in Series 8 & 9, but it’s definitely a distraction.

I can’t decide whether the extra bit at the end with the monster having its own parallel romantic subplot was lovely or stupid. If you think about it for a while, and ponder where the second monster came from and how it had stayed hidden for so long, it probably veers towards the latter, but in the moment it made me smile and it took me by surprise.

Overall, it’s all pretty much fine, but I can see why I didn’t remember it. It’s partly the non-descript title, partly that there’s no imagery that’s particularly memorable or unique, and I guess also the lack of a real villain, or any guest characters that are out of the ordinary. Everything is perfectly adequate, but nothing is remarkable.

RATING: 7

Cold War

We find ourselves on a Soviet nuclear submarine staffed by several very famous actors, many of whom are off of Game of Thrones. It was back to the good old days of incredibly plummy foreigners, which gave this a very old-school vibe, along with the base-under-siege set-up and the lovely model work courtesy of Mike Tucker. And, of course, the returning monster.

I have a soft spot for the Ice Warriors, thanks largely to my unusually high regard for both Peladon stories, and so I was happy to see them back. And it wasn’t just any old Ice Warrior, but a famous Ice Warrior – it was a nice touch to have the Doctor know who this specific guy is, as it helps you to think of him as an individual character, capable of being as well-rounded as any human, rather than just a generic monster. Skaldak was seriously imposing and formidable, but also smart and cunning.

Those early scenes really worked, but I was baffled by the decision to take him out of his shell-suit, when all they showed of the monster inside was a pair of claws dangling from the ceiling, and a shapeless form whizzing past in a blur. A few glimpses of generic alien appendages isn’t as scary as an armoured beefcake with built-in guns; it felt like such a wasted opportunity to bring a classic monster back and then change it into something completely different after such a short amount of screen time.

Having it return to the armour but remove the visor was a reasonable compromise, but it affected the impact of those closing scenes. The face looks like what it is – a special effect – drawing attention to the fact that it’s artificial, in a way a big helmet doesn’t. To be fair, the climax may well have fallen flat anyway, given that the Doctor’s big plan is to establish a scenario of mutually assured destruction. I’m not sure the lesson we’re supposed to take from the Cold War is that this was a sensible tactic. In the end, the Ice Warriors show up and fix everything anyway, rendering all of this irrelevant. Ho hum.

Clara annoyed me a little in this episode, and I think I’ve figured out why. It’s the way she’s so cocky when volunteering to negotiate with Skaldak, and the way she seeks validation afterwards, asking the Doctor how she did. This self-centred keenness is at odds with her being so new to all this, and it makes it seem like it’s all a lark to her, like she’s not taking it seriously. Later on, her character would be fleshed out, and these danger-seeking instincts would be thoroughly examined, and shown to have consequences. But we know so little about her at this stage that all we’re seeing is her flaws, and it’s hard to take to her.

But still. I did enjoy this one more than most this series, and it was a more than enjoyable way to spend forty-five minutes, unlike yesterday. It’s just that there have been fundamental problems with the Doctor-companion dynamics in both halves of this series, which are stopping good episodes becoming great, and this in turn is emphasising flaws that would otherwise matter less.

RATING: 7

The Rings of Akhaten

This is one of very few episodes from around this time that I have strong memories of watching, and they’re not good memories. There was a small gathering of us at a friend’s house, and we were all stunned into silence by how brain-meltingly dull it was. It’s the biggest crime that a Doctor Who episode can commit; with all of space and time to play with, how do you end up somewhere so boring?

It seemed promising to start with. I liked the Doctor making a trip through Clara’s timeline, if only for the Beano Summer Special and the fact that Clara’s mum has recently turned up in Corrie. The idea of the new companion’s first trip being to a bustling alien market is sound, but such settings are often hard to realise, and it was painfully obvious that all this was taking place indoors, under studio lights. One of the costumes glimpsed in these scenes ended up being used in the worst episode of Red Dwarf XI, so maybe it’s this costume’s fault.

One of the things that turned me against this episode was the idea that sentimental value can be used as energy. I’m not a huge stickler for scientific accuracy – not least because most of my “scientific” knowledge comes from Doctor Who, Red Dwarf and Hitchhikers anyway – but it does put my back up when the show starts talking about souls and spirits as if they’re definitely real things, or when it features concepts that could also be used by alternative medicine quacks. It’s by no means a new phenomenon in Who, but it seems a lot more frequent these last couple of series.

Usually there’s some attempt at a scientific explanation for such things, no matter how flimsy, but instead all we get here is some people singing. So much singing. Singing is boring, especially when it’s not very good music, and you can’t hear what they’re saying anyway. There was so much of it that I started to tune it out. This stuff holds no entertainment value for me whatsoever, save for one brief moment when the Doctor attempts to join in, but that was only because it made Matt Smith resemble John Redwood trying to sing the Welsh national anthem.

With so much singing, being used in place of both exposition and action, thrills were few and far between. Almost all of the Doctor’s proactive moments involved pointing the Sonic and something and holding it for ages – so much of this episode was just noise. In the end the baddy (some sort of angry sun who eats sentimentality or some shit) is defeated by a combination of more singing, a speech and a leaf. The middle of those is presumably supposed to be a big moment, but it’s nonsense – it was built up to be the Doctor sacrificing his memories at huge personal risk, but it turned out that there were no consequences to him whatsoever, and what’s more it didn’t even work.

Looking back, it’s funny how my interest in Who really dipped around this time, as it wasn’t long before a combination of the 50th and Capaldi made my fandom stronger than ever, leading directly to this blog’s existence. I think it was partly that the novelty had worn off and partly that work and other interests were competing for my attention, but this episode may have been a factor. It was the first time that I’d watched an episode in a group and found nothing to enjoy from the experience. Normally even with shit episodes, you can sit and take the piss out of it, but this was just too tedious and dispiriting even for that. Doctor Who no longer felt special. Thankfully this feeling was very temporary, and I’m looking forward to seeing if my opinions on the rest of this series change now that I know the old magic was never far away.

RATING: 4

The Bells of Saint John

Prequel: The Doctor is sad on a swing, and his misery is compounded when a little girl comes along and calls him old. At least he’s sad about Clara now, rather than Amy and Rory, but I’m a bit bored of the Doctor being angsty all the time. After a good old chat with the little girl, which sets up the Doctor becoming a monk at the start of the episode proper, it’s revealed that she is in fact Clara Oswald. Or at least a Clara Oswald, it’s hard to tell.

So it’s back to Series 7, even though this totally feels like a series opener, and wi-fi is evil now. It seems like quite an obvious and uninspiring hook; it would have been a fresh new technology in the first few new series, but not by 2013. Although seemingly Clara was a little behind the curve, given that she doesn’t know how to type in a password. The first thing we learn about the mysterious companion is that she’s shit with computers.

In fairness, this turns out to be a plot point, as she’s later given l33t hacking skillz by Celia Imrie and her shadowy organisation. The stuff with her controlling her employees’ personalities was an interesting concept, but they could have done much more with it; instead, the bulk of the plot unfolded via the medium of 90s-style hacking montages, complete with flailing fingers and strings of meaningless on-screen text.

There are no monsters as such, other than the big spinny spoons who scoop people into the cloud through some unexplained means. Rather than feeling like the whole world was at stake, it was very much focussed on the threat to one individual – you assume the Doctor wants to rescue everyone who’s been magicked into the internet, but he’s only taking a proactive interest in preventing it happening to Clara.

This is of course understandable considering the Doctor’s already seen her killed twice, and it’s good to tell a different type of story, but it was lacking in scares and stakes. A few action set-pieces tried to fill the gaps, but while it was cool to see the Doctor wrestling control of a jumbo jet, all the dicking about on a moped only slowed things down. Him driving it up the side of the Shard was let down by two things: it was mostly portrayed through reaction shots in order to save on effects work, and it turned out it wasn’t even the Doctor doing it.

You can usually get away with all of the above in a companion’s introductory episode – the story often takes a back seat while we meet the new girl – but I don’t feel that this job was done satisfactorily either. You don’t learn nearly as much about Clara as you do with Rose, Martha, Donna or Amy in their first stories; I don’t mean the mystery element to her, but just who she is, how she interacts with people, what’s important to her. All we know is that she works as a nanny and she wants to travel. This is an area that was much improved throughout her stay, but there’s not much to Clara at this stage, and the two previous versions of her probably made better first impressions.

It threatened to get good at the end, with a fleeting glimpse of Richard E Grant to reveal that TGI was behind all of this, and Celia Imrie’s character being regressed into a little girl. It’s a shame that this was skimmed over, as I wanted to know what became of her and the rest of the staff. Instead, we get the Doctor inviting Clara to travel with him… and she turns him down. It’s such an anti-climax to see the Doctor still on his own after all that – I said something similar when I watched the McGann movie, the companion joining gives you the emotional climax to the episode, and without it, it falls very flat indeed.

RATING: 6

The Angels Take Manhattan

Amy and Rory, both individually and collectively, are two of my favourite companions of all time, so despite how disappointed I was with the change of dynamic for their last few episodes, it’s still extremely sad to see them go. Luckily there’s enough going on to lift their swansong above the average this series has managed so far – it seems apt that their final story should involve Weeping Angels, time travel pardoxes and their daughter.

The pulp fiction world of 1930s New York was a great match for the Angels, especially as apparently the Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel now. It’s undoubtedly a memorable image, but I did wonder how exactly it managed to make its way through town without anyone seeing it. The twist with The Doctor having a copy of the story in trashy detective novel form was pure Moffat, but you feel that more could have been made of it if there was less going on. The same can be said of River, who didn’t have much to do – it’s probably her only appearance so far that doesn’t progress her story or relationship with the Doctor in any significant way.

Because really it had to be all about Amy and Rory, and just what their fate would be. It was never going to be straightforward, so let’s get one final reading from…

THE RORY WILLIAMS DEATH COUNTER: 7

It’s actually been a while since that was updated, but he manages to cark it three times in his final story, and Amy twice. Following the glimpse of a future Rory dying of old age, the suggestion of fixing the problem with a suicide pact was an unexpectedly dark twist, but those scenes are so powerful. It was clear that they weren’t actually going to write two long-serving companions out by having them plummet to their deaths for real, and this established a pattern that Moffat has kept for each subsequent departure – show them being horribly killed, but then resurrect them in some way.

So they survive thanks to a handy paradox, only for Rory to be zapped by an Angel and taken somewhere that the TARDIS can’t reach – it feels convenient and arbitrary that time travel can’t help on this particular occasion, but at least they address it. It makes Amy’s decision to follow him even more powerful; this is her categorically choosing Rory over the Doctor, which is as it should be. Ending Amy’s time on the show with her recalling some of her best bits, over images of young Amelia, is so sad, but so lovely at the same time.

RATING: 8

And that brings this portion of the series to a rather sudden halt. Only getting five episodes at a time is a ridiculous state of affairs, and I’m glad that the practice stopped after this. Maybe it would have been a more satisfying dose if all five episodes had been belters, but this was categorically not the case. Here are the scores going into the break.

HALF-SERIES AVERAGE RATING: 6.6

  • Seasons/Series watched: 32.38 of 36
  • Stories watched: 230 of 275
  • Individual episodes watched: 789 of 839

The Power of Three

This one seemed to be making a point about how people are attracted to fancy shiny things with no real purpose, which might have been for effective if the episode itself had any real substance to it. It’s an interesting idea – loads of identical alien things turn up overnight, the Doctor has to figure out what they’re for – but one I feel sure has been covered multiple times. At no point did it surprise or particularly intrigue me; it’s one of those rare Doctor Who stories that’s just a bit dull, and it washes over you.

In fairness, the plot was streamlined to allow Amy and Rory’s “real life” story to take centre stage, and while it’s always nice to follow a story from the companion’s perspective, I’m in a bit of a grump with the whole premise of them having a life outside the TARDIS, it’s fair to say. I’ve already covered the reasons I’m not on board with it, so naturally an episode that dedicates so much of its time to exploring this element isn’t going to appeal to me.

It was nice to see Brian again, although he was strangely under-used compared to his first outing. More notable was the introduction of Kate Stewart – I hadn’t clocked that she’d first turned up in a Chibnall episode, which bodes well for her continuing to recur beyond Moffat’s time on the show. With Kate’s background being in science, her taking charge of UNIT is a clear statement that it’s returning to its roots, thus promising to fix the issues I’ve had with the modern show’s interpretation of the organisation. And obviously, it’s brilliant that the woman to restore the Brigadier’s version of UNIT is his own daughter, honouring the great man in the best possible way.

A shame then that she, and they, didn’t really contribute to the plot – all she did was ask the Doctor to help, which he was going to do anyway. It threatened to get interesting when the cubes gave one third of the population heart failure. That’s a tricky one to get out of, and the Doctor did so by turning the cubes into mass defibrillators. But that was ages after all those people had keeled over with stopped hearts. I’m no medical professional, but I’m pretty sure that millions of people would still definitely have died.

So that was complete nonsense, as was the fact that the alien behind it all was revealed to be an intangible hologram, despite the fact he’d just been shooting at everyone. The emotional resolution fell flat too – there’s no point having Amy and Rory triumphantly returning to the TARDIS as full-time companions at the end, when everyone knows there’s only one episode left. They shouldn’t have bloody left in the first place, it’s too late now.

Another one to add to the list of painfully mediocre Chibnall episodes. There has been a very sharp decline in quality between the last series to this one, so far.

RATING: 5