World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls

On the 2nd January 2016, I sent the following e-mail:

I had a dream last night that Doctor Who came and filmed in [my street]. We were watching from our garden, and Capaldi came over and asked us not to post spoilers online. It was him, Michelle Gomez and John Simm, filming an episode called The Two Masters, which I now really want to see.

So really, this finale was my idea. They should have kept my title, although I also adore the Master’s suggestion of Genesis of the Cybermen.

Either way, bloody hell, what a story. So many amazing things all at once. It was rather reminiscent of the way RTD used to do things, with the first episode slowing bringing everything together and building up to an irresistible cliffhanger, followed by an emotional edge-of-your-seat epic. It’s in fact one of the best examples of the format – the climax at the end of the first episode had me grinning like a maniac and crying actual tears of joy. Not just on first broadcast; that happened today, even though I knew exactly what was coming. It was out of sheer happiness – this is everything I want from Doctor Who.

But there’s so much packed into this finale that I need to break it down in order to process it all, otherwise I’ll be here all night if I try to go through it all in order. Just put it down to relative time dilation as I jump around all over both episodes…

MONDASIAN CYBERMEN – Yes, yes, yes! Finally, for the first time since the 1960s, someone has remembered what made the Cybermen good in the first place, making this by far their best appearance to be made in colour. It’s perhaps the best of their various origin stories too, as it’s told from the human perspective, and doesn’t scrimp on the deeply disturbing body horror. I love the fact you see all those classic design elements coming together bit by bit as the technology is developed. It’s a bit of a shame the regular boring Cybermen turned up to hog the limelight in the second ep, but how marvellous for the originals to be given the chance to terrify a new generation of kids fifty years later.

JOHN SIMM – On first viewing, I didn’t clock who Mr Razor was. In fact, I recall thinking that I must look up whoever this actor is afterwards, as he’s a bit bloody hammy. I thought it might have been Paul Kaye under there. This time, I could hear tell-tale signs in the voice, but that’s probably only because I was looking out for some such giveaway.

I can’t believe it took this long for a multi-Master story to happen, because it’s such an irresistible concept. In some ways, Simm’s role here is similar to John Hurt’s in Day of the Doctor, representing the character’s past to emphasise how the current version has evolved. Plus he’s got a goatee, which was a great touch. He was certainly more subdued and subtle than he was opposite Tennant, but even more evil, with the slight softening that occurred during The End of Time undone in order to make Missy look less evil by comparison. Spending ten years pretending to look after Bill and then having her Cyber-converted just to spite the Doctor is classic Master behaviour.

MISSY – I love the premise of her standing in for the Doctor on an adventure. Cast and Moffat alike are clearly having a lovely time playing around with the idea, deconstructing the format of the show by having her refer to Bill and Nardole as “Exposition and Comic Relief”. And the thing about his real name being “Doctor Who” is pure perfection, both as a way of a soon-to-depart Moffat completely trolling the fans, and as a way of reconciling the various times when he has been referred to as “Doctor Who” within the series – neither the Doctor or Doctor Who are his real name, but he’s used them both as his chosen pseudonym at various points.

Following her meeting with her former self, Missy spends most of the final episode flitting between good and evil, trying to pick a side. It’s always hard to second guess any Master, but I think it’s a case of her genuinely changing her mind with alarming frequency, rather than any kind of devious masterplan – she’s completely torn between standing with the Doctor, which she knows is the right thing to do, and following her fundamental instinct of self-preservation.

In the end she comes good, although she’s tragically prevented from doing the right thing because her past self won’t allow it. It’s pretty deep, and it is of course the perfect conclusion to a multi-Master story – they both end up destroying themselves. Of course they do. This brings Michelle Gomez’s recurring role to an end, and her Master will be remembered as the best since Delgado’s. I’ve no doubt that a new incarnation of the character will inexplicably return from the dead at some point, but it’s a great way to leave things for now.

NARDOLE – He gets his big goodbye slightly before the end of the episode, but that was a good decision – he deserved his moment, and for it to not get mixed up with all the other momentous stuff that happens. He gets the classic “staying behind to help out” companion departure, and he’ll be missed. His was a role that contributed to a great TARDIS dynamic, and it gives me hope that the gang approach will reap good results for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.

BILL – Meanwhile, Bill gets the “killed but carries on living”, just like every other Moffatt companion. It really is a very similar story to Amy’s and particularly Clara’s – each instance of it happening has been good, but a bit of variety wouldn’t go amiss. Nevertheless, it was a powerful final performance by Pearl Mackie, before and after conversion. She may have only been around for a short time, but she made a huge impression, and will be remembered as a very modern twist on a classic type of companion.

Much like Clara, she’s now off having her own adventures through time and space posthumously, thanks to the soggy lass from The Pilot turning up again. Heather’s powers are seemingly endless now, and it’s implied that the pair of them could beam themselves around the galaxy forever, or just turn themselves back into humans whenever they want. The universe is Bill’s oyster, and despite everything she has to go through first, that makes this perhaps the happiest ending for any companion.

THE DOCTOR – Ah yeah, that guy. Capaldi is obviously completely brilliant throughout, as you expect at this stage, but I must admit that his stop-start regeneration is a bit weird. He seems to have been dragging it out for weeks now, and there’s still a whole Christmas special to go. But it’s all worth it for that wonderful moment of David Bradley emerging through the snow.

This series in general, and the final in particular, feels like Moffat taking the opportunity to play with the show’s mythology as much as possible while he still can, and I very much approve. It hasn’t always worked, and overall the pattern of each Doctor’s third series being his worst is still in place, but you can barely fault this finale. Absolutely superb.

RATING: 10

SERIES AVERAGE RATING: 7.63

  • Seasons/Series watched: 36 of 36
  • Stories watched: 275 of 276
  • Individual episodes watched: 839 of 840

Oh my days. I have very mixed feelings right now. There is precisely one week to go. I’ll spend the next six days watching the third version of Shada this project covers, then after that I’ll watch an episode so recent it’s still on my Sky+ box, and then I’m up to date. This time next week, the project will be over. This is nuts.

Advertisements

The Eaters of Light

I was really chuffed when I heard Rona Monro was coming back. I’d recently seen Survival and thoroughly enjoyed it, plus it’s a lovely thing that there’s now somebody who’s written for both incarnations of the show. Come on Chibbers, bring Terrence back next. In the end, the comeback doesn’t come close to hitting the heights of her first story, and is one of what is now a higher proportion than normal of episodes this series that are fairly ordinary, never really eliciting a strong reaction one way or the other.

It’s often rather disappointing when such an episode shows up during a run, as each week you’re waiting and hoping that you’re going to be blown away. On a rewatch however, it’s a lot easier to take, as devoid of expectations you can appreciate the little things. The talking crows are a very silly but rather sweet idea, and I loved the Romans thinking Bill was repressed because she’s not bi. Relative time dilation is always fun too – there’ll be a lot more of that next time. Nardole being bessie mates with all the Picts is perhaps the highlight; at this stage he’s developed into a really likeable character who’s just a blast to have around.

The only problem is that these nice little moments are probably supposed to feel much bigger than they do, because there wasn’t a great deal to get excited about overall. None of the Romans or the Picts were particularly well drawn, and it’s a shame that there wasn’t more time to round any of them out, which Monro excelled at in Survival. It was also a shame to have Bill spend so much of the episode separated from the Doctor when they’ve got so little time left together – I feel like I say that a lot whenever a departure is looming.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the episode was the couple of minutes with Missy at the end. While Bill and Nardole were right to be horrified to find her in the TARDIS, the concept is more familiar to those who have seen Scream of the Shalka, and it would actually be a fitting punishment to have her acting as the Doctor’s dogsbody. The pair of them coming together as friends feels right somehow – the Master is probably my favourite of all the Doctor’s adversaries, humanoid or otherwise, and that’s underpinned by their complex and at times ambiguous relationship. This feels like a natural progression – something both characters have secretly wanted for a long time.

RATING: 7

Empress of Mars

This is most likely to be Mark Gatiss’s last Who script, and while none of his episodes were exceptionally brilliant, only very rarely have they been particularly bad. This final offering is much the same: consistently entertaining without being spectacular. However, it’s sort of pleasingly ordinary after the big concepts and high stakes of late, and the simplicity of the story works to its advantage in the context of the series.

In fact, it’s very old school, not just because of the returning foe. Victorian soldiers and Empire enthusiasts seem to be a very Classic Who thing, and more than most modern episodes it fitted the pattern of an old four-parter condensed into 45 minutes. The power struggle with in the human ranks is the most obvious example, along with our heroes getting imprisoned just as things start getting interesting.

Catchlove is a good old-fashioned¬†Doctor Who shitbag, one of those characters who’s somehow more villainous than the monsters he’s up against. Gatiss does more with the Ice Warriors here than he managed at the previous attempt, with the first female of the species we’ve ever met providing an extra dimension. As you know, I’m always fond of situations where there’s good and bad on both sides, and the fact that both Godsacre and Friday are willing to switch allegiances in the end makes this far more interesting than a simple battle between good humanoids and bad monsters.

It’s only a shame that the peace that breaks out in the climax sort just… happens. It’s all very exciting, but the logic that changes the Empress’s mind requires a few little leaps. It’s also one of those where the Doctor doesn’t actually do much – he’s a bystander in the resolution, and there’s not much that would have transpired differently had he never shown up in the first place. Maybe that’s for the best though – considering one of the few things he does is create the message that made him come to Mars in the first place, the whole thing is built on a bootstrap paradox that could have destroyed the universe had he become more involved.

Elsewhere, Nardole gets sent packing very early on, and sits the vast majority of the episode out. It makes me wonder whether the story was initially planned without him, which is something that sometimes happened with “additional” companions in the old days. It’s a shame the team was incomplete when they’ve only got a short amount of time left together, but the Missy arc that Nardole moves on continues to be intriguing and pleasingly ambiguous.

The best thing about the episode though? Bloody Alpha Centauri! One of those moments that I’ll always remember experiencing the first time. When the Doctor started talking the Ice Warriors expanding into new horizons, I recognised it as a little nod to the Peladon stories and thought that was that. Then that voice! The same voice! I laughed and applauded, and then had to explain to my partner what the fuck had just happened and why I was suddenly so happy. Completely incomprehensible to the vast, vast majority of Saturday night BBC One viewers (and I’d have been in that bracket were it not for this project), but I just love the audacity of doing it and getting away with it.

And furthermore, if the analogy from the original Peladon story still stands, then the Doctor encouraging the Ice Warriors to join the Galactic Federation as a means of gaining support and achieving greatness is incredibly relevant to current times. This is another thing that proves the Ice Warriors are far more civilised than the British.

RATING: 8

The Lie of the Land

This is such a frustrating episode. It’s clearly full of good ideas, as there are several plot threads that start extremely promisingly, only to completely fall apart. The biggest and most egregious misfire is the Doctor working for the Monks. Those scary propaganda broadcasts were brilliant, as was the hugely powerful scene where Bill confronts him and it seems he’s turned full villain.

I’m not usually one to second guess the writing process, but it smacks to me of wanting to do these really cool ideas, but not knowing how to resolve them. It essentially boils down to “haha, only joking”, which immediately ruins the preceding moments by making them meaningless, in exactly the way that Extremis avoided. On a character level, it’s cruel and unnecessary for the Doctor to put Bill through that. How dare he test her loyalty when this whole invasion is only happening because of her love for him.

It was the regeneration element that really rubbed me up the wrong way. It was the most intriguing thing to be teased in the pre-series publicity, and for it to have been a fake seemed like a complete cop-out, plus it sells the forthcoming actual regeneration short by providing a sneak preview. And it’s even more galling because Capaldi and Mackie were so brilliant in that scene, the performances clearly outclassing the material they’re working with.

This is also the case with Missy, as Michelle Gomez continues to be the most unpredictable actor ever to take on the role. Her introduction gives the episode a short in the arm after that shambles, but it’s short-lived. The gang head to the Monks’ temple, where we’re promised mind-bending illusions that end up only manifesting in the most perfunctory of ways, as another great idea falls by the wayside.

The next is the Doctor taking on the Monks in a¬†Morbius-style contest of wills, failing, and Bill taking his place. Her act of sacrifice works, once again, due to Pearl Mackie, but the entire might of the Monks being taken down by her magical dead mum is just fucking silly, conceptually and visually. It’s so underwhelming that it has to be accompanied by a clearly tacked-on Capaldi voiceover, which is at least 80% exposition to compensate for the lack of clarity in the execution. This whole epic trilogy ends with a pathetic whimper.

And I’m not sure it’s ever made clear what the Monks actually get out of this arrangement. They enslave humanity, but to what end? What’s actually in it for them? It all just seems like a massive ballache to me, having to keep an entire population brainwashed for no discernable reason. And that’s to say nothing of the practical implications – transmitting telepathic bullshit is one thing, but they’d also have to confiscate every history book, documentary DVD and newspaper archive in the world, as well as editing the entirety of Wikipedia.

Considering that a quarter of the series is devoted to them, the Monks are incredibly underwhelming when you boil it all down. Such a wasted opportunity to do something truly epic, but instead all the early momentum is lost, and a series that could have been even better than the last is suddenly decidedly not.

RATING: 5

Extremis

Insert standard moan about having to review what is clearly the first of a multi-part story here. The Monk Trilogy was initially billed as a three-parter, before being revised to merely a series of “loosely connected” individual stories, but you could even argue that this is the second of a four-parter, given how the events of Oxygen cast such a huge shadow, and the presence of a rare “previously” montage at the start of Extremis. Nevertheless, this episode does at least stand alone from a narrative perspective – kind of like Utopia back in the day – and is in effect a preview of the main Monk story still to come, which is pretty meta considering the nature of the eventual big reveal.

It’s certainly an unusual episode in the sense that nothing actually happens. Not in the pejorative way that could be levelled at certain stories over the years, but on the quite literal level that the only real life, real time events that transpire are that the Doctor receives an email and then tells Bill to go on the pull. It was certainly a bold move to reveal at the end that the preceding 40-odd minutes wasn’t real, but there’s little of the disappointment that you often get with “it was all a dream” endings, because what took place was still important and relevant to the ongoing series arc, and thus worth your emotional investment regardless.

It helps that it’s really bloody good, of course, largely thanks to the quality of performances from all three leads, and a suitably mind-bending Moffat plot. It was another bold move to have the actual current Pope as a guest character, but I suppose the “it wasn’t real” defence mitigates any potential to offend, and even if not, it’d still be worth it for the brilliant gag of him gatecrashing Bill’s date. It’s only a shame that the dead President we see later on isn’t Trump.

(Typing that, it’s just occurred to me how weird it is that my watch-through has brought me to a series that was broadcast during the current administration, considering we were only just into Obama’s second term when I started, and the prospect of that gobshite even considering running for nomination was but a distant nightmare.)

Anyway, as well as the stuff that didn’t actually happen, there was also some stuff that did happen but in the past, with the Doctor is forced to execute Missy in a ceremony overseen by Max from Humans. It was barely a surprise at all that Missy was the one inside the vault, but it’s nice to fill in Nardole’s backstory, and clarify exactly what his relationship with the Doctor is. This new information seems to be the catalyst for Nardole taking a level in badass; with the series now halfway through, he’s becoming far more than just the comic relief, and starting to hint at more nuance and complexity than we’ve previously given him credit for.

Just how long has the Doctor been guarding that vault, though? He vowed to do so for a thousand years, but we don’t know exactly when those flashback scenes took place – it could have been a few weeks ago for all we know. Or has it been so long that the university was built around the vault? How long can Nardole live for? I genuinely can’t remember whether or not the rest of the series answers these questions!

RATING: 8

The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar

Oh yes. To this day, I have no idea how they managed to keep Davros’s return so quiet. I was working when this first aired, so it was even more remarkable that I somehow avoided the spoiler until I’d got home. I remember gasping with shock and joy when the little boy identified himself, and it still made me grin from ear to ear this time. I love this story so much.

There’s so much going on at the start – a big bunch of snakes on a tour of the universe, planes stopping dead in the sky, Clara being summoned to UNIT by Kate – but it’s all just window-dressing for the main feature. The latter two also serve to reintroduce Missy, after a tiny gap of only one episode, but it’s a very welcome return. She’s on great form: mocking Clara for having a dead boyfriend, suggesting the Doctor may have once been a girl, being jealous about the Doctor having another arch enemy, and of course needlessly killing people for fun.

She works alarmingly well as a goodie too. It’s not the first time The Master’s been temporarily working with the Doctor and/or his companions, but it’s possibly the best example of him or her being able to do so without compromising their modus operandi. She’s still ruthless, murderous and untrustworthy, it’s just that she’s channelling it in the right direction for once. You can still have Clara tied up, threatened with a pointy stick and thrown down a twenty foot hole, which prevents Missy from ever feeling like she’s safe to be around.

(Sidenote – pronouns are a bloody nightmare when you’re trying to talk about multiple incarnations of the same Gallifreyan. It’s only going to get more confusing after this coming Christmas, but it’s a small price to pay.)

Meanwhile, the Doctor has changed too. He plays guitar now, which I very much approve of, and he’s capable of accepting hugs, and of being nice to Clara. It’s clearly a deliberate development from Capaldi’s first series – not so much that all the edges have been softened, but just a chance for him to show more aspects of his character. He’s just as cocky and full of swagger as the rest of the modern Doctors when he wants to be.

Not that this story wasn’t serious business. We’re on Skaro, with ALL the Daleks, and the first episode (seemingly) ends with Missy and Clara exterminated, the TARDIS destroyed, and the Doctor pointing a Dalek gun at a child. Yep, high stakes indeed. It doesn’t matter that all of these were later revealed to be deliberately misleading, as they made for a hugely impactful cliffhanger, plus we haven’t even got on to the main meat of the episode yet.

It’s all about the Doctor and Davros having a big old chat, and there a few things more appealing, especially when it’s Capaldi’s Doctor and Julian Bleach’s utterly superb Davros. This is an exercise in taking the hypothetical situations mentioned in Genesis, and testing the Doctor’s resolve when they’re suddenly less hypothetical. I was thinking about the “could you then kill that child?” question right from the start, but I wasn’t expecting the Tom footage to be played in. Davros seemingly records all his conversations with the Doctor, the big stalker.

The Doctor is also given the opportunity to play God, and to wipe the Daleks out completely, but of course he chooses not to – he still doesn’t have the right. Compassion is always the way, even with Davros, and the quiet, heartfelt moments between the two of them are among the best Davros scenes ever. He cries and he laughs. He opens his eyes. He asks if he’s a good man. It’s incredible drama.

Of course, it turns out to all be a trap. It’s slightly having your cake and eating it to play out the scenario of a humble, humanised Davros, and then reveal that he was faking it, but I don’t really care – I love those scenes anyway, and the fact that the Doctor was wise to it all along seems to save it, in some sort of double negative situation. And there’s so much brilliant stuff that I’ve not mentioned – the Doctor nicking Davros’s chair, the sewers, the in-universe explanation for why the Daleks say “exterminate” over and over. A phenomenal start to the series.

One last thing to note, as it illustrates just how long this project’s been going. This episode hadn’t aired when I started, and so when I came to write up the Daleks’ first appearance in the second serial, I speculated that a companion getting inside an empty Dalek casing is something that would never happen these days. As Paul Hayes pointed out in the comments after this aired: how wrong I was.

RATING: 10

Dark Water / Death in Heaven

This is the first two-parter for a hell of a long time, and I must admit it was nice yesterday to just watch an episode without having to immediately write about it. This is a return to the traditional two part finale, where the first episode takes its time to slowly build to a climax, putting everything in place for the real action to begin in the second. Knowing what’s coming allows you to appreciate the details during the set up. Those teardrop logos were everywhere, but I don’t think I noticed them on first viewing until the little Cybermen sting played.

The big highlight of the first episode was of course the death of Danny Pink. I know it’s supposed to be sad, but I was just amused at the possibly that the accident was Clara’s fault for bollocking on at him while he was trying to cross the road. The volcano scene, though, is incredibly powerful and tense. I love the pay-off – “do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference? – as it says everything about how the Doctor really feels, despite his general demeanour.

This could easily have been redemption for Danny’s character, but he’s still a bit of a knob even when he’s dead. He’s so thick that he can’t think of something to tell Clara that only he’d know. And later, when he becomes a sad Cyberman, why does he take her to cemetery, of all places, when he knew it’d be full of reanimated Cybercorpses? Then, when she’s talking about the Doctor and being a liar, he loses his temper and points his gun at her. There’s no coming back from that – he can fuck off and stay dead.

The Cybermen were nice and formidable, despite still retaining the Wrong Trousers sound effect, and the shot of them all emerging from St Paul’s was obviously very special. But they were very much second fiddle to Missy. The gender swap really works, and makes me excited about the Doctor’s future. I wonder how long the Master had been wanting to snog the Doctor. If indeed this was the first time it’s happened.

On to the second episode then, in which the actor credits are swapped round and it’s Clara’s eyes that appear in the titles. This is a lot of fun, but the Clara-as-the-Doctor stuff is little more than a red herring. What’s far more interesting is the actual Doctor teaming up with his new UNIT chums to become the President of the Earth, and I love that he gloats to Missy about how he’s got what she’s always wanted.

I like that one of those chums is Sanjeev Bhaskar, and it’s a shame that he didn’t have more to do, but then nobody survives very long around the Master, who’s just as callous and cruel as ever. The Doctor sealed Osgood’s fate when he started hinting that she could become a companion, but it was always in the back of my mind that there were two of her knocking about. Kate’s apparent death is shocking, but not as shocking as how she survived. I have some reservations about how tasteful the Cyberbrig is, but the Doctor saluting him brought a tear to my eye.

All that remains is for Danny Pink to sacrifice himself a couple of times – which still isn’t quite enough to make him less of a prick – and for Clara to have the first of her several goodbye scenes. I’d forgotten about the indecisiveness around when she’d leave, but I’m glad that she stayed on, as I really like her and Capaldi together. I know they both have their critics, but it’s that partnership that made me enjoy this series so much, which in turn inspired me to start this project. After the 50th anniversary reinvigorated my love for Who, this series cemented it.

RATING: 9

SERIES AVERAGE RATING: 8

  • Seasons/Series watched: 34 of 36
  • Stories watched: 252 of 275
  • Individual episodes watched: 812 of 839

In the Forest of the Night

I remember this one as being an absolute stinker, but on second viewing it’s not terrible, just a little bit meh. It’s always a risk to put kids at the centre of the action, and the sheer number of them involved on this occasion inevitably led to one or two quite annoying ones slipping through the net. It’s odd that Courtney isn’t among their number – I know she’s a little older than this lot, but if you’re going to have a bunch of Coal Hill kids as guest stars, you’d think the one we’d already met would tag along.

Instead, it’s Danny Pink’s chance to take part in an adventure properly, for the first and, it will soon transpire, the last time. I remember being convinced at the time that Danny would turn out to be evil in some way – I just thought that the only explanation for his lack of warmth or charm was that we weren’t supposed to like him. The undercurrent of controlling behaviour is never far away, masked by a nauseating “nice guy” persona. Still no real idea what Clara sees in him.

Luckily, whenever Capaldi’s on screen, things are basically fine. He makes the episode entertaining enough, it’s just that there isn’t much in the way of a threat. It’s just some trees. The only scares come from some CGI zoo animals, and it’s the quality of the effects that are the most frightening thing. Of course, the lack of threat was the point of the story – the trees were our friends all along – but it’s alarming how slowly the Doctor figures it out. He actually decided to leave the human race to die before he made the link between the impending giant fireball and the flame-resistant forest, despite many clunking clues being dropped.

It was all a bit of an anti-climax really, considering how strong the imagery of an overgrown London is. It’s one of those plots that plays without the Doctor actually doing anything – he even leaves the job of calling off the defoliators to a tiny child, who all the world’s authorities take orders from, for some reason. Then we’re told that the entire population will simply forget that this had happened, again just for some reason, and despite all the news footage and selfies we’d been shown throughout.

It’s a flawed episode, and it must have left me wanting more Who that week, because we’ve now reached something of a milestone. I started this watch-through on the day after this episode aired. This is where we came in, over three years ago. It’s strange to think that everything that’s still to go was yet to be released – and in most cases yet to be made – back when I picked An Unearthly Child off the shelf.

RATING: 6

Flatline

Two episodes in a row by the same writer (has that ever been done by someone other than a showrunner before?), and they share a few things in common, starting with the short and snappy pretitles depicting the first of many grisly deaths. And much like MOTOE, it’s absolutely brilliant. I’d never heard of Jamie Mathieson before he did Who, yet he went and delivered two of the best episodes of the series.

The tiny TARDIS is a hell of a hook, as well as being totally adorable, and also a means of getting Capaldi out of a load of location filming. It’s a Doctor-lite story that doesn’t feel like one, as he’s constantly there, he’s just in Clara’s handbag. The setup allows Clara to be the Doctor for the day, and she’s brilliant at it. It hasn’t been that long since I was watching her earliest appearances, and the difference is staggering. I think this episode was the tipping point that switched my opinion from “well, she’s definitely better than she was last year” to “ok, she’s actually a great companion now”.

With the companion being the Doctor, the companion’s very own companion was Rigsy, who did the job well. In another parallel with the last one, the first half of the episode was a creepy and careful constructed murder mystery, and I very much enjoyed the slow build up, taking the time to really explore the situation. Once the Doctor had figured it out, it segued into a traditional monster chase, complete with gang to be picked off one by one, and this was equally successful, providing the highlight of the episode when the Doctor had to “Addams Family” the TARDIS out of danger.

Among the ensemble were one of the coppers from Early Doors as a train driver, and Moxey from Auf Wiedersehen Pet as an irredeemably unpleasant prick, who seemingly exists to show that it’s not always the nice ones who survive. This is something that also happened in Voyage of the Damned, and as this is the second day in a row I’ve been reminded of that shambles, I reckon Mathieson is inexplicably a fan. It looked for a while like Rigsy would make the noble sacrifice, and I enjoyed the subversion as Clara drags him away, but it would have been interesting to explore why he was so keen to go on a suicide mission, albeit possibly too dark for Saturday teatime.

Instead, he gets to save the day through spraypainting a fake door, like he’s Wile E Coyote, allowing the Doctor to finally get out of the TARDIS and kick some arse. I bloody love Capaldi. The closing scene where the Doctor is perturbed by how well Clara deputised for him is – in retrospect – the first seeds of the hybrid thing that ran through the following series.

There’s just time for a tiny Missy cameo, where she implies that she “chose” Clara. We’re getting to the stage now where, even though I’ve never rewatched these episodes before, they’re recent enough that I can remember what all the foreshadowing refers to.

RATING: 10

The Caretaker

It’s fairly rare these days for the Doctor to spend a prolonged period of time on contemporary Earth. More often than not, it comes about because he has no choice but to stay in one place, and it usually falls to Gareth Roberts to write it. Like the recent James Cordon-based diversions, this episode is a cheap and cheerful change of pace, but it differs in that it focuses on driving the over-arching stories of the series forward, rather than taking a break from them.

This is the most soapy the show has ever been, and that’s not a criticism; there’s a reason soaps are the most popular dramas on TV, and there’s no reason why Doctor Who shouldn’t aim to have characters who you care enough about to be invested in their personal lives. I guess the crux of this episode is whether you consider Clara to be at that level; I remember not quite being there with her when this went out, but I am now, and so I welcomed the chance to learn more about her in a less-hectic-than-usual episode.

Danny Pink, on the other hand, is a complete knobhead. I can’t help but agree with the Doctor that Clara has “made a boyfriend error”. It’s not that he’s necessarily in the wrong – it’s natural that he’d be suspicious of the Doctor, and keen to protect Clara, and he does have a point about the Doctor being like a military officer. But considering that we barely know him, who does he think he is, coming round here calling our hero a prick? Putting him in direct opposition to the best character in the history of television doesn’t help us to like him.

The bigger issue, though, is how he is with Clara when they’re in private. He’s controlling, demanding and manipulative, asserting his patriarchal dominance and using emotional blackmail to get his own way. He makes her promise to never hide anything from him, as he believes that being her boyfriend entitles him to control her life, and threatens to leave her if she doesn’t comply. He’s not good enough for her – not because he’s an ex-soldier, or because he resembles a P.E teacher, just because he’s a bit of a shit.

Still, I’ve found that I’m able to look past my dislike of Danny Pink more often than not during this rewatch. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking forward to seeing him die fairly soon. Putting him to one side, there was plenty to enjoy here, with Capaldi on great form as usual, and given a fair amount of comedy to do. I loved his assumption that Clara’s boyfriend would be the one who looks vaguely like Matt Smith, and how pleased with himself it made him. Plus Chris Addison has turned up now, raising the prospect of a Malcolm/Ollie reunion.

RATING: 7