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Published on November 24th, 2014 | by Brad

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Crosstalk – Doctor Who Series 8: Part 2

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Welcome back to what we’re definitely not calling Three Bods Ones TARDIS. Once again I’m joined by Mike and Darryll, as we delve into the eighth series of Doctor Who. When we left you last week, the Doctor had met Danny for the first time whilst posing as The Caretaker at Coal Hill School. We return with probably the most divisive episode of the lot, Kill the Moon.

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I think people’s opinions on this basically boiled down to a) “can you forgive the silly science?” and b) “do you like the last scene?” For me, the answer was largely a yes to both, though I would call the episode as a whole fair to middling. The Moon as an egg is ludicrous, but ultimately that wasn’t the point, it was about the Doctor pushing Clara a little too far, and seeing how she reacted. Could perhaps have done without the world’s least subtle abortion allegory. As to the last scene between Clara and the Doctor, I loved it. People are getting really angry about the slap, but to be honest, had I been put in the same position, I would probably have hit him too. I don’t think it was at all sexist, I thought it was a pretty understandably angry reaction to how he’d manipulated her, and what he was forcing her to do unnecessarily. Slight pacing concern, as I think the moment came too soon after Danny told her it would in The Caretaker. It also meant that Clara and the Doctor reunited far too quickly. Could perhaps have stood to have had In the Forest of the Night here, or between this one and Mummy, to both space out the Doctor/Clara travelling reunion and not dip the momentum between Flatline and the finale. Though I’ll get to Forest and its problems later. Gents?

DARRYLL:

I was trying to remember what else happens in this episode then I heard my son shouting about spiders and it slowly came trickling back. I enjoyed most of this episode, the spider-creatures were suitably scary and,as Brad mentioned, the dynamic between Doctor and Companion was a little bit different which made it interesting. Just how far would the Doctor go? The ending was daft but I’ve seen dafter things, including Ken Dodd, in previous episodes. I did feel that the ending lost some of it’s punch because it wasn’t at all believable that Clara was going to leave at this point, way to many obvious sub plots dangling around.

MICHAEL:

Yeah I agree with the above that the timing of the episode was a bit off – it was too early for Clara leaving to be a real possibility and as Brad says it was probably a bit too hot on the heels of The Caretaker, story arc wise. As for the content of the episode itself, giant/dangerous parasites or even immune systems are nothing we haven’t seen before (even earlier in this series in Into The Dalek) but the spiders were suitably creepy and helped the pacing early on. In reference to unsubtle abortion allegory, thinking back on this episode it almost feels like something South Park might pull! I did love the central conceit of the Doctor just leaving- this new one is still testing the waters where interacting with humans is concerned and it is nice to see something that is unique to this Doctor. I felt the ending was dreadful – the creature laying another egg (bigger than itself!) in the same spot before leaving reminded me of the Armin Tamzarian episode of The Simpsons – it’s over now, let’s never speak of this again!

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Next up was Mummy On The Orient Express or to give it its full title ‘Mummy On The Orient Express…In Space!’ I loved this episode – good old fashioned monster (continuing the AI repeating patterns theme), very Whovian setting, even a pleasingly odd performance from Frank Skinner whose plucky engineer is ever so slightly off, as he helps the Doctor unravel the mystery. I won’t go on at length but I’d just like to say I like the continuing mystery about who it was who got all these people (all experts in their field) together. The Doctor mentions he doesn’t like whomever it was, which is of course what he said in Time Heist

DARRYLL:

This episode was one of my favourites this series. Frank Skinner turned out to be wonderful which was a surprise because I do worry about these comedian guest stars: Peter Kay, David Walliams and I’ve already mentioned Ken Dodd. I agree with Mike that it is very Whovian, reminded me of the Tom Baker Gothic Horror era which is always a good thing. The story was fun, exciting and had a touch of horror. I’m not sure why it had to be ‘in space’ and not on the real Orient Express but not even Clara’s appearance at the very beginning and then her sudden mind change at the end could ruin this episode for me.

BRAD:

Unanimous on the love-in for this one. Brilliant episode. I thought the mummy was a great monster, and the episode as a whole was a much better take on the Agatha Christie formula than The Unicorn and the Wasp. Top notch. Also, of all the callbacks in this series, this episode’s “Are you my mummy?” might have been my favourite!

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Next up came Flatline, which again I really liked. Structurally quite similar to The Girl Who Waited in doing the Doctor-lite episode by keeping all his scenes in the TARDIS, allowing him to be a presence throughout without the need for him to actually be there. The gags with the small TARDIS were fun, the Boneless were a very cool idea for a monster (even if you might have missed their naming due to a somewhat over-exuberant bit of sound-mixing) and I once again really enjoyed Clara.

DARRYLL:

Yes, another really good episode. True, the sound was a bit over powering (and not for the first or the last time this series) but it was very enjoyable and the concept for the 2D monsters was really good. Plus, the humour in this episode was very well handled and executed. ‘Thing’ moving the TARDIS had everyone (in our house) laughing. Plus there were some good supporting characters here to interact with Clara.

MICHAEL:

Again agreed, very enjoyable episode. The villains were suitably creepy and I liked the abstract nature of what was going on. Thank God for your review at the time though Brad because I genuinely didn’t hear what the Doctor named them! He did that with such a flourish though that I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing them again. Jenna Coleman did an excellent job doing the heavy lifting in this one and played off the rest of the cast well. It was actually the second Doctor Who episode in a row that reminded me of The Voyage of The Damned, the previous week’s did because it was set on a spacebound version of an iconic vehicle, this one did because it was remarked that those who survive aren’t always those you’d want to – in this instance Christopher Fairbank’s Fenton, a man so deeply unpleasant and lacking in imagination that the slightly psychic paper doesn’t work on him. Special mentions too to the excellent Addams Family gag as Darryll mentioned as well as the nice train driver, who’d always wanted to ram something.

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I imagine this next one will be more divisive. It has kids! It has Danny! It has a barely comprehensible plot that was clearly thought of late in the proceedings! Yes it’s In The Forest Of The Night (what night?) an episode that is more fantasy or fairy tale than Science Fiction, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, of course. I liked the initial set up with the telepathic Little Red Riding girl and the inexplicable appearance of the forest and the reckoning between Clara’s two lives was overdue, though it didn’t really make for compelling viewing. The denouement left me cold to be honest – it was very deus ex machina, like an explanation that occurred to the writers after they’d written most of the rest of the episode. Thoughts?

DARRYLL:

I can take or leave this one. I am sure that I’ll watch it again but only if I was to do a series run. I would have felt more comfortable with the general idea of the ‘Trees’ if this had been set on another planet, an alien environment where this kind of thing could happen. But on Earth? With Danny Pink  blundering emotionless through his part? Not for me. And where were all the other Londoners? You can’t move for people in London, if a massive forest suddenly appeared they’d be everywhere, wouldn’t they? I thought the concept was a difficult sell which meant it was difficult to get into. And haven’t there been a lot of kids this series? We’ve constantly been told that this series is ‘growing up’ and it’s been moved to a later time slot yet there are tonnes of characterless children running around, serving no real purpose. Maybe another viewing may help (it sometimes does) as this is the only episode of the series that I haven’t seen twice (another effect of the later start time. My kids love Doctor Who but can rarely stay up till half 8 so we have watched a lot of this series again Sunday morning).

BRAD:

I think I described the plot at the time as inconsequential. I’m going to stick with that. Bugger all happens, and in a largely uninteresting fashion. The purpose, of course, being to have a quiet, Doctor/Clara/Danny episode before the finale. And their scenes together, I really liked. Samuel Anderson did a lot of the heavy lifting at times this series, and I definitely think calling his naturalistic, underplaying style “emotionless” is way too harsh. I really grew to like Danny over the course of the series. Which of course made the next bit tough to take.

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The opening to Dark Water, with Danny’s death, is absolutely brutal. Modern Doctor Who is very good at tugging at the heart strings, and Clara’s numb devastation really hit home. Her lack of perspective brought about by travelling with the Doctor also hit home in that fantastic scene with her Nanna, where she’s more upset at how mundane Danny’s death was than the fact that he’s dead. For the episode directly after Halloween to be so concerned with death made sense, but I thought this was unusually dark. The notion of the dead still being conscious and aware of what is happening to them is utterly horrifying, even if that was revealed to be a hoax. The reveal of the Cybermen was well-handled, and I thought the sequences in the second part with Danny in the Cyber-body was probably the best examination of the real horror of the Cybermen that new Doctor Who has had to offer so far. And of course, the Master. Some had called the Missy = Mistress = Master thing ahead of time; I hadn’t, I’d heard the idea but I didn’t think they’d have the guts. In hindsight, if there’s one thing Steven Moffatt has shown in his time as show-runner is that he doesn’t give a hoot what people think of him. The ultimate canon confirmation that yes, Time Lords can change gender when they regenerate, opens the floor for a female Doctor in the future, and I look forward to seeing that. In the interim, I want more Michelle Gomez as the Master. She was brilliant!

DARRYLL:

I think we already know I’m not a fan of Danny and as the series went on I disliked him more and more so his ‘death’ wasn’t really upsetting. Dark Water started well with the Doctor on another planet up to something that seems a lot more interesting than the rest of the episode. I’m afraid I thought this was one of the worst episodes I’ve watched in a long time. Nothing happens. The Cyberman reveal is uncomfortably slow and the whole Nether-sphere MacGuffin is pointless and makes no sense. It wasn’t until the second half of the finale that I actually warmed to Michelle Gomez and I even said somewhere else that I found Capaldi slightly frustrating in this first part.

There has also been a lot said about the ‘darker’ elements of this story which aren’t pleasant but I thought that the true horror of it was lost in the bad script and dire direction. Like the naming of the 2D beasties in Flatline, I missed a lot of the actual narrative, at least I think I missed it. And dark story lines are nothing new to Doctor Who. In Revelation of the Daleks, Davros uses the organic material from cryogenically frozen people, who expected to be brought back to life when their diseases were cured, to create new Daleks. In one scene one of the victims begs his daughter to kill him before he becomes a fully mutated Dalek. Seems familiar.

As a series there have been high points and low points, which is the same every year. There are a lot of elements to like and a few they could have done without but what has made this series different from previous years is the way these elements have interacted. With series three, for example, I could pick out 6 or 7 episodes to happily watch and enjoy and avoid the rubbish, or with series one you just don’t watch anything with the Slitheen in it. But this year, the disagreeable elements have been woven into the fabric of the series so it’s difficult to avoid the unneces-sphere or Danny Pink.

I love Capaldi and could watch his Doctor who hours and by the end I loved the new incarnation of the Master. Their scenes together made the series finale. It’s just a shame that they decided that this series was going  to be about Clara leaving the TARDIS. I long for the days when the Doctor would just wander off at the end of an adventure leaving the companion behind with nothing more than a hug and a piece of faux philosophical whimsy.

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MICHAEL:

So, Orson Pink: Not a direct descendant of Danny’s then? Very odd, unless there’s more to come on that score. Danny’s death initially didn’t have much of an impact on me because I really did think it was part of a scheme rather than the random hit and run it appeared to be. And since Missy chose Clara for this purpose, wouldn’t it make sense for her to have been behind Danny’s death? The extra scene at the end of Death In Heaven explicitly brought up unresolved issues around Clara and the Doctor, I wonder if that still extends to Danny as well.

As for the episode itself like all big Doctor Who episodes there was a lot both good and bad. The rain business was a bit daft and the nethersphere was largely unnecessary but on the other hand Michelle Gomez made a wonderful Master. Much has been said about Peter Capaldi bringing Malcolm Tucker to the Doctor, well Michelle Gomez really was just Sue White with a disintegrater weapon. Her flirtatious badinage with a clearly uncomfortable Doctor had all the hallmarks of Sue White hankering after Doctor McCartney.  I’d say the performance was a revelation but Gomez has done it before. Both episodes were brutal – the afterlife reveal especially so which is why I think the Doctor was so quick to denounce it. Equally harsh was the killing of Osgood and the apparent death of Kate Stewart. Osgood of course had earlier committed the cardinal sin of confusing Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, which is probably why the Master killed her.

The whole thing inevitably finished in a graveyard, where Danny finally, for want of a better phrase, came alive. He was quite touching as the Cyberman retaining his humanity but he was still outdone. First it was by the Master, who, it transpired, just wanted her friend back. The way she was determined to prove the Doctor was the same as her reminded me very strongly of the Batman/Joker dynamic. Of course until recently the roles were reversed: The Doctor, the hero, was the clownish, irrepressible one and The Master was haughty and arrogant. It was only with the John Simm version that the Master became so vital and flippant as part of a deliberate effort on behalf of the writers to have the Master use the Doctor’s own strength against him. Michelle Gomez has taken this idea and run with it; in any one scene she can be coquettish, frivolous, murderous.

Secondly though Danny was outdone by the other Cyberman who has resisted reprogamming, the man who saved Kate Stewart. ‘Where else would you be?’ asks the Doctor of his old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who finally receives his long awaited salute from the Doctor. This types up a loose thread that has been dangling for some time after the 11th Doctor failed to catch the Brigadier on his ‘farewell tour’ (in real life, Nicholas Courtney had been too ill to film any scenes). After apparently killing the Master (let’s hope not, eh?) to save the Doctor’s soul, the Brigadier sets sail for adventure and flies off into the skies. This gives us the tantalising possibility that the Doctor will be faced down by two armies of his greatest enemies, the Daleks and the Cybermen and when all seems lost he reveals he has an inside man in both… Anyway, it wasn’t among the strongest episodes of the series but it was pretty good as finales go, even managing to make the largely pathetic Cybermen seem threatening for once.

BRAD:

For my part, I really enjoyed Death in Heaven. I thought Danny’s predicament was very creepy, a rare look into the almost Cronenbergian body-horror of the Cybermen. Can’t deny I welled up a little bit at Cyber-Brig. I thought it was a very strong ending to what’s been a very strong series overall, a couple of minor hiccups aside. Peter Capaldi is tremendous throughout, and I hope this is the first year of many with him in the role.

Thank you all very much for reading, and thank you Darryll and Mike for helping me out with this. I will be back on Boxing Day with a review of the Christmas special, I hope these fine gentlemen will be here too. Did you like the series? Let us know in the comments!

Brad

Brad

Consumer. Scribbler. Occasional drunkard. Nice beard, though...
Brad

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