Farewell to Matt Smith

Doctor Who - Farewell to Matt Smith

UK TV channel Watch is bidding farewell to Matt Smith on Good Friday (that’s next week folks) with a special show narrated by Alex Kingston (she of River Song fame).

Smith was probably the most successful Doctor of all time (at least internationally) and was nominated for quite a few shiny awards.

The show airs at 5pm

You can watch a clip of a show here:

Farewell to Matt Smith

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Review – The Time of the Doctor. A non-Christmas special

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8:30pm Christmas Day. Matt Smith’s final episode of Doctor Who had been and gone. And I was feeling somewhat unhappy.

I thought at the time it was because the episode failed to live up to my expectations. A kitchen sink of ideas were thrown at it, and only some worked. There was a lot of hurried explanations and really boring standing around and not doing very much. After a year of wonderful Who moments, I felt it had all ended on a sour note.

But then, less than 30 minutes later, I watched it again. And I realised that wasn’t why I was unhappy at all.

Excuse me for getting briefly personal for a moment. 2013 has been a big year for me. My grandfather passed away in January, I have moved out of my family home and moved in with my girlfriend. I’ve taken an important new job. My younger brothers have also moved out, one has bought a house and the other has left to University.

Most of those developments are good. But change is also inherently sad. It represents growing up, leaving something behind. Getting older. And amongst the nonsense about Trenzalore, returning Time Lords, Wooden Cybermen and regeneration cycles, this is what Time of The Doctor was really about.

There were two moments in particular that affected me the most. And no, I don’t mean the moment Smith regenerated or the death of Handles – The Doctor’s answer to Wilson from Castaway.

No, the scenes I am referring to were the moment when Clara’s grandmother told the story of how she met her (clearly now departed) husband, and fiddled with her wedding ring, recalling the moment she wished time would stop.

And then, just a few moments later, when Clara visited the elderly Doctor, and had to help him muster the energy to pull a Christmas cracker.

These were not Doctor Who sci-fi, timey-wimey moments. But real ones, about getting old and times gone by. And it hurt.

“LET ME BE CLEAR. NO ONE OTHER THAN ME CAN SEE YOUR CLOTHES?”

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Contrast those end scenes with how Time of the Doctor opened, and you’d be forgiven for thinking these were different episodes entirely.

It was by far one of the most amusing openers to a Doctor Who we’ve seen for a long while. Talking Cyberman heads, nudity at dinner (this had me particularly laughing), walking onto the wrong spaceships, pretending to be the boyfriend, the bald Doctor, cooking a turkey. The jokes came so fast it was hard to keep up and it was certainly entertaining, with writer Steven Moffat showing off his comedy credentials once again.

But the show’s problem came about when it started indulging in Who lore and exploring the entire tenure of Smith’s reign as the Doctor.

Christmas Specials of Doctor Who are, by nature of it being a special, the bigger episodes each year. They draw in audiences far larger than the normal series. So I have to wonder how many people were able to follow the story once the silliness had subsided, and we were presented with cracks on the wall (which we’ve not seen for 3 and a half years), flashbacks to The God Complex (which only the Whovians will remember) and a lot of quick-fire answers to questions that some of us have forgotten.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the fact we now know who Madame Kovarian was, who blew up the Tardis, what was in the Doctor’s hotel room in The God Complex and why The Silence have been engineered to make you forget about them once you look away. But this is a Christmas Special, and there are a good few million people watching that won’t have a clue what’s going on. And I imagine a number mainstream TV critics will be sharpening their knives over that.

There were also quite a number of moments in the show I found quite hard to believe. Moments that were rapidly explained and, unless you were paying very close attention, you may have missed. You barely had a moment to process the standoff situation between The Doctor and his enemies, before we were indulged with a comedy scene featuring two Sontarans and an invisibility cloak. Slow paced this was not.

And the ideas kept coming. Zombie Daleks reappeared, Weeping Angels climbing out of snow, Wooden Cybermen trying to kill The Doctor (although… seeing as they were scared he’d say his name before he died, I’m not sure why). And The Doctor ageing (which he didn’t do when he spent hundreds of years wandering around in the sixth series, but I guess we can let that slide. Right?).

Clara spent much of her time getting manipulated and sent back to her time. It feels as if Moffat isn’t too sure what to do with her. She now lives on a Council Estate (just like Rose Tyler) and has a rude mother (just like Donna’s). And would you look at that, she happens to have a crush on the Doctor. Maybe Capaldi won’t be her cup of tea.

Orla Brady’s psychotic and charming Tasha Lem was a far more entertaining character. Can she be the companion instead?

“DO YOU KNOW HOW TO FLY THIS THING?”

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It may not have been the perfect send-off for Smith, but after two viewings I have to conclude this was a decent episode of Doctor Who. The moment when the elderly Doctor received extra regenerations, he casts down his cane and blasts The Daleks out of the sky – in what has to be one of the most dramatic regenerations ever – was a fist pumping moment. There were scenes of pure joy, laughter and deep sadness. It ticked all those boxes. It featured some wonderful performances. And it’s a brave man to create one of the geekiest episodes of Who, and broadcast it during BBC 1 primetime on Christmas Day.

But let’s address that final scene. Smith’s goodbye. The appearance of Capaldi and the cameo from Amelia Pond. It was a strange one that didn’t really work. Not quite the emotional goodbye of Tennant or the quick-fire regeneration of Eccleston. It came somewhere in between. A little rushed, even if the appearance of a noticeably different Karen Gillan was a nice touch.

And whoever is directing Doctor Who these days, can you please dial down Murray Gold’s score and the sci-fi beeping during these dramatic moments? I am still not entirely sure exactly what Capaldi was saying in his first moment of the Doctor, and when the elderley Doctor was yelling at the Daleks, I had to listen very carefully to make out what was being said.

Then again. Maybe I’m just getting old.

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The Eleven best stories of the Eleventh Doctor

Series 6 was a bit inconsistent and repetitive. There weren’t too many stand-out moments in Series Seven. And some of the stories across all of them just didn’t add up. But, all-in-all, The Eleventh Doctor’s (and show runner Steven Moffat’s) three seasons and multiple specials were a triumph. Funny, fast-paced, dramatic and filled with more good ideas than the entire of ITV. And we’ve still not seen the final episode.

So actually picking eleven highlight stories from the Eleventh Doctor’s reign was a tough one. And I know for certain that my eleven will differ from your eleven. And I’ll be interested to discover what yours were, so feel free to email me or comment below.

But in the mean time, here are my eleven best stories of the eleventh Doctor.

11. Amy’s Choice

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It was a tough one to decide what gets the 11th slot on this countdown. Angels Take Manhattan? The God Complex? In the end I picked this twisted sci-fi premise that focused on the relationship between Rory and Amy. A villain named ‘The Dream Lord’ (yes, an actual Doctor Who villain, we’ve not had one of those for a while) has placed The Doctor, Amy and Rory in two perilous situations. One is real, one is not. They need to choose which reality is real, but get it wrong, and it’s over. The episode lacked any real monster, and for all its tension, it was never as perilous as it ought to have been. But it was nevertheless a clever idea, with some great performances, not least from Toby Jones who emerged as perhaps the best Doctor Who villain in Matt Smith’s era. Shame the ending ruined that a bit.

10. The Girl Who Waited

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Another episode with a unique and twisted premise, which also focused on the relationship between Rory and Amy, was The Girl Who Waited. The episode gave Rory, Amy and The Doctor a chance to shine. And it was Gillen’s best performance as the companion by far. And that ending… what a suckerpunch. It also had a distinct minimalist look, and was an episode created on a modest budget, proving that we don’t need exploding Daleks every five minutes to shock and excite us. My only big issue with this episode is despite being entirely about Rory and Amy, there was no mention of their recently kidnapped daughter. Quite a big issue, which nearly pushed me to cut this episode entirely from the list. Watch it without the context of the series and it stands up better.

9. Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

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Blink was an understated, Doctor-lite, gem of an episode. The finest 45 minutes in Tennant’s reign as The Doctor. But rather than keep the Angels on this small scale, writer and showrunner Steven Moffat escalates it into this blockbuster two parter. Fans of Blink, myself included, may have at first felt betrayed by how the Angels went from their simple beginnings to these neck-breaking baddies that can turn you into one of them. But it’s real nit-picking, because this was a cracking Smith episode, with some of the series’ best lines, and genuine horror. The Doctor was on heroic form, and there was plenty of hints towards a spectacular series conclusion. There was also a few smart ideas, clever visual touches and the twist towards the end of the first episode was chilling.

8. The Name of the Doctor

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It’s remarkable that this episode only manages eighth on the list. The virtual conference call, the farewell to River, that jaw-dropping ending, Matt Smith’s greatest performance and some monsters that looked cool but didn’t really seem to do anything. It was a stunning finale to a mixed series, and was visually stunning. And when The Doctor grips River’s hand and says goodbye, well I had something in my eye at that point. The main drawback is that for all the hype, very little actually happened in the episode. But it was certainly a fan-pleaser.

7. Vincent and The Doctor

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The Top Seven on this list is so close to each other, that you could quite easily swap any of them around and I would not mind. Vincent and The Doctor is a tragedy, written in the typically emotionally-manipulative way by Richard Curtis. A character study on depression featuring Vincent Van Gough, which ends in a way you’d not expect a Children’s show to end. And it has my favourite Doctor Who line: “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” We’ll ignore the Athlete song at the end.

6. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

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The finale to series five had been built-up to over multiple episodes, and it did not disappoint. Kicking off the two parter in epic style, the first episode featured every Doctor Who villain, a mysterious box and an ending which saw Amy dying, The Doctor trapped unable to help, Rory becoming a monster, River in an exploding Tardis and the universe ending. In an era of Russell T Davis, the next episode would try and match the spectacle and end up disappointing. Moffat avoided this entirely by making part two an intimate jolly around a museum, pursued by a wonderful looking stone Dalek. Ok, so not everything in this two-part conclusion added up, but the scene of the Doctor dancing at a wedding was quite special.

5. The Lodger

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I nearly put this at No.1, such is my love for Gareth Roberts’ The Lodger. After episodes filled with huge scary monsters, big sci-fi concepts and explosions, this one is a mystery set in familiar territory, which means we finally found an episode we can relate to. Featuring James Corden as The Doctor’s new roommate, this was a gentle, clever story that was genuinely funny. And gave Matt Smith the chance to show off his football skills. Closing Time – the sequel to this from series 6 – was somewhat disappointing by comparison, but by no means a bad episode.

4. The Doctor’s Wife

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Doctor Who has toyed with love interests for The Doctor over the last eight years. Steven Moffat tried it with Madame de Pompadour and River, Russel ‘The’ Davis gave us Rose. But there was only one woman for our hero, and that is The Tardis. As the time machine becomes embodied in human form for the first time, The Doctor is able to speak with his oldest companion and it is genuine love. The ending, where The Tardis destroys the sinister disembodied villain before becoming a machine again, was a brutal switch from ultimate triumph to sadness. Neil Gaiman’s first Doctor Who episode was a real masterpiece.

3. The Day of the Doctor

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Wow. I have yet to fully review this cinematic and dramatic spectacle of an episode, but my mark words, I loved it. Not just for the interplay between Hurt, Smith and Tennant, or the nods to Who history. Or for that surprise at the end, or that surprise towards the end. But for the great reappearance of the Zygons, the silly Elizabeth the first storyline, the smart paintings idea, that moment the Doctor smashed those Daleks to pieces with his Tardis. The fact that it opened with a huge nod to classic Who, before doing a ‘movie-style’ opening complete with Murray Gold’s finest score. It was fantastic.

2. Asylum of the Daleks

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Dalek episodes in the new Who era have been mixed. The Ninth Doctor had a few decent episodes. But then we had Daleks vs Cybermen, Human Daleks, Davros and *shudder* Victory of the Daleks, which made the Doctor’s ultimate foe appear silly and just not scary in the slightest. Thank goodness Moffat stepped up to fix all that. Asylum of the Daleks was a frightening, clever, spectacle of an episode, that brought the horror of these galaxy-conquering villains to life once again. And it had Zombie Daleks in it. I mean come on. That’s genius.

1. The Eleventh Hour Image

For all of the greatness of the Eleventh Doctor’s reign, nothing has quite lived up to that first episode. 65 minutes that zipped by in a flash. Smith was on quirky alien form, munching down fish fingers and custard, chatting to Patrick Moore and saving the day, before calling the baddies back to tell them off. Amy Pond, from cute little girl to sexy, angry woman in just one scene. A terrifying villain that would have had me unable to sleep had I been a younger boy. It managed the transition from Tennant to Smith with ease, and it was also the first time we heard the phrase ‘Silence will Fall’. That’s right… the story isn’t over yet.

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Eleven mysteries of the Eleventh Doctor

Christmas Day marks the end of the Eleventh Doctor. And there’s a lot of mysteries to get answered in 60 minutes of Television, mysteries built up over three series and a handful of specials.

So what is there left to reveal from The Time of the Doctor?

Image 1. Who blew up the Tardis in Series 5?

Ah The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, the series five finale that featured a lot of drama and panic but no real bad guy. Yep, someone has set The Doctor up, and what’s more, blew up the Tardis. ‘Silence Will Fall’ were the words that echoed through the halls as River tried to prevent the inevitable. Who said those words? Who blew up the Tardis? The Doctor suspected we would find out soon enough, but two series and four specials later, and we still don’t know. The Great Intelligence? The Silence? Someone else entirely?

Chance of finding out: Very likely. We’ve been building up to this for some time.

2. How did he get out of the Pandorica?Image

You know that moment in Doctor Who, where you feel the writers think they have cleverly got The Doctor out of a seemingly impossible pickle, only when you actually think about it, it doesn’t make sense? At the end of The Pandorica Opens, The Doctor is trapped in a box, Rory is an Auton, Amy has been shot and is dying, River is an exploding Tardis and THE UNIVERSE ENDED. Not even I was sure how The Doctor would fix this mess. It was perhaps the most epic ending to an episode I’ve ever seen. And how did he do it? A future version of himself popped back in time and let himself out the box. Only… that’s not possible because there would not be a future version of himself unless he got out of the box in the first place. Nonsense.

Chances of finding out? None. It’s just one of those things that I’ll never let die.

Image3. Who the blazes is Madame Kovarian?

The closest we’ve had to a real Who villain during the entire Moffat era is Madame Kovarian. Played to sadistic perfection by Frances Barber. She is somehow involved with The Silence, she wants the Doctor dead… badly. She was killed by Amy in what has to be one of the most jaw dropping scenes of series 6, only as River pointed out, that was in an aborted timeline and so she’s probably still around somewhere, being all malicious and mean. Why does she hate The Doctor? What has happened to her?

Chances of finding out: I’d say there’s a decent chance here. Especially as she was trying to prevent the exact thing that will happen in Time of the Doctor.

4. Who gave Clara The Doctor’s phone number?Image

Considering how dramatic this year’s Doctor Who has been, it’s perhaps easy to forget this one. In The Bells of Saint John, the decent albeit unspectacular start to Season Seven Part Two, The Doctor’s phone rings. This is not meant to happen, as mentioned by The Ninth Doctor all the way back in 2005 (which was also a  Steven Moffat episode). It’s Clara on the phone and she needs help with her internet. Who gave Clara the number? A woman in the shop who says The Doctor is the best in the universe. Who was that woman? River? Someone more interesting?

Chances of finding out: High. This could be one of those things left hanging. But I strongly doubt it.

Image5. What was in The Doctor’s hotel room?

In one of the more decent standalone stories from Series Six (The God Complex), The Doctor and a group of terrified strangers are locked in a hotel. In the hotel are rooms and one room will contain that person’s greatest fear. Sometimes it’s a clown or a monster. The Doctor soon discovers his room, he opens it, “Of course it’s you,” he says. The Cloister Bell ringing in the background. The Doctor then closes it and it is never brought up again. What the devil was it?

Chances of finding out: I’d have said none. Except the scene has cropped up in the latest US trailer. So… almost certain.

6. Why was The Doctor, River, Rory and Amy being gunned down by the US in The Day of the Moon?Image

At the end of The Impossible Astronaut, Amy has shot a little girl in a Space Suit having just told The Doctor she’s pregnant, River and Rory are in peril from The Silence and Canton Everett Delaware III has been rendered unconscious. All of them had been tasked by The President of the United States, Richard Nixon, to find out who keeps calling him in the dead of night. Exciting and baffling all at once. The very next episode? The Doctor is being encased in a prison and his companions are running away from a malicious Canton and FBI agents as he hunts them all down and shoots them all. It turns out to be a big rouse, and Canton was only pretending in order to get them into the same room together. But… why were they being hunted by US security agents in the first place? Especially (as is revealed later in the episode) The President is still working with them? I’ve watched the episode countless times and I still don’t know.

Chances of finding out: None. The writers clearly thought they had an exciting beginning on their hands and didn’t care that it didn’t quite fit with the previous episode.

Image7. How did The Silence get a Tardis?

It cropped up in Season Five in the excellent standalone episode, The Lodger. It then reappeared in Texas owned by The Silence (The Impossible Astronaut). It’s a Tardis, that looks bloody awesome and a little bit evil. But who owns it? Does it belong to the The Silence? And why is it following The Doctor through history?

Chances of finding out: 50/50. To be honest, there’s no need to really explain anything about it, other than it may explain who Madame Kovarian is, and how The Silence survived The Doctor’s annihilation of them all.

8. What were The Silence doing on Earth?Image

The Silence were influencing and changing the course of human history over thousands of years. But why? Why do the humans even matter? Actually, who are The Silence really? Where do they come from and what do they want?

Chances of finding out: Hopefully quite high. Especially as they are in the episode as one of the main villains. Silence will fall?

Image9. Doctor Who?

“The first question, the question that must never be answered, hidden in plain sight. The question you have been running from all your life. Doctor Who?” Has the prophecy already come to pass? I doubt it. The question and the fall of the Eleventh is all still to play for. So… will we finally discover The Doctor’s name? And why is it such a big deal in the first place?

Chances of finding out: Not a chance. Whatever his name is, it’ll be disappointing. I’m hoping for Dave. Not that we’ll ever know.

10. How did the Statue of Liberty move across New York without anyone noticing it?Image

Enough said.

Chances of finding out: Look, alright, it doesn’t make sense. But it looked awesome and terrifying and was a great idea. So stop whining alright?

Still whining? Ok, but this answer from Steven Moffat  is the best you are going to get:

“The Angels can do so many things. They can bend time, climb inside your mind, hide in pictures, steal your voice, mess with your perception, leak stone from your eye… New York in 1938 was a nest of Angels and the people barely more than farm animals. The abattoir of the lonely assassins!

“In those terrible days, in that conquered city, you saw and understood only what the Angels allowed, so Liberty could move and  hunt as it wished, in the blink of an eye, unseen by the lowly creatures upon which it preyed. Also, it tiptoed.”

Image11. Can The Doctor break his 12 regeneration limit?

So it turns out Matt Smith isn’t quite the eleventh Doctor after all. He’s the 12th. And if you count that time David Tennant created a second Doctor (rubbish), that means he is now on his final regeneration. Moffat has confirmed it. The end of Doctor Who is upon us! Except it isn’t. Capaldi picks things up after Christmas. But how?

Chances of finding out: Certain. That is surely going to be the real crux of the Christmas special.

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How not to announce the new Doctor

ImageWhat fresh hell is this?

 

I love the BBC. I really do. A great organisation filled with clever people making great TV.

Doctor Who Live was not a high point. And clearly not made by clever people.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those social media cynics that spent the full 30 minutes of Doctor Who Live tweeting about how camp and naff it all was. As a Doctor Who fan, I was bloody excited about the whole thing. The mini documentaries, the interviews. I was both embarrassed and delighted in equal measures.

But it just didn’t work.

For starters, we all knew it was Peter Capaldi. Not much they could do about that.

Who decided to call the show ‘The Next Doctor’? Did they not realise there was already an episode of Doctor Who called The Next Doctor? A really pedantic thing to pick up on, I acknowledge that.

The guests. Now, was it really impossible to get hold of some genuine former Who stars? I mean the show has been running for 50 years. Peter Davison, that was our one. Bernard Cribbins showed up again, constantly wheeled out to promote Doctor Who having played two minor characters in the show’s history. He’s our answer to Warwick Davis

Liza Tarbuck. Rufus Hound. The kid from Outnumbered. It felt like someone popped their head round the door at the BBC canteen to see who was around. Zoe Ball, too. Fearne Cotton still on maternity leave I take it?

Then there were the interviews. Matt Smith was first, revealing to the audience that the next Doctor was indeed a man. Then Steven Moffat showed up, hinting that the next Doctor might be a woman.

Well done whoever decided the running order of those.

Then Capaldi was finally shown to the Who masses. There he was, looking decided awkward. Waiting to be judged. I imagine his two blunders – referring to The Doctor as ‘Doctor Who’ – will have the Whovians sharpening their knives.

Ultimately, The ‘Live’ element was completely unnecessary, and only helped Doctor Who regress from the cool and sexy it had become, to being nerdy and tacky all over again.

And worst of all, there was no insight offered whatsoever. No sneak peak behind the production curtain. The interviews were worthless. Capaldi’s image and style suggests we may have a wiser, scarier Doctor. But there was no real hint of what we can expect from the future of the show. We saw the man who will play The Next Doctor, but what can we expect of him? Who bloody knows. Some of the test bits might have been interesting.

I can’t completely call ‘Doctor Who Live’ a letdown, because lets be honest… we all knew it was going to be a bit shit.  But with not even a 50th Anniversary Special trailer to tease people, I found myself wondering what all the non-Who fans made of this farcical spectacle.

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REVIEW: The Name of the Doctor

LeadIt’s been another abnormal season of Doctor Who.

Rather than a series split in two, this time it felt like five special stand-alone episodes, followed by a Christmas special, followed by a mini-series of 8. Yet, despite this, it did feel like a coherent, consistent run of 14 episodes. And although there weren’t as many stand out stories as previous seasons, there weren’t that many poor ones either (Cold War is the closest we got to a disappointment, and that wasn’t THAT bad).

And you know what they say about how important a good ending is? And The Name of the Doctor was certainly a good ending.

Before reading on, make sure to watch this week’s episode. Right here.

“WHAT WERE YOU EXPECTING, A BODY? BODIES ARE BORING. I’VE HAD LOADS OF THEM.”

I’ll get my minor gripes about The Name of the Doctor out of the way first. There was an awful lot of standing around talking about things. There were a lot of characters thrashing about on the floor. And a bit too many laboured metaphors about souffles and leaves.

But I am really just nit-picking at things. Because this was an excellent, satisfying, wonderfully acted and beautiful conclusion to season 7 of Doctor Who. A Doctor Who story at the highest level.

And what an opening. Beginning with William Hartnall, Clara was – sometimes clumsily – inserted into scenes featuring all the classic Doctors. It was true fan service that didn’t alienate new Whovians. And it made my Doctor Who geek heart skip a beat. Who is Clara Oswald?

Shortly after this, Clara is called to a ‘conference call’ (Moffat does love to add the fantastic to the otherwise ordinary) with Strax, Vastra, Jenny and River – who isn’t nearly as annoying in this episode as she has been historically. And as the call goes wrong, Clara is forced to tell the Doctor that he must visit the one place in the world he must never go.

“THIS PLANET IS NOW PROPERTY OF THE SONTARAN EMPIRE. SURRENDER YOUR WOMEN AND INTELLECTUALS.”

Fortunately, although the story threatened to descend into timey-wimey nonsense, it didn’t.

Perhaps responding to criticism from the previous season, The Name of the Doctor was – although still ambitious – a lot easier to follow.

I’ve enjoyed the theories firing around the Doctor Who forums about who really is Clara Oswald. Is she really River Song? Could she be the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan? Maybe she’s a reincarnation of the The Master? The true reveal, that she has scattered herself through the Doctor’s timeline in order to ‘save him’, made far more sense, and was quite a satisfying conclusion to that character’s arc.

Jenna Louise Coleman was excellent once again. She, along with the comedy Sontaran (although I am not sure I can ever take these villains seriously every again), have been revelations this season. I could watch the pair of them all day. And Vastra’s heartbreak as she loses Jenny (a few times. The new Rory?) was also touching to watch.

RiverBut the real star of this show remains Matt Smith. His emotional reaction to the news that he would have to save his friends in the one place in the world he should not go, was surprising. And Clara’s caring reaction was genuinely touching. Smith’s Doctor isn’t quite the cry-baby that Tennant’s Doctor was. He is far more emotionally complex – sometimes dark, often awkward and regularly child-like. But in The Name of the Doctor he showed an emotional depth. The greatest moment was his ‘farewell’ (hopefully not) to River Song. This isn’t the awkward teenager in love we’d grown accustomed to. But a heartbroken man who misses his wife. It was the most emotional Doctor Who moment I’ve experienced since Rose was so cruelly taken from him in 2006. The first time the Doctor and River’s timelines matched up. A superb scene. I hope it’s not over for them yet.

And I hope those rumours that Matt Smith will return for an eighth season are true. He may have done 42 episodes, but I’ve not finished with him yet.

YOU’RE ALWAYS HERE TO ME. AND I ALWAYS LISTEN. AND I CAN ALWAYS SEE YOU.

The episode was beautiful in its darkness. A TARDIS crypt, a ruined graveyard, catacombs. The tomb of the Doctor was such a great idea, that I almost wished that was the name of the episode.

whisperAlmost as beautifully dark are the villains, The Whispermen. These monsters are the same, faceless, intimate murderers that have become Steven Moffat’s signature (gas mask kids, angels, snowmen, clockwork monsters, The Silence). The idea of ‘killing with a whisper’ is decidedly creepy and unnerving. I expect a few more letters of complaint from parents to be sent Moffat’s way before the week is over.

Of course the true baddie of the season is The Great Intelligence, an actual adversary for the Doctor to face (as opposed to fate or cracks in time). Richard E. Grant’s malicious evil had a campness to it, although he wasn’t a particularly convincing nemesis. His plan to manipulate the Doctor’s history seemed a bit overzealous. What did he have against all those planets and people The Doctor had saved?

Also, the impact of this didn’t make sense. In one scene Strax begins to attack Vastra because he no-longer recognises her. But, if Strax no-longers know who Vastra is, then how come he is even there at all?

“BUT NOT IN THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR!”

But that’s also a minor quibble. Because the actual conclusion, the final scene, was fantastic.

I had hoped that the title ‘The Name of the Doctor’ wasn’t as literal as it sounded. Who Hurtreally wants to know his name? So when his ultimate secret was revealed to be a forgotten Doctor, well… that’s just excellent. And John Hurt, too.

Who is he? Where does he fit into the timeline? What did he do? Some fans suggest he is the Valeyard (an evil version of the Doctor from the dodgy Colin Baker serial Trial of the Time Lord, and actually named by The Great Intelligence in this episode) but I somehow doubt it.

The 50th anniversary special cannot come soon enough.

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REVIEW: Journey to the Centre of the Tardis

Before reading on, make sure to watch Journey to the Centre of the Tardis right here from the BBC.

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Last week’s episode of Doctor Who was, in many ways, a poor show.

A nonsense storyline. A magic button that saves the day. The tree from Avatar. The ending where everyone forgets. It was awful. Rubbish. Silly. Self-indulgent.

I secretly loved it.

“PLEASE, TELL ME THERE’S A BUTTON YOU CAN PRESS TO FIX THIS!”

Journey to the Centre of the Tardis had many of the hallmarks that we’ve come to expect from lazy Doctor Who writing.

The magic button solution – the one button that is pressed and everything is instantly saved – has always been a terrible get-out-of-jail card. And this episode even mocked the idea to begin with, “Yes, a big friendly button,” ridicules the Doctor.

This may have been a deliberate send-up of the concept by writer Stephen Thompson (best known for being the ‘other’ writer on Sherlock, and the man who penned last season’s ‘Curse of the Black Spot’) but he still used it. And it was still rubbish.

And if there is one thing worse than that ending, it’s an ending where everything is reverse, nobody remembers anything, and the whole 45 minutes turned out to be a total waste of time. And again, Thompson delivers us that ending, too.

ImageThere were also several other nonsensical moments, such as the revelation behind the episode’s horrific antagonists (who were perhaps a bit too scary and violent for Saturday evening tele, I’d argue). It turns out that the monsters that were hunting our characters down are in fact themselves, who have had their skin burnt by the Eye of Harmony. Why were they trying to kill their former selves? Who can say. Shits and giggles probably.

But the biggest frustration behind the episode were the corridors. Lots and lots of corridors. For all the hype behind seeing more of the Tardis, what we really got was a lot of corridors. Do you like corridors? Then you probably thought this was the best episode of Doctor Who of all time.

“I THINK I AM MORE SCARED OF YOU RIGHT NOW THAN ANYTHING IN THAT TARDIS.”

And yet, for its obvious failings, Journey to the Centre of the Tardis was a truly self-indulgent episode of Doctor Who, and gleefully so.

Yes, there was a magic button and barmy monsters. But so what? Doctor Who has always been about magic buttons and monsters with dubious motives. And if you are a Doctor Who fan, then you are the sort of person that can overlook that.

It was an episode that, lovingly, portrayed the Tardis as a living, intelligent super-machine, much in the way ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ did in the previous season. But I’ll get on to that later. Because my favourite part of this episode was the long-overdue confrontation between Clara and the Doctor.Image

The Doctor doesn’t trust Clara. She’s impossible. And Clara doesn’t trust the Doctor, he’s behaving like a mysterious creep. Clara was warned about the Doctor in the previous episode, ‘Hide’, and you can tell she’s actually a bit frightened of our hero.

The scene atop the cliffs, where the Doctor finally confronts Clara, is wonderful. He reveals to her why he has been behaving so strangely, she reveals to him that he scares her. It’s what makes the ‘and they all forgot’ ending so frustrating. Our two protagonists were just starting to trust each other. 

This, coupled with our disagreeable guest characters – the Van Baalen brothers – were the best parts of the episode. I particularly liked the character development of these brothers and the twisted revelation about one of them NOT being a robot was very clever. Usually it turns out he was a robot all along, not the other way around.

DON’T GET INTO A SPACESHIP WITH A MADMAN. DIDN’T ANYONE EVER TEACH YOU THAT?

Doctor Who fans for years have known about the secrets and depth the Tardis has. But this is the first time we’ve seen the true scale of the what the time machine offers since the series reboot. “Picture the biggest ship you’ve ever seen. Are you picturing it?” asks the Doctor. “Good. Now forget it. Because this ship is infinite.”

ImageThere are glimpses of the swimming pool, The Doctor’s bedroom and there’s a moment in the library that goes all very Harry Potter on us. There were bottles with Gallifrey history on the shelves that whisper their contents. Plus, a book – or rather a tome – of the ‘History of the Time War’. (I guess the chap who wrote that story didn’t have time to stick it in a bottle).

It’s this that is quite self-indulgent. Whovians – myself included – enjoyed these moments. It might not mean anything to new fans, but it added a bit of depth to the Doctor Who mystery.

There have been plenty of in-references to previous Doctor Who episodes this season. From Ice Warriors, to references to Susan (the Doctor’s granddaughter) and Metebelis III. There’s been plenty in this series to excite old-school Who fans. A deliberate ploy no-doubt to celebrate the series’ 50th year. I hope to see more references as the series reaches its conclusion.

All in, Journey to the Centre of the Tardis wasn’t a triumph of a Doctor Who story. But it was a fun little adventure that drew back a bit of the Doctor Who curtain, to reveal some of the secrets within.

And it was an episode all about foreshadowing. We’re building up to the final episode. “So that’s Who,” says Clara as she reads the book she finds in the Library.

What did she see?

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