Review: Into the Dalek. Is the Doctor a good man? Does it matter?

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Before reading on, all my words will make a lot more sense if you watch the episode here first.

I usually hate repetition. And Into The Dalek was riddled with returning themes.

The most obvious comparison is with ‘Dalek’, the Christopher Eccleston episode that introduced Daleks into the Modern Who era. Like here, that episode featured a tied up Dalek and a conflicted Doctor. Hell, the line ‘You are a Good Dalek’ at the end of the story is only a few words short of ‘You would make a Good Dalek?’ as uttered in that aforementioned 2005 episode.

Then there’s the Doctor’s sudden issue with whether he is a good man or not. You know, the same issue he had in the Series 6 mid-season finale A Good Man Goes to War when he discovered that in some cultures ‘Doctor’ means ‘Warrior’.

And some of the writing is getting a touch familiar. “Is he mad or is he right?” asks Gretchen the soldier. You knew the answer was ‘both’ before Clara even uttered it. It’s just the latest version of the oft-quoted ‘madman in a box’ dialogue.

 

 

“Don’t be lasagna.”

 

But you know what? A bit of repetition and recurring dialogue isn’t such a bad thing, not when the episode is as entertaining as Into The Dalek.

And it could have gone so wrong. It could so easily have been ‘Honey I Shrunk The Doctor’ and yet [writers] Phil Ford and Steven Moffat dial down the humour and play it straight. And the whole ‘shrinking’ thing is not exactly new to Who, having also been a major plot point in Series 6’s Let’s Kill Hitler.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 15.15.50Ben Wheatley’s second stab at Who is arguably superior to the more ‘talky’ Deep Breath, with a few nice action scenes to sink his teeth into. Plus the SFX team did a really great job at blowing up Daleks. I think these were the best ‘bangs’ in Who yet (even if the ‘inside’ Dalek moments didn’t always convince).

And for all my criticisms of repetition, going inside a Dalek is definitely new. And I loved the idea of there being an anti-Dalek Dalek in the world.

Clara is also fast becoming an actual real human being. She has a job, and a boss, and a receptionist. And maybe a boyfriend. In fact, The Doctor randomly turning up having abandoned her in Glasgow three weeks before seems to be a bit of nuisance for Clara. She’s got other things to do. And her role as The Doctor’s apologist is quite entertaining, even if her position as The Doctor’s teacher is a bit of a push. She’s already surpassed Amy in my eyes.

 I am also mildly enjoying The Doctor’s occasional Clara put downs at times. And as long as they are continually played in good humour, I won’t worry. But there’s a fine line between banter and nastiness. We don’t want a repeat of the Colin Baker Doctor, who frankly spent most of his time bullying his companion Peri.

 

 “She’s my carer. She cares so I don’t have to.”

 

Now comes the question that dominated the episode. Is The Doctor a good man?

Clara doesn’t know. The Doctor doesn’t seem to know either. And the writers are trying to do their utmost of making us Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 15.08.50doubt our hero, too. Even though, after 51 years of saving the universe, we’ve got a pretty good idea of who The Doctor is.

The scene where The Doctor asks a scared soldier to swallow a tablet so that, upon his death, he can find out where his body was taken, was just unnecessary. The Doctor is not Sherlock (as played by Benedict Cumberbatch) despite the occasional similarities. He is not callous. He doesn’t get involved in things out of curiosity, but out of compassion. Remember this line: ‘in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important’? Or, more recently, his dual with the half-faced man in Deep Breath and his declaration of love for humanity? This moment seemed to conflict with all that.

But perhaps The Doctor’s lack of compassion is more linked to his apparent dislike of soldiers. Which isn’t entirely convincing. Yes, The Doctor has always had issues with soldiers, but it’s the guns he really doesn’t like, not so much the people holding them. Remember he was a member of UNIT, which were soldiers. He was friends with The Brigadier, who was a soldier. The Silurians, which he has so much admiration for, are a warrior race. He’s worked with the Clerics and the soldiers from the Papal Mainframe. He’s not as anti-soldier as he likes to pretend to be.

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 15.09.02Granted, the soldiers in this episode, including a grumpy Tyres from Spaced (Michael Smiley), were threatening and hostile. But you sense this whole soldier thing is more a set-up for The Doctor’s inevitable dislike for Clara’s new love interest Danny Pink (which, when The Doctor does disapprove of their relationship, will further cement the rather unusual Father/Daughter dynamic that seems to be happening here).

Pink is a soldier-turned-teacher who cries in class and may or may not have killed someone. And in fact, may have killed someone innocent. You just know our new grumpy Doctor is not going to warm to him.

But who really is The Doctor to criticise soldiers? The question of the episode was not actually ‘is the Doctor a good man?’, but rather ‘what is a good man?’ Is a good man someone who fights evil? Or someone who does not fight at all? And if a soldier is someone that fights evil, what does that make The Doctor?

Maybe he’s not such a good man after all.

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Doctor Who – Deep Breath review

    Deep BreathThe Doctor is back. And he’s different. Deep breath.. are you ready? (Warning: Watch the episode first right here before reading)

The season opener of Doctor Who introduced Peter Capaldi as the titular Time Lord. But he wasn’t the only interesting thing worth discussing from this thought-provoking 75 Straxminute adventure.

Deep Breath boasts quite a number of familiar traits that Who fans will recognise. There was Strax, Jennie and Madame Vastra (or the Paternoster Gang as I refuse to call them), there were a few familiar ideas. A few familiar Strax jokes that didn’t always hit (although, I must admit the newspaper moment had me chuckling for a while).

And of course, this episode is a semi-sequel to The Girl in the Fire Place (Series 2, and one of my all-time favourite stories). So far, so very much a Steven Moffat episode of Doctor Who.

“Hello, hello, rubbish robots from the dawn of time.”

Yet this was a tonally different Who. I will get onto Capaldi in a minute, because what struck me most about Deep Breath was how much slower this Doctor Who was. I loved the Matt Smith era. Anyone who has read my reviews will know this. Yet my one complaint is how the episodes were never grounded. There was too much happening, too much running for any character development to occur. It’s perhaps why when news broke that Matt Smith would be leaving I was surprised. Even though he had a run almost as long as David Tennant, I felt I had barely got to know the eleventh (or was it twelfth?) Doctor.

I call out the brilliant restaurant scene between The Doctor and Clara. Great dialogue, brilliant interplay between the two actors and it was long. It seemed to be by far the longest dialogue scene I’ve seen in Doctor Who for quite some time. It suggested to me that perhaps Moffat is slowing things down slightly. This might be Robotsbecause he has a 56 year-old actor in the lead role. It may be because there were some complaints from some critics who couldn’t ‘keep up’ with the stories. Or it might just be because he wanted to develop the characters more. Either way, I quite liked the change of pace.

What I was slightly wary of, however, was the darkness of this episode. Although I knew it was going to be a slightly darker Who, because clearly The Doctor was going to be a slightly grumpier man. But I didn’t anticipate an episode where a robot (with half a human face) ripped out eyes, burnt dinosaurs alive (seriously, what has this show got against dinosaurs?) and then built a hot air balloon out of people’s skin. No inappropriate Strax comments or Jenny/Vastra flirting could distract from the fact that this episode might not be that appropriate for the little ones.

Nice to see a lesbian kiss on a prime-time family TV show mind. I’d hate to be in the BBC complaints department right now.

“5 foot 1 and crying. You never stood a chance.”

Look, I’ll get onto Capaldi in a minute. Because there was another star in the episode, and she shone spectacularly. If Clara Oswald continues this series as she has started, I will be devastated to see her go – far more so than any previous companion. The scene where this terrified young girl had been abandoned by her ‘hero’ to a group of human harvesting clockwork robots, and her efforts to escape, teary eyed, holding her breath… I was genuinely moved by her performance.Coleman

In fact, here’s a comparison for you. Remember in Doomsday (series 2 again) when Rose was confronted by the Daleks and she bravely stood up to them? Compare that to Clara here who, visibly scared, stands-up to her attacker. Sorry Billie Piper, this was on a different level.

Clara had, up until The Name of the Doctor, been relegated to a plot point. Another character created for story purposes not to be the associated link between audience and TV show. Yet that appears to be changing. And with Jenna playing the part, you just know it will go brilliantly.

“Who frowned me this face?”

Ok, Capaldi then. Let’s get this straight, we all knew he was an incredible actor. But it nevertheless did seem surprising to see an older man pop out of the blue box. And that’s coming from an old-school Who fan like me. The show then spent the next several scenes criticizing Clara for judging him on his appearance, which in many ways acted as a criticism of me and perhaps a few others in the audience.

There was a real sense of a classic Doctor about Capaldi. He dressed like Jon Pertwee and seemed to have a bit of the old Pertwee fight about him (although, this was just two men pushing one another). There was a lot of Tom Baker here, too. Quick to dash off without explanation, funny, scatter-brained and, at times, bloody harsh. Plus, a dollop of Sylvester McCoy, too. The arch-manipulator, who is unafraid to put his companions in harm’s way in order to save the day.

Oh and there was a smattering of Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. Using the broom joke to try and coax someone into killing himself… really… (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up!)

Yet, more than the sum of its parts, Capaldi brought a lot of himself to the role. And when The Doctor challenged Clara over her “something’s wrong” comment in his very first scene, I instantly thought to myself: “It didn’t take long for Malcom Tucker to come out did it?”

“He is more scared than anything you can imagine right now. He needs you.”

I am aware we are being manipulated into thinking it, but this Doctor isn’t quite the nice, Capaldisensitive hero we’ve come to love. The cameo at the end from Matt Smith was meant as reassurance, not just to Clara but to the viewers, that this man is The Doctor. It was also important because Capaldi’s Who isn’t one to admit he’s afraid. Or to let anyone in. Moffat, literally, had to resurrect the previous Doctor just to lend the new version a bit of emotional depth.

This is a different Doctor. A Doctor that threatens tramps, abandons his companion in a death trap just to find something out, and may (or may not) have murdered the bad guy.

But by the far the worst thing he did, at least in my view, was when he came back to collect Clara. Why did he come to pick her back up? Because he is the same Doctor who liked her and wants her around? No. Because ‘someone wants to keep them together’.

What a douchebag.

I like him.

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What Doctor Who means to me. A love letter to the 50th anniversary

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 09.53.23I’ve wanted to discuss the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who for a while now, but I’ve struggled to get my thoughts in order.

After all, this is just a TV show. There’s no point getting emotional about it or adding a notion of importance to something that’s effectively Saturday night entertainment.

But to hell with it. It is important to me.

Doctor Who turned 50 years old last year, but for me it had been around for just 21 years. Back in 1992, my parents bought Sky at a time when a new channel, UK Gold, had launched. And this new classic TV channel was showing a sci-fi programme my Dad used to love as a boy.

Doctor Who was on every evening, but it was on a bit too late for seven year-old me. So instead I would get up at the crack of dawn every Sunday to watch the Doctor Who omnibus.

I did this for years. I’d make my bowl of Coco Pops, sit in front of the TV, put in a blank VHS tape, and watch every episode of Doctor Who. From Hartnell to McCoy. I’d spend my mornings watching it before my parents whisked me away to my Nan and Grandad’s, where I would make wooden swords, cut out Garfield comics and climb trees (Ok, it was mostly my brother that would climb the trees. I could only manage the first branch).

It was my first geek love. On special occasions my Mum bought me Doctor Who magazine and I’d stare longingly at the conventions I could never afford to attend and all the different toys that were far too expensive. Maybe, if I was lucky, I’d get one for my birthday.

And on the playground I was The Doctor. Whereas all my friends were into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, I was running around pretending to be a Time Lord. Playing games, creating new Whovians and extoling the genius of a TV show my friends had never heard of.

That was then. Time went by. Outside of a one-off 1996 special, The Doctor never came back. I got older. Discovered my second love (video games) and it was over.

Yet then he came back.

I didn’t fall instantly back in love with The Doctor again. I was wary of its return. This was just the silly sci-fi programme I loved as a boy. I was older now, less willing to forgive poor CGI or dodgy bits of scripting. The first episode aired and it had a burping wheelie bin in it for crying out loud. I was embarrassed.

Yet like an old companion that The Doctor had left behind, I could never stay cynical at the show for long. And over the course of the next nine years my love of this TV show returned.

And during the 50th, I was that seven year-old boy again.

I didn’t review anything from the two weeks around The Doctor’s birthday. I didn’t want to. I wanted to leave my cynical, critical brain at the door. I just wanted to enjoy it. And I did.

Night of the Doctor? What a joyous surprise. Paul McGann! He’s back. Why can’t he stay back? I miss him already. What a lovely treat.Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 00.44.48

An Adventure In Time And Space? What a tragic story. I wanted to cry. Officially the best Doctor Who thing Mark Gattiss has ever done. Hartnell was a hero.

Then came the day itself, and I had treated myself. Those conventions I could never afford as a kid? I was going to one. The ultimate one. The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Celebration.

The panels were really good. The costumes looked nice. There were lots of queues. Way too many shops. I paid to get a photo of myself and my girlfriend in the Tardis control room… the photo was badly lit and a total waste of money. But I still enjoyed myself.

And then came the actual episode. The celebration was open late that day so everyone could watch a special cinema-style screening of Day of the Doctor. I was in a room with some of the biggest Doctor Who fans watching one of the most significant episodes in its history alongside them for the first time. It was, as we know, a triumph. Funny, well written, beautifully acted… pacing was a bit off… how they beat the Zygons didn’t make much sense. But otherwise, I loved it. When Capaldi’s eyes appeared on screen, the screams in the room made the episode inaudible for a few moments. I wanted to get angry with the audience, until I realised I was one of those screaming goons. The exact same thing happened during Tom Baker’s cameo.

Like an excited kid, I couldn’t stop thinking about the episode on the way home. And it was upon getting in that I discovered The Five(ish) Doctors. In my eyes the best surprise of the entire 50th. All the classic era Doctors writing a love letter to the show and its fans. Steven playing the villain. RTD making a rare appearance (this and his DWM mini-column were his only contributions to the 50th anniversary). It was a beautiful nod to classic era fans and something I found myself watching repeatedly for months on end. More people should have seen this than they did.The_Five(ish)_Doctors_Reboot

After all that, I didn’t want to put my critics hat on. I didn’t want to dissect, complain, praise or debate. So I didn’t. I instead did something my fictional hero has been able to do with ease. I got in my Tardis and travelled back to a time when I was but a wide-eyed youngster filled with hope. Sitting downstairs with my bowl of Coco Pops and a blank VHS tape.

Waiting for The Doctor to return.

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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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