Sunday, June 25, 2017

Doctor Who: World Enough and Time

“World Enough and Time” aims to grab your attention from its opening, pre-credits moments. The Doctor stumbles from the TARDIS into a frozen landscape, his hair longer and wilder than ever before, seemingly fighting against his regeneration. It’s a striking sequence, perhaps undercut only by that awful faux-regeneration in “The Lie of the Land,” an episode I’ve grown to despise exponentially since its airing. The series never should have done that knowing a scene like this was right around the corner. But if we can scrub the “Lie” from our brains, this is a hell of a way to kick off the end of an era.

Once the episode begins proper, we’re nowhere near that flash-forward, but instead skimming across the exterior of a vast spaceship that appears to be sitting on the edge of a black hole — and by vast, I mean 400 miles long and 100 miles wide. (Later, we find out it isn’t sitting, but actively attempting to escape the hole.) Between the double shot of openings, we are firmly entrenched in the expansive vision of director Rachel Talalay, who has skillfully guided all of Capaldi’s epic finales. But the enormity of the craft zeroes in on a tiny area of the ship in which the TARDIS appears, and out pops Missy followed by Bill and Nardole.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light

Often in my recaps, I rely on the history of the writer while forming my thoughts and opinions of an episode. Doctor Who is very much a writers’ show, even though the head writers like Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat get the most credit (as well as the most blame). Rona Munro, the writer of “The Eaters of Light,” holds a special distinction: She is now the first and only writer to have penned scripts for both the classic and the modern incarnations of Doctor Who. Her previous contribution was, in fact, the final classic series story, 1989’s “Survival.” One thing I never really expected to write much about in this recap was “Survival,” because surely that 28-year-old script would have nothing in common with this new tale … and yet in some ways it does, not the least of which is its elliptical yet mythically epic style.

The unlikeliest TARDIS trio ever travel to Aberdeen, Scotland, circa second-century A.D. because Bill and the Doctor are bickering over who knows more about the lost Ninth Roman Legion, which famously disappeared from history without a trace. (Between this outing and “Thin Ice,” mad props to season ten for the entertaining history lessons.) Beside the pair, Nardole is decked out in his Arthur Dent best — pajamas and a preposterously out of place robe. One imagines him being awakened from sleep and dragged through time, and indeed, one also wonders why he came along at all given that his primary concern once again is the vault. Thankfully, between the end of this episode and the preview for next week’s, the vault nonsense seems over and done with. The argument for guarding it doesn’t even work particularly well here, given the way events have played out in recent weeks (when the Monks were invading, it barely seemed like an issue).

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Doctor Who: Empress of Mars

Back in season seven, Mark Gatiss reintroduced classic Doctor Who villains the Ice Warriors in “Cold War,” an episode I was gaga over. A big part of my love revolved around its infusion of ’80s nuclear paranoia, which at the time seemed something of a distant memory. My, how just a few years can see us tumbling backward. “Empress of Mars,” which is in no way a sequel to “Cold War” (indeed, it takes place a hundred years before its predecessor), is another score for Gatiss, and enough so that we must forgive him for last season’s dire “Sleep No More.” “Empress” is a sleek tale of honor, loyalty, and redemption told through the filter of science-fiction mavericks such as Burroughs, Verne, and Wells.

The action kicks off in the present day at NASA, which the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole have infiltrated seemingly for no other reason than because they can. A probe called the Valkyrie is sending back images from a previously unseen area of the planet, and the first one shocks everyone in the room: It’s a landscape across which is written “God Save the Queen.” The Doctor wastes no time taking his posse to the planet, albeit in 1881, which is when the TARDIS says the message was created. (Must be a handy new feature that we’ll likely never see again.) They materialize underground in an elaborate cave system, replete with oxygen, which the Doctor credits the “indigenous Martians” with engineering.

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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Doctor Who: The Lie of the Land

The opening montage of “The Lie of the Land,” presented as an alternate history lesson narrated by the Doctor, is disturbingly effective. The Monks have insinuated themselves into our memories to the point that humanity believes they’ve been guiding and helping us since we first wiggled out of the oceans and sprouted legs. The video is intercut with imagery of an average family broken apart by fascist troops who haul off the mother for spreading subversive propaganda. A horrified Bill observes the proceedings, seemingly one of the few who’s awake. Monuments to the Monks decorate the landscape of the planet. The grinning Doctor looking directly at the camera, which closes out the sequence, makes for a queasy stomach.

The Doctor: “So relax. Do as you’re told. Your future is taken care of.”

It’s been six months since the Monks took over, and Bill is living a life of seeming solitude. (Where’s her foster mother?) There’s a clear struggle between knowing the truth and accepting the lie, and seemingly the easiest way for her to keep her head straight is to have imaginary conversations with her deceased mother, as her “father” is currently displaying dubious morality. Despite all of the videos the Doctor recorded that appear to prove otherwise, she hangs on to the belief that he’s got a plan and will save the planet.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture

Graphic courtesy Design by Stuart Manning