Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 10: “The Girl Who Waited”

This older, tougher, and katana-wielding Amy might just kick the Doctor's whimsical time-traveling butt!

Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

It all started because there were two buttons.

Expecting “sunsets, spires, and soaring colonnades,” the Doctor takes Amy and Rory to the planet Apalapucia, which unbeknownst to him is quarantined. Specifically, they land in a Twostreams “kindness facility,” where 40,000 two-hearted beings infected with the “one-day plague” (a bacterium that kills its host after one day) are, with the aid of time manipulation, given the opportunity to live out their entire lives in the span of 24 hours. Here’s where it gets “extra wubbly”: The facility has a visiting room which exists in parallel timestreams running at different speeds. A loved one can, from the “normal” timestream, in the same room, observe the afflicted patient (whose timestream runs faster) live life and grow older. It is this somewhat confusing plot device that sets the story in motion, as the Doctor and Rory find themselves on the visitor side (the “Green Anchor” area), while Amy, lagging behind, unknowingly enters the patient side (the “Red Waterfalls” area). When her boys finally get a chance to infiltrate her timestream and rescue her (a matter of minutes to them), they find an embittered Amy who has advanced in age by 36 years.

My favorite "Doctor Who" writer du jour, Tom MacRae. Dear Steven Moffat, please invite him to write more!

It’s a positively “timey-wimey” plot, classically Moffat-esque, but the script was actually written by Tom MacRae, of “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel” fame. I wasn’t much a fan of those two previous DW episodes, but this one was an absolute cracker. In a way it acts as a mirror to Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” from the first half of series 6; whereas with that, we got to see the Doctor heartbreakingly meet an impossible manifestation of a loved one (the TARDIS), here Rory meets an impossible version (by way of a paradox) of his own wife. This episode might well have been called “Rory’s Wife” (or the more clever “Rory’s Choice,” as I’ve read in another review). I’m a fan of symmetry, so appreciated that much. (I must say though, I wonder how much of the script was actually rewritten by head writer Moffat himself; there were albeit very welcome references to “The Eleventh Hour”; also, the idea of an older version of someone watching a younger version of himself and his life and memories change in front of him is very “A Christmas Carol”).

Kudos to Karen Gillan, who truly shows her acting chops here. I grew fond of her older Amy; so much so that I rather wish Rory and the Doctor decided in the end to forego the younger Amy and instead steal away with the older. Through the years of waiting, the older Amy became not just a survivor but also a genius hacker, resourceful sonic screwdriver maker, a battleworn action heroine (having to face down through the years the faceless robotic maintenance staff, or the “Handbots,” as the Doctor calls them) and eventually, in an impossible and funny way, a cougar (seeing her flirt with Rory in the presence of her younger version incited giggles from me–the thought of a menage a trois between a man and his two wives!). The older Amy is well-designed as a character, down to her makeshift armor and her samurai sword and staff (which she got presumably from the facility by way of the Apalapucians being cultural scavengers). I can only wish my older version of myself were that kick-arse! Her transformation–from having grown to despise her Raggedy Doctor for abandoning her, to rediscovering how to laugh and love again (the kiss between older Amy and Rory was hot–the Doctor is not the only cougar cub in the TARDIS!) to being selfless enough to let her younger self live a full life with Rory–was ultimately narratively satisfying.

I love how this episode, even as a stand-alone, enriched our view of and also advanced Amy’s and Rory’s relationship. We find out endearing and funny tidbits about their young love, i.e. that their first kiss was set to the ‘90s song “Macarena,” and Rory’s brush with guitar-playing. (I actually think it’s this aspect of the episode that makes me wonder if Moffat had rewritten much of MacRae’s script, as Amy and Rory are Moffat’s characters).

A tearjerker scene, in which older Amy accepts her fate. "Did I ever tell you about this boy I met there who pretended to be in a band?"

There were many whacky scenes–like Rory cutely and absurdly marching out of the TARDIS with his Rory-cam glasses and a giant magnifying glass, or Rory decommissioning a Handbot with a replica of the Mona Lisa–interspersed with heartbreaking scenes throughout–like the scene in which older Amy considers (and ultimately foregoes) putting on lipstick for Rory, while Rory meets his “disarmed” Handbot substitute. And of course there’s the tearjerker of a scene in which the Doctor locks the older Amy out of the TARDIS and leaves it up to Rory to make the decision about which Amy he wants to save. Murray’ Gold’s beautiful music further bolstered the episode.

Overall, “The Girl Who Waited” is a beautifully and cleverly told stand-alone story. It’s lush, on a budget. An episode that I highly recommend be given numerous repeat viewings on one’s iPlayer.

Quotables:

Doctor (and later, Amy): “Eyes front, soldier!”

Check-In Girl: “Or try our roller coaster zone, authentically modeled on the famous Warpspeed Death Ride at Disneyland-Clom.”

Older Amy: “You’re asking me to defy destiny, causality, the nexus of time itself for a boy?”

Older Amy: “I’m going to pull time apart for you.”

Doctor: “Sometimes knowing your own future is what enables you to change it. Especially if you’re bloody-minded, contradictory and completely unpredictable.”

Doctor: “If anyone could defeat pre-destiny, it’s your wife.”

Rory: “Two Amys together. Can that work?”
Doctor: “I don’t know. It’s your marriage.”
Rory: “Doctor.”
Doctor: “Perhaps, maybe if I shunted the reality compensators on the TARDIS, recalibrated the doomsday bumpers and jettisoned the karaoke bar, yes, maybe, yes. It could do it. The TARDIS could sustain the paradox.”

Doctor: “Come on, Rory. It’s hardly rocket science. It’s just quantum physics.”

Younger & Older Amy: “Which one’s Amy 1? I am. No, I am.”

Rory: “I’m not on my own. I’ve got my wives!”

Rory: “Amy, you always say, cooking Chrismas dinner, you wish there were two of you.”

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 8: “Let’s Kill Hitler”

There's a first time for everything. The Doctor being kissed by his "bespoke psychopath."

Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

Leadworth crop circles! Rose, Martha, and Donna! (Sorta). A sonic cane! Hitler in a cupboard!

After an excruciating three-month absence from the airwaves, “Doctor Who” – and the mad, mad brain of head writer Steven Moffat – is back.

“Let’s Kill Hitler” brings the Doctor to 1938 Berlin and face to face with the biggest war criminal in the universe. And no, I don’t mean the Fuhrer himself (who gets relegated rather whimsically to a cupboard for much of the episode); I’m talking River Song, the half-Time Lady who will one day kill or has already killed (it’s all so timey-wimey) the Doctor on April 22, 2011, 5:02 p.m. at Lake Silencio in Utah.

It’s a cleverly constructed episode that had its own revelations to match the big one of “A Good Man Goes to War” that came before it. I was delightfully surprised by Mels’s concealed identity as Melody Pond. How funny that the Doctor had been searching for baby Melody when she’d actually been hiding in plain sight all along as Amy’s and Rory’s childhood friend (how many people can say they grew up alongside their parents?). And that regeneration! Kudos to the Moff for confirming the idea that regenerations can transcend race. Here, we witness Melody Pond’s second and final regeneration (her first was as a child in New York; and she sacrificed her remaining regenerations to save a prematurely dying Doctor).

So much for "temporal grace!" It was all just a lie, you idiot!

I’m actually rather surprised by this limitation Moffat has imposed upon himself. I had thought the introduction of the idea that River is in fact a Time Lady a clever one that could provide an out for the Moff should Alex Kingston (god forbid the day) ever bow out of the role; that is, her departure could be explained away via a regeneration. Allowing River only two regenerations (both already used up) makes things much more tenuous, but the upside is that River Song will forever be tied with Alex Kingston. Bottom line is that I long for the episodes in which River Song appears. I believe her next appearance will be in 9, followed by 13.

Moffat’s trademark humor is evident throughout the episode. I love the bonkers Bat signal-like opening, the flashes back to Amy, Rory, and Mels as children, Amy mistaking Rory for gay, how the Doctor and Melody try to outwit each other (I love the banana bit). I also liked Moffat’s “monster of the week,” the Tesselecta, a Justice Department robot that can tessellate into anyone and anything for the purpose of hunting down criminals via time travel. Oh, and did I mention it has a miniaturization ray?

One minor nitpick: Moffat seems to be engaging more and more in recyclage. Amy being seemingly passive for much of the episode and then saving the day at the snap of a finger (via some impossibly clever deduction), like in “The Beast Below,” is getting to be rather formulaic. Also, Moffat seems to cleave heavily to the chicken-and-egg paradox to explain things away, i.e. Mels (the daughter) brokering the beginning of Amy’s and Rory’s (her parents’) relationship; “You named your daughter after your daughter.” But like I said, nitpicks.

What We’ve Learned:

  • This is the first time Melody Pond (at least as an adult) meets the Doctor. This is the episode in which she takes on the name “River Song” and receives her TARDIS diary from the Doctor. We learn that she becomes an archaeologist to be able to track down the Doctor.
  • The Silence is in fact a religious sect with a vendetta against the Doctor. They believe “Silence will fall” once a question – the first question, hidden in plain sight – is asked (presumably, “Doctor who?”). There is also mention of an “Academy of the Question.”

Questions:

  • Does River’s imparting her own regenerations resolve the 13-regeneration limit for the Doctor?
  • I still can’t get my head around the chronology (which is not surprising, given this is “Doctor Who”):  How did Melody get from New York in the ’60s to Leadworth in the ’90s?
  • When exactly did River (or Melody) kill the Doctor? As a child? Why the spacesuit in “The Impossible Astronaut?”
  • What did the Doctor whisper into River’s ear? Does it tie in to what River whispered into the Doctor’s ear in “Forest of the Dead?”
  • Apart from religion, is there a connection between The Church, the Headless Monks, and the Silence?

Quotables:

  • “I don’t do weddings.” -Mels (interesting for her/River to say, given that episode 13 is entitled “The Wedding of River Song”)
  • “A significant factor in Hitler’s rise to power is that the Doctor didn’t stop him” -Mels
  • “I’d love to, he’s gorgeous, he’s my favorite guy, but he’s, you know, gay.” -teenage Amy, talking about the impossibility of being with Rory
  • “Oh, hello. Sorry, is this your office? Had a sort of collision with my vehicle. Faults on both sides. Let’s say no more about…it.” -The Doctor to Adolf
  • “Oh shut up, Dad! I’m focusing on a dress size!” -Mels, shushing Rory as she’s about to regenerate
  • “Goodness, is killing you gonna take all day?” / “Why? You busy?” / “Oh, I’m not complaining.” / “If you were in a hurry, you could have killed me in the cornfield.” / “We’d only just met. I’m a psychopath. I’m not rude.” -Melody / The Doctor
  • “Come on, there must be someone left in the universe I haven’t screwed up yet!” -The Doctor, trying to find the right companion for the TARDIS voice interface
  • “Ladies and gentlemen: I don’t have a thing to wear. Take off your clothes!” -Melody
  • “I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.” -Rory
  • “You’re dying. And you stopped to change?” / “Oh, you should always waste time when you don’t have any! Time is not the boss of you. Rule 408.” -Melody / The Doctor
  • “Kidneys are always the first to quit!” -The Doctor (a nice reference back to “The Doctor’s Wife”)

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 7: “A Good Man Goes to War”

Are you my mummy?

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Note to BBC Americans: Spoilers abound.

The Steven Moffat-penned mid-series finale, “A Good Man Goes to War,” is perhaps the coolest space fairy tale that “Doctor Who” has yet produced since its revival. It will have Whovians properly Moff***ed with nerdgasms 777 times over. As the seventh episode of the current series (and the 777th since the show started its run in 1963), it had me watching (and rewatching on my iPlayer, probably seven times now) in genuine wonderment like a little boy of seven all over again (I grow ever convinced that how much a “Doctor Who” episode can reduce a grumpy old adult comme moi to his child self is probably one of the best metrics for gauging its success).

There’s an epic feel to it right from the off, with the Last of the Time Lords and the Last Centurion blowing up a Cyber fleet just to prove a point to Amy’s kidnappers. Through the course of fifty minutes, we see an army of Silurians, Judoons, the Spitfire pilot “Danny Boy” from “Victory of the Daleks,” and Henry and Toby Avery from “The Curse of the Black Spot” converge on the Church’s military base on Demon’s Run. It’s like “The Pandorica Opens” in space (but even cooler), teeming with an even more colorful cast of characters. (A Victorian lesbian samurai Silurian! Yeah!).

I took a liking to the nearly 12-year-old Commander Strax, a Sontaran warrior who as a result of the Doctor, takes on the role of nurse as penance. He delivers some of the episode’s funniest dialogue, including a scene in which he offers his nursing services to the Ponds’ fretting baby (see “Quotables” section below). His death scene is particularly memorable:  Rory, also a nurse-warrior, tells him to stay strong, but Strax’s identity as a nurse is too deeply imprinted in him; “Rory, I’m a nurse,” he tells him before bowing out. (I wonder if this is foreshadowing for Rory, who himself has suffered a bit of a split identity since joining the TARDIS team).

I was also very taken by the character of Lorna Bucket, played by Christina Chong. I actually kept thinking she would make for a profoundly wonderful companion. I do hope that the Moff rewrites her timeline and brings her back as a proper companion for next series (speculation has abounded, based purely on their shooting schedules, that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill will say their farewells at the conclusion of series 6 in the fall).

We also see the return of the clerics, which is one of the Moff’s coolest (not to mention rather sacrilegious) ideas. As we learned in “The Time of Angels”/”Flesh and Stone” two-parter of last series, the 51st century Anglican Church has evolved into a military organization, with bishops and vergers making up its ranks. I love how the Moff plays with religion, through mentions of a “transept” level in the military base, “conversion tutorials,” the “Papal Mainframe Herself,” and “attack prayers.” We also have–count ‘em–two gay couples, one of which is comprised of two marines. (The 51st century–what a long way off from DADT!). Oh, and yes, we have the gruesome Headless Monks (“Do not interact with the Headless Monks without Divine Permission”) who follow their hearts instead of their, umm, minds.

At least these guys don't have "Timeheads." ...Maybe the lesson for the kiddies is to, umm, never follow your heart?

All seems lost at the end when the Church’s carefully concealed trap becomes evident to the Doctor (the Headless Monks ambush what’s left of his army, and the Ponds’ baby turns out to be a Flesh avatar), but everyone’s favorite space archaeologist River Song times her arrival to provide hope for everyone. Were she not to have revealed her identity by this point, the Doctor would have given up, as observed by Madame Vastra (it provides a necessary hope to know that that child will be River, the one person the Doctor trusts more than anyone in the world), and his best friends Rory and Amy might have just as easily resigned their titles as his best friends. The Church is positioning their baby as a weapon after all, all in fear of the Doctor for having built up a reputation as a mighty warrior.

Though I didn’t see the aforementioned Flesh baby twist coming, I unfortunately knew the cliffhanger centered around River Song’s identity, with a little help from a certain spoiler-dispensing blog. There’s a reason River Song says “Spoilers!” It really is all for the viewer’s own good. Moffat said it best: “Stories depend on shocking people. Stories are the moments that you didn’t see coming, that are what live in you and burn in you forever. If you are denied those, it’s vandalism.” So the lesson: Never invite vandalism. Why opt after all for a premature ejaculation? (Teasers are okay, though; those are more like foreplay). Yes, my analogy is vulgar, but hopefully it drives home the point:  Leechblock doctorwhospoilers.com!

But setting aside having been spoilered, how cool to finally get confirmation of my theory that River is indeed a Time Lady (well, half-Time Lady, half-human; though we still don’t know about her marital status). As it turns out, the Ponds conceived of her on their wedding night in the TARDIS, exposing her to the time vortex (which is how Time Lords are essentially “cooked”). It does change everything for everyone. How must that be like for Amy, realizing she had pointed guns at her daughter on two occasions already (in “The Impossible Astronaut,” and now “A Good Man Goes to War”). How must that be like for the Ponds seeing their daughter in prison? To know that she will kill a “very good man?” I definitely will be rewatching every River Song episode differently now.

For some reason when Moffat had teased that this episode would be game-changing, I immediately thought he was going to have the Doctor kill mercilessly (at which point he would no longer be the Doctor, as he indicated in “The Beast Below”). It was interesting seeing the Doctor briefly get almost sadistic (especially with “Colonel Runaway”); but one of the principal rules of “Doctor Who” is that nothing too too serious as him being an actual proper killer could/should ever tarnish the Doctor’s storyline; leave the hardcore stuff for “Torchwood!”

With that said, “Let’s Kill Hitler” already!

Quotables:

  • “He’s the last of his kind. He looks young, but he’s lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. And wherever they take you, Melody, however scared you are, I promise you, you will never be alone. Because this man is your father. He has a name but the people of our world know him better…as the Last Centurion. -Amy’s fake-out, explaining to her baby that her savior will be Rory, not that other guy (cf. later when Moffat cheekily has the Doctor say vaguely “It’s mine” to Amy and Rory).
  • “We’re the Thin Fat Gay Married Anglican Marines. Why would we need names as well?” -The Moff is so amazingly camp, he should be made an honorary gay! Love a sympathizer!
  • “Captain Harcourt, I hope someday to meet you in the glory of battle where I shall crush the life of your worthless human form. Try and get some rest.” -Commander Strax says goodbye to his human patient.
  • “Oh, turn it off. I’m breaking in, not out. This is River Song back in her cell. Oh, and I’ll take breakfast at the usual time. Thank you!” -River Song, after a romp in 1814 for her birthday with a future version of the Doctor.
  • “It’s my birthday. The Doctor took me ice skating on the River Thames in 1814, the last of the great frost fairs. He got Stevie Wonder to sing for me under London Bridge.” / “Stevie Wonder sang in 1814?” / “Yes, he did. But you must never tell him!” -River explains to her father what she did on her birthday.
  • “I want people to call you Colonel Run Away. I want children laughing outside your door cos they found the house of Colonel Run Away. And when people come to you and ask if trying to get to the people I love is in any way a good idea, I want you to tell them your name. Look, I’m angry. That’s new.” -The transformation of Colonel Manton to Colonel Run Away.
  • “Oh god, I was gonna be cool.” -Rory unable to hold in his tears upon being reunited with wife and child. (I can’t wait for more revelations to come about his heightened sensitivity in relation to his 2,000 years of being a plastic centurion).
  • “It’s a geography teacher. ‘Melody Pond’ is a superhero.” -Her indoors shows who wears the pants; Amy comments on the blah name ‘Melody Williams’.
  • “And really you should call her Mummy, not Big Milk Thing.” / “Okay, what are you doing? / “I speak Baby.” -The multilingual Doctor talks to Melody Pond in her language.
  • “He doesn’t like the TARDIS noise. I asked him to turn something off, but it was all ‘But I don’t want to punch a hole in the space-time continuum’.” -Amy’s request of the Doctor to calm Melody down.
  • “I have gene-spliced myself for all nursing duties. I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic fluid!” -Commander Strax, offering to breastfeed a whaling Melody Pond.
  • “No offense to the others, but you let them all die first, okay? / “You’re so Scottish.” -Amy’s last words as she sends off her soldier to war.
  • “Demons run when a good man goes to war…Demons run but count the cost. The battle’s won, but the child is lost.” -Parts of an old saying regarding the asteroid Demon’s Run, as recited by River in voice-over.
  • “The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name. Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean?” -River, bringing the Doctor down a peg.
  • “It’s your daughter’s name in the language of the forest. …Except they don’t have a word for ‘Pond’. Because the only water in the forest is the river. The Doctor will find your daughter and he will care for her whatever it takes. And I know that. …It’s me. I’m Melody. I’m your daughter.” -River reveals her true identity with the help of the Gamma Forest prayer leaf sewn by Lorna Bucket. (Nice reference back to “The Doctor’s Wife,” when the TARDIS told Rory the cryptic clue, “The only water in the forest is the river”). Oh, and I also love the moment right before this when Amy watches, with Rory looking on behind her, as the Doctor dematerializes in his TARDIS yet again (cf. “The Eleventh Hour”).
Read my other “Doctor Who” blog posts:

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 6: “The Almost People”

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

"Push, Amy. But only when she tells you to."

“Yowza!” This week’s “Doctor Who” episode, “The Almost People,” provides a cool cliffhanger as we head into next week’s mid-series finale (which promises its own jaw-dropping cliffhanger).

Kudos to writer Matthew Graham for the good job of realizing his monster, the vengeful Flesh seeking to divide at will. Some might note an inconsistency in the gangers’ nature, especially with ganger Jennifer so extreme in her hate for the humans. But the fact that she is so ruthless as to replicate a sacrifical ganger of herself to lure the unsuspecting Rory into a trap and to devour the human Buzzer tells me that she’s not so much a replicate of softhearted Jennifer, but a manifestation of the Flesh entity itself. And the line, “The eyes are the last to go,” is so effectively creepy, nicely explaining the gangers’ eye-like appearance in their unstable state:  As they are melted or “decommissioned,” the gangers’ eyes witness all the suffering of their kind, and the question of “Why?” is imprinted in their molecular memory. Seeing the pile of discarded Flesh replicates was quite sad in its own way. I also liked the gruesomely cool scene in which the Doctor comes across the Flesh’s eyes on a wall. I bet some kids about to go night-night in the UK will never look at the walls in their bedroom the same way again.

Though I felt them initially contrived, the substitutions of the gangers Jimmy and Dicken for their human counterparts feel somehow fitting (I like how the Doctor tells the ganger Jimmy, “You’re a Dad,” a nice tie to the theme of pregnancy in the series). And there’s also something fitting about the resolution provided for Miranda Cleaves (whom we find out has a blood clot, which the Doctor, acting like an actual doctor, cures in the end). The ganger foreman goes down with her factory, while the real foreman tells the world the truth about the suffering of gangers to hopefully stop the future inhumane use of the Flesh.

As for the case of the switcheroos:  How fun it was seeing the Doctor and his ganger finish each other’s sentences like twins, bandying inside jokes between the both of them. The switcheroo they pull off not only conveyed a moral lesson to the kiddies, but it also allowed the Doctor to understand the nature of how it is to be in both the kidnapped Amy’s and her ganger’s predicament. I must admit though that I’d previously thought of the possibility of Amy being herself a ganger, so the episode’s cliffhanger didn’t have as much of an impact on me (all my labyrinthine theorizing unfortunately has ruined many an ending for me, haha!). But it was nice to finally get an answer to the whole pregnancy conundrum (the TARDIS scanner’s wonky readings regarding Amy’s pregnancy had been caused by signals being transmitted to the Flesh). And I like the complication introduced in this episode by ganger Amy having inadvertently told the real Doctor (whom she had thought to be the ganger Doctor) the secret he wasn’t supposed to know (now the Silent’s hypnotic suggestion to Amy from “The Impossible Astronaut” makes sense–to tell him what he must never know, i.e. his own death). The Silence seem to have planted an intricate trap for the nameless Doctor. I’m also interested in how the real Doctor’s line to his ganger about molecular memory surviving might resurface in a future episode; I wonder if that will somehow play a role in the resolution to the future Doctor’s impending death on Lake Silencio in the Plain of Sighs.

Coming Soon: Roranicus Pond vs. the non-Cybus Cybermen.

And now onward, soldiers, to Steven Moffat’s “A Good Man Goes to War” next week. (If you haven’t already, watch the prequel to episode 7 as well as the episode 7 trailer, which features the return of the blue man Dorium from the Maldovarium in “The Pandorica Opens”). That it’s penned by the Doctorly Steven Moffat (“Doctorly” is a term of highest honor in my patchwork vocabulary) bodes well for it. As the Moff has teased: “Want to find the most dangerous place in the universe? Easy. Harm a hair on Amy’s head any just wait. But as the last of the Time Lords and the Lone Centurion blaze across galaxies to save the woman in both their lives, history is unfolding. In her cell, in Stormcage, River Song knows the time has come at last. She has a secret, and this is the day she tells it. The battle of Demons Run has begun. And the Doctor’s darkest hour is now.” Exciting stuff!

Looking ahead, I’ll posit my really outlandish idea about River Song here and now, based on this other teaser from the Series 6 Part 1 box set:  “And waiting for them, at the end of all this, is the battle of Demon’s Run, and the Doctor’s darkest hour. Can even the truth about River Song save the Time Lord’s soul?” I personally think that River will somehow be a receptacle for the Doctor’s soul (or some such complicated wibbly-wobbly arrangement), making her the Doctor’s literal “soul mate,” which would thus explain all the teases about her being the Doctor’s wife.

And again, I stand by my claims from my review of “The Impossible Astronaut” that the deadliest secret under our nose throughout the entirety of this series is the Doctor’s name; that somehow the Silence, who seem preoccupied with names (the Silent in the series six opener specifically went out of its way to mention the name of the White House staffer it had killed, Joy; also it rather oddly uttered Amy’s name:  “Your name is Amelia”), are after the answer to the “Who” of “Doctor Who.” As Moffat has riddled to us before, “…our heroes will set out on the long road to the deadliest secret in the universe – and when it stares you in the face, you might just discover you’ve known about it all along.”

I love being a Whovian!

Quotables:

  • “One day we will get back. Yes, one day… Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow…Would you like a jelly baby?” -The ganger Doctor trying to stabilize as he wades through all the Doctor’s previous regenerations.
  • “Created by the Cybermen. They kill by feeding off brainwaves.” -The Doctor and his ganger talk Cybermats to prove they’re on the same wavelength with each other.
  • “I’m starting to get a sense of how impressive it is to hang out with me.” -The Doctor admiring himself through his ganger reflection.
  • “The eyes are the last to go.” -Ganger Jennifer tells her fellow gangers the eerie truth about the slaughter their kind will inevitably face.
  • “Tough, dependable, sexy.” -The Doctor describes the TARDIS (nice allusion to “The Doctor’s Wife”).
  • “I’ll break out the big guns.” -Rory about to show off his manliness to ganger Jennifer.
  • “The ‘eyes’ have it.” -The Doctor, upon seeing a wall of accusatory Flesh eyes.
  • “Rory Pond! Roranicus Pond!” -The Doctor, scolding a tricked Mr. Pond (nice allusion to “The Big Bang”).
  • “If you’ve got a better plan, I’m all ears. In fact, if you have a better plan, I’ll take you to a planet where everyone is all ears.” -The Doctor’s promised reward to the human or ganger with a workable escape plan.
  • “I’ve helped him into an act of humanity.” -The Doctor corrects ganger Jennifer’s accusation that he’s made ganger Jimmy weaker by inciting him to save his human counterpart.
  • “You’re twice the man I thought you were.” -Amy, upon realizing that the Doctor and his ganger had switched shoes and proven that everyone can indeed get along.
  • “Push, Amy. But only when she tells you to.” -The Doctor, urging on Amy amid contractions to listen to Madame Kovarian. 
  • “Beautiful word: shenanigans.” -The Doctor’s word for accidental adventures he gets pulled into amid other plans.
Read my other “Doctor Who” blog posts:

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 5: “The Rebel Flesh”

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble! This week’s “Doctor Who” episode, “The Rebel Flesh,” has the Oncoming Storm and the Ponds (Is Amy wearing the same shirt as in the series opener episodes?) up against a solar storm and a bit of rebellious gunge. After his scanner yet again shows Amy as being both pregnant and not, the Doctor lands in the 22nd century at a 13th century island monastery now converted into a “Flesh” factory. (Well, not that kind, haha). The acid mine workers at this industrial factory, in an effort to lessen employee turnover, essentially clone themselves via “The Flesh.” But these replicates aren’t just robots; they actually take on the same personalities and memories as their originals. The Doctor, posing as a meteorologist/weatherman, gets caught in the middle of a brewing rebellion, after the solar tsunami causes the doppelgangers, or “gangers,” to go rogue. To further complicate things, the sentient “Flesh” copies the Doctor. Imagine that:  Another Doctor with his same memories and intelligence. Dangerous stuff there.

Writer Matthew Graham seems on his way here to vindicating himself from series 2’s regrettable throw-away, “Fear Her.” It mightn’t have been timey-wimey, but it sure was, um, peopley-weopley; lots of characters running about. The episode reminds me of the “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood” two-parter, in which a heartless, one-minded character (Cleaves in the current episode, Restac in the aforementioned series 5 episodes) screws up a peace treaty in progress. In addition, we have a massive cliff-ganger, err, cliffhanger at the end of both two-parters’ second episodes. I only hope the cliffhanger for “The Almost People” doesn’t involve Rory dying–again–as he did in “Cold Blood.”

I like the acid that the Doctor and his friends have to navigate around throughout the episode; not a monster, but menacing nonetheless. The Flesh and its eyeball-y gooey replications bring about interesting cloning-related complications, i.e the trouble of shared identity. If someone else were exactly like you, would you want to share your memories, your personality, your life, with her/him, or would you basically say that there’s only one acid suit (are those Sontaran suits recycled?) to go around and you deserve it? Graham’s “monsters” aren’t really monsters; they’re not naturally violent. Yes, it’s a cliche showing humans as monsters in comparison to actual monsters, but I still like how Graham tints his gangers with innocence. For example, after the real Dicken coughs, his ganger Dickens tells him politely, “Bless you.” The ganger Jimmy offers to accompany and lend a helping hand to the real Jimmy. Even the ganger Cleaves is a softhearted sweetheart, remorseful over having left behind her crew.

My favorite once-Auton, Rory, is continuing to be very intriguing. Not only do we see some more gangly running from him in this episode, we also see him bring out his inner “Lone Centurion” again. It’s interesting seeing him attend to the distressed ganger Jennifer, tackle a cattle prod-wielding Cleaves, and rather uncharacteristically take the risk of searching for Jennifer amid some gangers on the loose (compare this to “The Impossible Astronaut” in which he had to be prodded, as it were, by the Doctor to accompany River Song down The Silence’s sewer tunnels). Perhaps it’s do with having once been a plastic replicate of himself that he’s willing to help out the gangers. It’s almost as if nothing else matters except for whatever or whomever it is he’s supposed to be protecting. It’s an interesting dynamic, seeing him as protector once again, but not of Amy’s.

Other notes and “wonders”:

  • Looking ahead to episode six, I imagine the Doctor’s boots will come up again to differentiate the original from the ganger (hopefully not, as that would be too predictable).
  • Can the gangers indeed keep stable without their originals?
  • The Doctor had a plan before the solar tsunami hit, having intended to drop the Ponds off first before getting to his destination; he also knows quite a bit about “The Flesh,” that at it’s still at its early stages. What was the reason the Doctor decided to go to this monastery? Might it have to do with the headless monks that I heard will be in the mid-series finale?
  • Will we finally get some answers on the creepy Madame Kovarian, aka Eye Patch Lady?
  • Will the Doctor’s snow globe make another cameo? (Haha). I guess only “time” will tell, haha.

Quotables:

  • “Behold, a cockerel! Love a cockerel.” -The Doctor’s first words upon stepping into his latest adventure.
  • “So, where are these Dusty Springfield-loving monks then?” -Amy, eager to meet the curious inhabitants of the monastery.
  • “There are people coming. Well, almost. / “Almost coming?” / “Almost people.” -The Doctor warning Amy about who or what’s to come.
  • “Well, we’ve halted. How are we all doing on the calm front?” -The Doctor reacting to instruction from an intruder alarm to “Halt and remain calm.”
  • “Amy, breathe.” -The Doctor, to the pregnant/not pregnant Amy.
  • “Are you sure you’re feeling better? No more super-elastic punctures?” -Rory to ganger Jennifer, now both reconciled.
  • “Before we do anything, I have one very important question:  Has anybody got a pair of shoes I can borrow? Size 10. Though I should warn you, I have very wide feet.” -The Doctor poses the question that “oversteps” all other questions in the episode.
  • “Ee by by gum. Or not. Good. Right.” -The Doctor shamming a Northern accent, repeating his “Who da man?” moment from “The Eleventh Hour.”
  • “It’s interesting you refer to them as ‘it’ but you call a glorified cattle prod a ‘she’.” -The Doctor on Cleaves’s interesting use of pronouns.

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 4: “The Doctor’s Wife”

The TARDIS and her thief looking over a TARDIS graveyard.

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I often think “Doctor Wow” would be a more fitting title for this show, especially on weeks like this when we get an episode that is sure to come down in history as a “Doctor Who” classic. Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” is one of those fantastical episodes that make returning to the real world’s banal realness exceptionally difficult.

After receiving a Time Lord Emergency Messaging System (a sort of distress signal) from a Time Lord named The Corsaire, the Doctor drives the TARDIS “outside of the universe” to the surface of a sentient asteroid called “The House” (or “House”). It turns out House is really a sort of Venus fly-trap for Time Lords and their TARDISes, feeding on the vessels by transferring their souls first to receptacles, namely four beings it had caught from a rift. House “repairs” these receptacles in a Frankenstein-like manner, using body parts of Time Lords (The Corsaire included) to support the lives of their dying bodies. The soul of the Doctor’s TARDIS is transferred to Idris (played by Suranne Jones), one of these patchwork beings, and it’s this chance transference that allows the Doctor to finally communicate verbally with his wheels. (Brilliant!).

First off, what a cool idea Gaiman had of personifying the TARDIS. It’s such a mad and wonderful idea having our madman with a box finally meet in person his mad box with a…box (Oh wait, that’s vulgar, ha). Her first meeting with the Doctor is particularly memorable, yelling out for her thief, wanting to say hello but instead kissing him, mixing up her tenses. In fact, it’s pretty neat how Gaiman evinces a time machine’s perspective on time, unable to get in order what’s already happened and what is yet to happen. She ends up acting as a sort of unwitting soothsayer, spouting oracles (“The little boxes will make you angry,” she says in reference to the psychic containers the Doctor finds and does indeed get mad about). And I especially love how Gaiman plays with DW canon, positing the idea that the the robbery (or borrowing) of the TARDIS was a two-way deal:  The TARDIS stole the Doctor just as much as the Doctor stole the TARDIS. She calls him “My Doctor,” taking ownership of him, as many children (and former children, i.e. adults) in the UK have.

Neil Gaiman, Suranne Jones, and Matt Smith

Then there’s that undeniably beautiful scene in which the TARDIS says goodbye (or rather hearbreakingly, hello) to her thief. I admit to getting teary-eyed seeing the Doctor himself in tears, lips quavering (he gets “emotional,” paying no heed to Amy’s earlier imperative for him to not do so). There’s something devastating about having the Doctor, possibly the most intelligent, most powerful being in the universe, reduced to tears because of an imminent loss. Actually, that’s one of the singular themes I like about this show: the finiteness of things as seen through a sorta immortal, and the resulting heartbreaks. The best DW episodes have always involved some form of loss and heartbreak (i.e. “The Girl in the Fireplace” or “The Forest of the Dead.”). Fittingly, Murray Gold’s beautifully composed “Mad Man With a Box” plays in the end, its arpeggios evoking a morose fairy tale feel.

The House is terrifically terrifying. Its manipulation of The TARDIS corridors, and its timey-wimey torture of the Ponds, are fantastically conceived. Nephew the Ood made for a great secondary monster, its green eyes actually making it scarier, aside from looking novel (in the past, possessed Oods have been imbued with red eyes, i.e. “The Impossible Planet,” “The Satan Pit,” and “Planet of the Ood”). The green color scheme in general of the episode was very effective and just plain cool.

I like the continuing references to the Doctor’s forthcoming death 200 years in his personal future (though you can really feel the tone shift whenever Steven Moffat infuses his own dialogue into other writers’ scripts). If Amy and Rory are so affected now by their friend’s death so far in the future, just imagine how the Doctor must feel in regards to River Song’s death; so ironic and bittersweet.

I also like the continuing focus on Rory (who is becoming even more intriguing as the series progresses), i.e. the inserted reminder of Rory waiting 2,000 years for Amy while they run through the TARDIS corridors. What came every single night to hurt him? The Silence? (I also like that the TARDIS confuses Rory for being the “pretty” one; hey, I find him attractive, too). And for the third episode in a row, we get mention of Rory as a nurse. What is the reason behind him not being desensitized even as a nurse? And then there’s that mysterious line from the TARDIS: “The only water in the forest is the river.” I suppose this is to do with “Pond” vs. “River.” Or is it a tie back to the events of “Forest of the Dead?” Hmm…

Other notes:

  • I love the armpit-smelling spacepunk junkyard setting, a nice reference back to the very first William Hartnell episode.
  • The cheeky, and perhaps controversial, confirmation of Time Lords being able to regenerate into either gender I’m sure will spice things up for the Doctor’s next regeneration.
  • Such a cool TARDIS-centric episode. How cool that the TARDIS could archive its old control rooms. And I thought the “Blue Peter” TARDIS design was nicely integrated into the episode.
  • I loved how scientific reasoning was constantly dismissed throughout this episode, i.e. explanations of the possibility of traveling “outside of the universe.” Gaiman gets it:  This show isn’t sci-fi so much as it is a fairy tale.

Quotables:

  • “Yeah. No! But if it helps, yes.” -The Doctor sort of explaining the concept of travel to “outside of the universe.”
  • “It’s on the tip of my tongue. I’ve just had a new idea about kissing.” -The TARDIS comes upon the idea of French kissing accidentally.
  • “Big word. Sad word. Why is that word so sad? No. Will be sad.” -The TARDIS, in timey-wimey fashion, realizing the word “alive” will later on in the episode bring her to tears.
  • “Thief? Where’s my thief? Thief!” -The TARDIS crying out for its significant other.
  • “You gave me hope and then you took it away. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous. God knows what it will do to me. Basically…run!” -The Doctor, furious, upon learning of the fate of The Corsaire and the other Time Lords he’d come to rescue (nice allusion to Moffat’s “The Eleventh Hour” by the way).
  • “You’re a bitey madlady. The TARDIS is up-and-downy stuff in a big blue box.” -The Doctor, incredulous over the idea of his TARDIS inhabiting Idris’s body.
  • “Seven hundred years, finally he asks… You call me “Sexy.” -The TARDIS reveals its name (haha).
  • “You’re like a nine-year-old trying to rebuild a motor bike in his bedroom. And you never read the instructions.” / “I always read the instructions!” / “There’s a sign on my front door. You have been walking past it for 700 years. What does it say?” / “That’s not instructions!” / “There’s instructions at the bottom. What does it say?” / “Pull to open.” / “Yes. And what do you do?” / I push.” / “Every single time. 700 years. Police box doors open out the way. / “I think I have earned the right to open my front doors any way I want.” / “Your front doors? Have you any idea how childish that sounds?” / “You are not my mother.” / “And you are not my child.” / “You know, since we’re talking with mouths–not really an opportunity that comes along very often– just wanna say, you know, you have never been very reliable.” / “And you have?” / “You didn’t always take me around to where I’ve wanted to go.” / “No, but I always took you where you needed to go.” -Whew! A man and his car have a conversation.
  • “Crimson, eleven, delight, petrichor.” -The password to get to the archived Tenth Doctor’s console room.
  • “Finish ‘im off, girl.” -The Doctor sics the TARDIS on House.
  • “I’ve been looking for a word. A big, complicated word, but so sad. I found it now.” / “What word?” / “Alive. I’m alive.” / “Alive isn’t sad.” / “It’s sad when it’s over. I’ll always be here, but this is when we talked. And now even that has come to an end. There’s something I didn’t get to say to you.” / “Goodbye?” / “No. I just wanted to say, Hello. Hello, Doctor. It’s so very, very nice to meet you.” / “Please. I don’t want you to.” -Idris saying goodbye, and the TARDIS getting a second chance at saying hello to its thief.
  • “The only water in the forest is the river.” -The TARDIS’s dying words left to Rory.
  • “Bunk beds are cool. A bed with a ladder. You can’t beat that.” -The Doctor, after the Ponds get the opportunity to request a new bedroom.
Read my other “Doctor Who” blog posts:

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 3: “The Curse of the Black Spot”

Amy Pond, swashbuckler

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆

Yo ho ho! Or rather, No oh oh! Sirens aside, I wasn’t too enthralled by this week’s episode, written by Stephen Thompson (whom you might recall as having written “The Blind Banker” from the first series of “Sherlock”). “The Curse of the Black Spot” features pirates, a siren that turns out to be an unlikely doctor in a long-abandoned spaceship sick bay, and a moral about greed for the kiddies. The episode is closer to classic “Doctor Who” I suppose, but after being spoiled by the sophistication of Steven Moffat’s singular writing style for five consecutive DW episodes (“The Pandorica Opens,” “The Big Bang,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Impossible Astronaut,” and “The Day of the Moon”), Thompson’s competent effort feels like a mere commercial break to wade through until the next Moffat-written script. (I am indeed a shameless Moffateer/Moffatite/Moffatee).

The maudlin near-death scene that acts as the episode’s climax incited me to cringes. There are only so many times you can get away with the main cast dying until it becomes dramatically stale and overwrought. (Rory has died once before, as have Amelia and River; and of course, the Doctor has done so ten times over to this point, not counting his future death in the series opener). I fear the death button being used one too many times that by the point someone actually does die, it will have lost its dramatic impact, with death becoming too commonplace, dramatically speaking.

Kudos though to Karen Gillan, who has been really showing off her dramatic acting chops these past few episodes. I felt her talents were severly underutilized last series, especially after the memorable way she was introduced to us in “The Eleventh Hour.” Gillan seems to have good comic versatility and timing, as exemplified in her hilarious (though somewhat risque) skits from “The Kevin Bishop Show.” Looking back at series five of DW, I would have liked to have seen an expansion on the kiss-o-gram theme, i.e. have Amy pull off more disguises, take on different accents–leverage her comedic talents. But the dramatic route Amy Pond’s character has taken this series has so far pleasantly surprised me, as I didn’t necessarily find a “dramatic” Amy all that favorable last series (in fact, it was middlingly annoying). All that aside, I continue to be intrigued by her “pregnancy,” as well as the eye-patched Madame Kovarian’s bizarre cameo appearance about 25 minutes into the episode (she says, “It’s fine, you’re doing fine. Just stay calm”; I’m guessing she’s some sort of futuristic midwife).

For the second week in a row, Rory’s significance as Amy’s true love is emphasized, as well as his being a nurse. Is Moffat setting up a “Nurse” vs. “Doctor” dynamic? I’m interested to see Rory’s role in the mid-series finale, “A Good Man Goes to War,” which, as Steven Moffat had torturously teased us, will see the lives of the Doctor, Amy, and Rory forever changed. Specifically, here’s what Moffat had to say:  “You’ll see The Doctor’s life change forever. You will gasp at the true nature of his relationship with Amy and cry out in horror as Rory Williams stumbles to the brink of a tragic mistake.” What mistake will that be?

Overall, “The Curse of the Black Spot” is not a DW episode that had me geeking out to quite the level I had been the past two weeks, nor one that will have me rewatching it on BBC iPlayer for hours on end. Here’s looking forward to Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” next week, which I’m sure will return the current series’s writing quality up a few notches.

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Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 2: “Day of the Moon”

I love me a bad girl. Or a bad older lady.

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Spoilerers should be shot on sight. (Except that is, for me, purveyor of spoilers to BBC Americans!). Last series, I learned early on about Rory’s return in the finale as “The Lone Centurion” (which took the kick out of what was supposed to be his surprising death at the end of the Silurian episodes). So I figured this time around I’d stumble upon some revelation that would happen in the current series’s final episode. But blast it, I stepped into (rather actively, I admit) a spoiler from the finale of the fall series (see it here if you so dare), which very much affected the way I viewed “Day of the Moon.” Moral of the story (rich, coming from me):  Don’t read ahead if you don’t want to be spoiled!

Writing-wise, I can imagine Steven Moffat getting inspired in this conclusion to the series’s two-part opener by stories of alien abductions and probings, a mostly American phenomenon (and thus fitting for these two episodes shot stateside). Moffat evidences his trademark spryness, barely concerning himself with the cliffhanger scenes of the previous episode (Rory and River somehow just managed to escape the Silence’s underground spaceship after being surrounded by, if you will, a murder of Silents; and there wasn’t much ado about Amy having shot and missed the girl in the spacesuit), and instead boldly moving the action three months forward. It’s not a perfect episode; it’s a bit convenient how Canton was able to wangle “You should kill us all on sight” from the Silent ever so perfectly to use against its own species (I suppose it could be said that Gitmo interrogators could learn a thing or two from his soft yet results-yielding approach); and the episode’s resolution has more than a passing resemblance to that seen in “The Eleventh Hour,” in which the Doctor projected a computer virus to all of Earth to “out” Prisoner Zero. Still, amid all the confusion and before you’re able to question its intricacies, Moffat’s story makes for engaging television.

Oh, dear (Time) Lord. Bats of a Silent kind.

The Silence’s (singular form Silent, plural form Silence) scare factor was amped up in this episode, especially during the Graystark Hall Orphanage scene in which Amy, after realizing by the tally marks on her body that she’s just seen the Silence, looks up to find a number of them hanging from the ceiling like bats. Their enslavement of Dr. Renfrew, perpetually unable to heed the writings on the orphanage’s walls (a motif we’ve seen before in Moffat’s “Blink”), was also terrifying to watch. That the Silence can erase even information about themselves (thus necessitating the nano-recorders provided by the Doctor to his companions) make for almost the perfect camouflage. But as undefeatable as they may seem, the Silence are very well-protected but at the core vulnerable creatures; their ingenious defense mechanisms (memory erasure and the power of suggestion) don’t equate to invincibility. They can still be shot dead, which is actually quite refreshing (aside from being convenient for the Doctor and his companions); they’re not like Moffat’s Vashta Nerada or Weeping Angels, who can be outsmarted but not killed point blank. (It also allows for one of the episode’s most kick-arse scenes, in which River Song, whirlwind-style, shoots the Silence down). We still don’t know what their species is ultimately scheming, but I stand by my theory from my review of “The Impossible Astronaut” that the Silence are after the Doctor’s secret name. Their motivation, for silence to fall, would then make sense:  “Fall,” in this context, is similar to the “fall,” or end, of the Roman empire, not a literal fall. For the Doctor to utter his name would mean the end of his silence.

And then we come to the child. Six months after the moon landing, we find the little girl dying in a New York alley and–gasp!–regenerating. A nice bookend to this two-parter, during the first part of which we saw the Doctor’s (failed) regeneration. I wonder what caused Amy’s child (unless it’s a red herring, the photo of Amy and the baby in the girl’s room pretty much confirms she’s Amy’s) to die and thus regenerate? I’m intrigued by Amy’s non-pregnancy after her Silence “probing”; I’m guessing she had told the Doctor about her pregnancy as a way to “implant” the information in his mind for posterity, the way the nano-recorders helped the Doctor’s companions remember the presence of the Silence. Does that mean the pregnancy was something the Doctor wasn’t meant to know, i.e. “what he must never know?” Or is it the opposite? And what an interesting concept the child’s spacesuit is as both life support and prison. I imagine the suit will make a return later on in the series. It can repair itself, and as River indicated, it might seek an occupant (similar to the disassembled Cyberman looking to assimilate Amy in “The Pandorica Opens”). Whomever it is the suit captures, we know that occupant will kill the Doctor in the future.

Why, hello, sweetie!

Now on to the Doctor’s “naughty friend.” I just want to marry Dr. River Song, I do. When the Doctor says, “This little girl. It’s all about her,” I actually think Moffat is referring to River. Last series it was all about Amy, but now, it’s all about River. So yes, I’m guessing she’s the same child in the spacesuit who regenerated by episode’s end. (Don’t ask me why the child doesn’t have a British accent like River; I’d ask, why did the Face of Boe not have a similar accent as Jack Harkness?). And yes, River could very well be a Time Lady (or variation thereof); that she died in The Library means nothing, as the Doctor would have died if he’d sacrificed himself in her stead, as the death would not have allowed him to regenerate either. Outlandish theories aside, the moment River kisses the Doctor is so bittersweet. (There’s something about the way Alex Kingston says, “What? That’s it? What’s the matter with you?” that I find incredibly sexy). It’s so devastating when she learns that this would be her last time kissing the Doctor. (By the way, there’s something perfect about Stormcage as her prison, with its perpetual rain echoing what I imagine to be the perpetual tears brought on by whatever it is she’s atoning for). I don’t quite understand how everything falls into place with River, but I’m looking forward to watching all her episodes in reverse once her story arc has been completed.

There's something hot about Rory in glasses. Even hotter is River in a blue business suit (a photo of which I unfortunately couldn't find at the time of writing).

And Rory (boy is he perfectly gangly, as evidenced in this episode). His significance is now slowly manifesting itself, and I like the direction the Moff is going with him. I was growing convinced there was no rhyme nor reason to his inclusion in the show as a companion, but Moffat’s angle here–the husband vs. the best friend–is becoming very intriguing. I’m interested to see how the Lone/Last Centurion’s 2,000 years worth of memories, which he seems to be able to shut away, will bear some importance later on in the series.

Finally, what can I say about Canton Delaware III? Please bring him back for more episodes! How somewhat fitting that the day after a royal wedding, most online posters’ theories about him being gay were confirmed very cheekily in this episode. Last week, I truly thought his mention of his desire to marry being a crime was just Moffat joking about how marriage should be criminal. Let the ban on gay marriage fall! How awesome to have a progressive Doctor!

Overall, a memorable opening two-parter for “Doctor Who.” I foresee a dip in writing quality with next week’s episode (I almost want Moffat to just write every single one), but I’m open to being proven wrong, a la Gareth Roberts’s enormously fun “The Lodger.”

Other “wonders”:

  • Dr. Renfrew tells Canton, “The child. She must be cared for. It’s important. That’s what they said.” But why? Why did the Silence want to, according to River, keep the child alive and give her independence? We understand the spacesuit was able to provide her this very protection, but why specifically a spacesuit? And how was the child able to force her way out of said spacesuit? River mentions she must be “incredibly strong.” The only other incredibly strong person I see from this episode is River herself, hence my theory that she’s the child in the future.
  • Who was the eyepatched woman whom we briefly saw saying, “No, I think she’s just dreaming?” Is this the Madame Kovarian in the ultimate spoiler I mentioned at the beginning of this review?
  • I know that the series 6 finale will involve a young Rory and a pterodactyl terrorizing him. I wonder if the avian dinosaur will scoop the kid up and drop him in front of young Amelia, thus giving meaning to Amy’s figure of speech, “dropped out of the sky.”
  • The Silent spacecraft similar to the one in “The Lodger” was probably a product of budgetary recycling. So much of that going on, it’s a wonder they didn’t just bring back the Pandorica in place of the “perfect prison” of this episode.

Quotables:

  • “Yeah? Welcome to America.” -Canton, after a Silent dismisses its species’s need for weapons.
  • “She can always hear me, Doctor. Always. Wherever she is, she always knows that I am coming for her. Do you understand me? Always.” -The Lone Centurion, right before Amy calls for the Doctor to save her.
  • “This is a videophone. Whatever a videophone is.” -Canton, upon videorecording the Silent’s words to use against its own species.
  • “I love you. I know you think it’s him. I know you think it ought to be him, but it’s not. It’s you. And when I see you again, I’m gonna tell you properly. Just to see your stupid face. My life was so boring before you dropped out of the sky.” -Amy wishing to see her true love while held captive by the Silence.
  • “Oh, and this is my friend, River. Nice hair, clever, has her own gun. And unlike me, she really doesn’t mind shooting people. I shouldn’t like that but I kinda do a bit.” / “Thank you, sweetie.” / “I know you’re all team players and everything, but she’ll definitely kill the first three of you.” / “Well, the first seven easily.” / “Seven, really?” / “Oh, eight for you, honey.” / “Stop it.” / “Make me.” / “Maybe I will.” -The Doctor and River, flirting in the midst of rescuing Amy from the Silence.
  • “So what kind of doctor are you?” / “Archaeology. Love a tomb.” -Rory and River, after the latter kills every last Silent in sight, as the Silent ordered.
  • “This person you want to marry. Black?” / “Yes–” / “I know what people think of me, but perhaps I’m a little more liberal–” / “–he is.” / “I think the moon is far away for now, don’t you, Mr. Delaware?” / “I figured it might be.” -Nixon and Canton, on the FBI agent’s wish to marry.
  • “Right. Okay. Interesting.” -The Doctor, upon kissing River the first time (or from her perspective, her last time).
  • “You could let me fly it.” / “Or we could go where we’re supposed to.” -The Doctor and River, squabbling like a married couple about who should be let to drive the TARDIS.

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 1: “The Impossible Astronaut”

The Doctor and his "operatives."

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Note to BBC Americans who’ve yet to see the episode:  Look away and never look behind! Because this spoiler-filled review does not have the memory erasure abilities of a Silent upon being seen (though quite frankly I wish such a mechanism would exist for all the spoiler-filled blogs I keep peeking into).

First things first, the obligatory timey-wimey synopsis:  After witnessing the very seemingly permanent death of the Eleventh Doctor from the future (aged 1,103, to be precise), River Song (Alex Kingston) and the Ponds, aka Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) team up with the “present-time” 909-year-old Doctor (Matt Smith) and a former FBI agent named Canton Everett Delaware III (Mark Sheppard)–all five recruited by that aforementioned future Eleventh–for a mission involving the 1969 moon landing, a little girl “scared of the spaceman,” and her haunting phone calls to American president Richard Nixon. As the “present-time” 909-year-old Doctor does not know of his impending death, his friends have to tread gingerly with revealing that “spoiler,” lest a paradox be created that could tear the universe asunder. Threatening to tear the universe asunder regardless are “The Silence,” a deadly race of aliens introduced as the culprit behind the Tardis explosion of series five, and potentially the best monster ever conceived by the enviable brain of head writer Steven Moffat.

Story-wise, this is classic Moffat. The placement of the future Eleventh’s death (which I must say I didn’t see coming, but which in hindsight I now see as the only possible death that could have occurred) barely ten minutes in was a brilliant move, introducing great dramatic tension at the off. And his death being withheld from the Doctor mixed things up a bit nicely in terms of the dynamic between the main four characters. I also thought the Jefferson Addams Hamilton name/location bit was pretty ingenious. And that exciting cliffhanger–Amy shooting the astronaut/child–had me with mouth agape (though the shock was somewhat diffused when in the preview for next week’s episode we find out that the child lives, the bullet seemingly only having dented her helmet).

River "Kick-Ass" Song

One of the prerequisites for a great “Doctor Who” episode now seem to be an appearance by River Song, my favorite space archaeologist and prison escapee. She shines in this episode, even if the teasers thrown at us of her as yet unknown identity continue to be maddeningly meager. She is such a fun character to watch in her interactions with the Doctor, such as in the scene where she and the Doctor “sync” their diaries (the Doctor in the future has his own diary!), and when she corrects the Doctor’s TARDIS piloting behind his back. As counterpoint to these scenes of cheeky fun is her monologue about two-thirds of the way in about her relationship with the Doctor, a moment of subtle devastation. Imagine two people whose trajectories are fated to meet but are ultimately headed in opposite directions. (I’m reminded of the growing distance between the galaxies; in fact one of my rubbish theories is that the Silents are really the dark matter or dark energy of the universe, intent on tearing the Doctor away from his friends…but the dark matter idea has already been used, rather cleverly, by Philip Pullman). The moment when River confides to Rory that it would kill her to encounter a version of the Doctor who doesn’t recognize her, poignantly and hauntingly echoes the events to come (or from the Doctor’s perspective, events that have already occurred) in the “Silence in the Library” episodes.

And finally, The Silence. Ah, what a horrid, disgusting, and frightening treat they are. I’m looking forward to discovering their background and motivation, or the “horror of their species” as co-executive producer Piers Wenger had once called it. My personal guess is that The Silence draw off the energy of names, or perhaps identities. During Amy’s bathroom confrontation with a Silent, it specifically brings up the name of the staffer it just killed, as well as Amy’s. “Joy,” the Silent tells Amy. “Her name was Joy. Your name is Amelia.” I’m guessing the Silents are tied in some way to the Doctor’s very secret name (which I assume is what the Doctor had been running away from all his life), or possibly even River’s very secret identity. In a way it makes sense; the Doctor has been “silent” all this time about his name.

In any case, I’m absolutely chuffed, having just had my first fill of “Doctor Who” in a long while. I’m looking forward to next week’s episode, when I’ll be better able to gauge the two-part story as a whole. In the meantime, the following week will be replete with endless repeats of this stunner of an opener.

Other “wonders”:

  • I wonder what the future Eleventh’s words were with the astronaut before it killed him. And who is that astronaut? Guessing by the green electrical bolts, it’s seemingly a Silent, but why did the camera strategically pan away when it was lifting up its helmet visor?
  • Memory, as Moffat had stated before, is important. The moments in the White House restroom when Amy says “I remember” and “I forget” remind me of her in “The Big Bang” two-parter. Also, I’m reminded of Dr. Moon in the “Silence in the Library,” who would tell his patients, “And then you forgot” or “And then you remembered.” Familiar trope of Moffat’s. I wonder if a shape of what’s to come can be culled from these past templates.
  • River tells Rory:  “When I first met the Doctor a long long time ago, he knew all about me. Think about that. Impressionable young girl and suddenly this man drops out of the sky. He’s clever and mad and wonderful and knows everything about her. Imagine what that does to a girl.” I wonder if the moment when Rory gives a look and says “I don’t really have to” after River says “Imagine what that does to a girl” means anything. Is there any residual from last series’s kinda-rivalry between the boys? The nurse who wanted to better the Doctor…
  • What’s with the Silents’ preoccupation with technology for going to the moon? And what’s with their “lair” and the sticky gooey stuff on the cords leading down to their hidden-away TARDIS (presumably from “The Lodger” episode, and which must have left those spaceship tracks in front of Amy’s house from “The Pandorica Opens”)?
  • Amy’s pregnancy is evidently going to be important. I was unclear as to what it was that the Silent was subliminally telling Amy to do–that is, what was the Silent referring to when, by the power of suggestion, it told Amy she must tell the Doctor what he must know and mustn’t know. Is the pregnancy what he must know? Is his own death what he mustn’t know?
  • Marriage seems to be a theme here. Amy and Rory are of course now a married unit, and there have been hints of the Doctor being one day married to River (not to mention the upcoming Neil Gaiman episode titled “The Doctor’s Wife,” which many in online forums have deduced is in reference to the TARDIS), but also Canton mentions at one point having left the Bureau in order to marry. I’m guessing some significance there.

Quotables:

  • “It’s like he’s being deliberately ridiculous.” -Amy, about the Doctor leaving imprints of himself throughout history.
  • “Dr. Song–she’s packing. She says she’s going to some planet called America.” -A harried Stormcage prison guard’s explanation to his commanding officer.
  • “You were my second choice for president, Mr. Nixon.” - Canton, upon being told by the president that he was his second choice for the mission.
  • “Hippie.” “Archaeologist.” -River and the Doctor, respectively, during a convo on Nixon (these affirmations of the Doctor’s leftward leanings are always funny).
  • “Oh, look. This is the Oval Office. I was looking for the…Oblong.” -The Doctor, upon being sighted (he ain’t no Silent, that’s for dang sure).
  • “They’re Americans!” -River, after the Doctor poses the question to the president and his men, “Do you think you could just shoot me?”
  • “The Legs, The Nose, Mrs. Robinson.” -Doctor’s introduction of his “operatives.”
  • “Lovely fellows. Two of them fancied me.” -The Doctor on three particular American founding fathers.
  • “Don’t worry. I’m quite a screamer. Now there’s a spoiler for you.” -River, before going down a manhole to seek trouble in a Silent-filled tunnel.
  • “Trouble is it’s all back to front. His past is my future. We’re traveling in opposite directions. Every time we meet, I know him more and he knows me less. I long for the days when I see him. But I know that every time we do he’ll be one step further away. The day is coming when I’ll look into that man’s eyes–my Doctor–and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.” -River to Rory, about her relationship with the Doctor, ironically harkening to her own literal death to come.
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Review: “Doctor Who” 2010 Christmas Special: “A Christmas Carol”

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Note to BBC America: Thank you for bringing Christmas on time this year to BBC Americans like me. And to a certain chimney-hopping man in a red suit: The Moff is my new Father Christmas now, so suck it, Santa!

When teasers from earlier in the year had Steven Moffat touting this year’s “Doctor Who” Christmas special as the most Christmassy ever, he wasn’t hyperbolizing. This is by far not just the most Christmassy, it is also the most fun, funny, heartwarming, bittersweet, and beautifully told holiday special in the revived show’s run. Definitely warmed the cockles of this Scrooge’s heart.

As we’ve all heard, and as the title more than implies, the special draws heavily from the Charles Dickens story. But instead of Victorian England, it’s set in a planet where the sky is populated by fish; and I don’t mean just little innocuous fish (the next person to ask how this all works gets bitten by a fish). Their presence is a constant danger to the human population, until the heartless Elliot Sardick discovers a way to harness the fish by “taming the skies.” Enter his son, Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon), who has inherited not just his father’s invention, but also his lack of humanity. Simply put, Sardick is, well, a bit of a dick. This becomes problematic for the Doctor (Matt Smith) when his companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill, who  now shares top billing, a welcome addition to the opening credits) are stuck on their honeymoon in a crashing spaceship. The cruise ship needs to make an emergency landing, but the only thing standing in the way of its passengers’ safety is Kazran, who is unwilling to let the ship through with his cloud machine. To save his friends, the Doctor works his magic by rewriting Kazran’s past right in front of him, in the hopes of changing him into a nicer man who would let the space liner through (in one of the coolest DW moments ever, the Doctor plays a projection of Kazran’s childhood self to the present-day Kazran; he then time travels back to the very scene unfolding before the miser, and Kazran watches his past change before him while new memories magically develop in his mind). The way the Doctor brings cheer into the young Kazran’s life is just so cute and cleverly thought out. But things go awry when the Doctor introduces a new problem into the equation–a love interest (Katherine Jenkins) brings with it tragedy–causing Kazran to end up unchanged. But with 4,003 lives on the line, the Doctor of course persists with his mission to convince Kazran to change, and how he ultimately does it–by showing young Kazran his future self–is an utterly smart take on the Dickens tale. Classic Moffat.

"You know what boys say in the face of danger? Mummy."

Matt Smith’s Doctor is at his best here: Cutely plan-less, loveably alien, clownish, and at the core a 900-something-year-old Time Lord child. I loved the bits when the Doctor would be utterly stumped by human nature (just as in “The Big Bang,” he wonderingly and a bit disgustedly asks how humans can lock lips for an inordinately long time). Smith continues to embody the role so well; actually, perfectly. Just as I’d been thinking throughout Series 5, we are so lucky to have him as the Eleventh.

I got a great kick out of seeing Amy back in her strip-o-gram outfit and Rory in his Roman centurion get-up again (I also loved the return of the “What are you wearing?” line from the Silurian episodes). Though this was an Amy- and Rory-lite episode, I have little complaints. Time traveling with Abigail and the child then young adult Kazran was a great substitute; the photographs of their trips (which includes the momentary return of the fez, and a funny off-screen brush with Marilyn Monroe) brought smiles to my face.

The Moff’s script is sparklingly good. I could list all the funny lines from the script, but really I’d end up just reproducing the entire script. The bittersweet ending (Kazran stops hoarding Abigail’s last day, finally letting her live her Christmas Day, and sadly letting her finally die) was touching without broaching on sentimental territory; the Moff’s writing is too smart for that. On a somewhat tangential note: I wondered about the song in the end (an utter beauty written specially for the episode), which mentions silence (“When you are alone, silence is all you know”); is this some foreshadowing for the storm to come in the upcoming series, which will reportedly revolve around the enigmatic “Silence?”

If the writing of “A Christmas Carol” is any indication of the quality of the episodes to come in the next series, we are in for a neverending Christmas throughout spring (and then fall, given that the series will be split into two). The trailer and the BBC America spots for Series 6’s two-ep opener have me feeling all sorts of good. (The Doctor in the White House! The Doctor in a Stetson! River Song!). Series 6 cannot come any sooner; I can’t wait to find out what else the Moff has in store for us!