All right then. We have at long last wrapped up all those dangling threads that have been hanging around since the Pandorica opened and the Doctor reset the universe. And we have said farewell to the wonderful Matt Smith. Regular readers of these sofa-based despatches will not be surprised to learn that I waterproofed the laptop before sitting down to watch Eleven’s swansong (and that it was just as well that I did).
After being bounced around inessential, but not irrelevant, scenes like a pinball – the now traditional Doctor Who opening – we find ourselves, inevitably, on Trenzalore. We learn at last who blew up the Tardis, why silence must fall (not to mention who the Silence are), what’s on the other side of the crack in the universe (and that it was the crack that the Doctor saw back in his hotel room The God Complex), and why the oldest question in the universe is Doctor who?
I think Steven Moffat has given my brain indigestion. Even sleep didn’t untangle the knots he tied in my mind last night. It seems that The Day of the Doctor is an episode that genuinely requires two passes – the first to follow the plot, the second to absorb the story.
The first viewing left me a little deflated – there were so many good things in there, but it hadn’t moved me (and as you will know by now, I cry at the drop of hat – be it a fez or a stetson). A rewatching has, however, had me reaching for the tissues…
I can’t tell you if this is a reflection on my diminishing abilities to keep up with the Moff’s timey-wimey plotting, or a change in the way the man writes.
(Spoilers of many things 50th-related below the line…)
[Spoilers all the way down this week.]
Oh, he’s a clever so-and-so that Steven Moffat. The fans want a multi-Doctor episode to mark the 50th anniversary, so he gives us not one but several. He’s been dripfeeding us echoes of Doctors One to Ten for weeks and when we sit down to watch the series finale, with – let’s be honest – half an eye on the November special, he gives us all Ten (blink and you miss Eight though) and in a way that makes sense.
He doesn’t, of course, tell us the Doctor’s name, because the power of it lies in its mystery. There is no name you can give him that can match his chosen name or the draw of the secret surrounding his other name.
Wooooohooo! Now we’re on fire… Neil Gaiman is back at the keyboard and applying his Midas touch for a second time. And as long as you weren’t expecting another The Doctor’s Wife (he did tweet that he didn’t even try to top it) I’m hoping you enjoyed it as much as Hat Jr and I did.
One of my favourite things about Neil Gaiman’s writing is his gift for deception. He has a sleight of hand that is breathtaking (Neverwhere is a classic example, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, by the way) and immensely satisfying. It also makes rewatching a special joy.
[Spoilers below the line]
Well that was fun! And funny too. Master of gothic humour (or perhaps I mean gothic and humour) Mark Gatiss has turned in one of the best episodes of the series with The Crimson Horror.
Look at the ingredients – Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, more Victorian references than you can shake a stick at, ‘trouble at mill’, Diana Rigg AND her daughter Rachael Stirling, creative use of flashback and a Willy Wonka-esque ‘manufacturing process’ – and you can’t help but get your hopes up.
[Spoilers below the line….]
There are spaceships that get you from A to B, spaceships that are sci-fi icons (the Enterprise D, the Millennium Falcon, Red Dwarf, to name but three), and then there is the Tardis. The greatest spaceship in all creation. She’s not just bigger on the inside, she’s “infinite”. She has a heart, soul and personality – she is alive. She is, as Neil Gaiman showed us so exquisitely, to all intents and purposes the Doctor’s wife. So the very idea of her being salvaged as scrap is anathema. But that is exactly what this episode promises. Hold tight as the Doctor’s oldest and best companion is put in the gravest of danger…
[We get spoilery below the line…]
It’s difficult to believe that Hide was written by the same hand as The Rings of Akhaten. I have to say I loved almost everything about it. The spookiness, the misunderstandings, Dougray Scott, the TARDIS being ‘a cow’, how everything (except the psychic crown thing) looked stunning. Shall I stop gushing and go back to the beginning?
(Spoilers, obviously, from here on in)
Blimey, the only thing that could have made this week’s episode more timely was a Nasa announcement that it’s found proof of life on Mars.
I didn’t really enjoy the Eighties the first time I lived through them (though the pop music was very good) – and have clear memories of the Cold War (living next to two American and one British air base, focussed the mind on the nuclear issue somewhat) – and I haven’t relished reliving them in a somewhat concentrated form for the past week thanks to Kim Jong-un and the death of ‘that woman’. I did enjoy Mark Gatiss’s Cold War though – a beautifully tense and claustrophobic piece of television.
One of my favourite things about the return of Doctor Who to our screens is that, no matter whether the story satisfies or disappoints, I get to spend time watching Matt Smith act his socks off.
I may even start giving episodes sock-ratings, in which case The Rings of Akhaten would be a three-pair show. The pre-show titles alone were heart-breaking, even before we reached that gravestone. (And while I now understand Clara’s line about the leaf, and it’s Meaning, I stand by my opinion that it was a ‘darling’ that should have been killed.)
Anyway, this is Clara’s first official outing I guess, and having asked to go somewhere ‘awesome’, the Doctor takes her to see the Rings of Akhaten and a festival in which choristers sing a perpetual lullaby to keep their Old God asleep.
The prop, costume and prosthetic cupboards have been well and truly raided to give a real Cantina feel to the alien streets that the Doctor and Clara find themselves on. Having watched it twice, I still can’t decide how I feel about Doreen – though it’s not the first time the Tardis has been unable to translate an alien language for the companion (the Hath, in The Doctor’s Daughter, spring to mind).
[Apologies for the tardiness of this review – I have been lucky enough to be on holiday for the past week but somewhere beyond the reach of iPlayer…]
I know I was a bit curmudgeonly about The Snowmen, and I have to say I wasn’t at all sure I was going to like The Bells of Saint John any better, but I’m pleased to report it hit the spot at Hat Towers.
[Spoilers, sweetie, below the line] Continue reading