Resolution

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Resolution. If you wish to stay spoiler-free, come back after watching!

The Doctor Resolution

This is the DNA of the most dangerous creature in the universe.

Does it have a name?

A Dalek.

Thirteenth Doctor and Graham O’Brien

Synopsis

As the New Year begins, a terrible evil stirs from across the centuries on planet Earth.
Review

Well, after that teaser after The Battle of Ravkoor Av Kolos, it couldn’t really be anything other than the Daleks, could it? The obvious comparison is to Dalek, but with added family angst with the return of Ryan’s father, which I really felt slowed the pace of the first half down considerably and the episode struggled to really recover. I sincerely hope that, given the closing moments of this episode, this whole Ryan and Graham arc is to take more of a back seat when the show returns in 2020.

Dalek Resolution

I will start with our first returning monster of the Whittaker era of Doctor Who – the Dalek. In a series with less than memorable foes, the Daleks are a more than welcome adversary here. This episode manages to find something new to do with a 55-year-old enemy, with the mutant usually controlling the machine shown to be equally resourceful and menacing without armour. The Dalek mutant being able to control Lin and later Ryan’s father makes them feel like a proper threat again, which they haven’t necessarily always been. The scenes where it is controlling Lin is where this new is at it’s most effective and makes it much more effective than the Dalek puppets we saw in episodes like Asylum of the Daleks. This added with Nicholas Briggs’ returning as the voice of the Dalek really helps with the menace of the episode, and the scene in the bathroom with Lin when the creature begins to speak is really fantastic. Briggs deserves a lot of credit for his new voice for the mutant outside the casing, which was particularly creepy. In Dalek, we saw the sheer power of one Dalek and this is largely echoed here with the Dalek able to create a makeshift outer shell for itself. I loved this rusty design for the creature, although I do have a slight issue with the fact that, despite being completely cobbled together out of odds and ends, there is no real feeling of the Dalek not being fully operational until the plot depends on it. However, this is a successful return for the Daleks and I hope that we get more returning villains when the series returns.

I always think I’m rid of them. Never am. Trust me, Graham, even if it’s just one, it’s enough.

Thirteenth Doctor

It is often said that the actor playing the Doctor doesn’t feel like the Doctor until they’ve faced off against the Daleks, and in modern terms, this is quite late for Whittaker’s Doctor (they appeared 12 episodes into Tennant’s run, but he only met them in episode 13). Fortunately, Jodie Whittaker certainly ups her game to face off against Skaro’s finest killing machines and she certainly feels as though she has the personal history of facing off against the Daleks. Her first face to face encounter with the makeshift Dalek in this incarnation is really great and we finally get a speech about the Earth being defended, and the final confrontation is also really great. As this is the last we will see of this Doctor until next year, it is perhaps for the best that the Daleks have waited for now, as this is definitely her best performance thus far. The nature of the threat seen in this episode means that she has to stop being as scatty and gives this Doctor some gravitas in her fear of the Daleks.

Oh, mate. I’m the Doctor. Ring any bells?

Thirteenth Doctor

Chris Chibnall’s episodes have largely been seen as the weakest part of this series so far, and whilst I largely liked the episode, it does suffer majorly with pacing. This episode does feature more action which is good and the majority of the Dalek element of the episode works really well, and the Doctor gets some great lines. On the flip side, there are moments that almost creak with predictability, for instance, when the doorbell rings, there is absolutely no doubt in the majority of the audience’s mind that it will be Ryan’s father or that his microwave will be crucial in the resolution of the story. This predictability is best exemplified when the Dalek mutant is possessing Aaron and Ryan is able to pull him back, whilst there would potentially be more dramatic heft and story possibilities if instead, Ryan was unable to save his dad. This would actually add an interesting dynamic between the Doctor and Ryan, with the latter holding the Doctor responsible for his father’s demise, and would give the episode some emotional heft. This would also help absolve the café scene between Ryan and his dad, which really makes the episode feel like has slowed to a crawl. The scene goes on for almost five minutes but certainly felt like much longer and could have been dealt with better, as you can almost feel the episode creaking as it attempts to move back up through the gears again. Additionally, the throwaway jokes here don’t really work and again impact the pace. The joke about modern families is bad enough, but the one that really irritated me was the call centre scene where it is revealed that UNIT has been suspended due to budget cuts. This joke seems ridiculously heavy-handed and defies logic – UNIT is an international organisation and it’s stretching credibility to suggest that Brexit would have any impact on it. UNIT have never been a match for the Daleks anyway, so I don’t understand why we couldn’t have had at least a nod towards them here instead of this completely unnecessary joke. Maybe it’s the Jon Pertwee era fan in me, but this really rattled my cage.

TARDIS team Resolution

This episode does not help resolve the issues of an overcrowded TARDIS either. In addition to our four series regulars, we have three more guest cast in the shape of Aaron, Lin and Mitch which only add to this issue. As a result, it is no surprise that Yaz is sidelined yet again, but it is perhaps surprising that Graham gets thrown to the sidelines too. This does push Ryan front and centre of the story with a lot of time dealing with his relationship with his father, which allows Tosin Cole a chance to show us what he can do. Ryan has seemed like a bit of a blank canvas for some of this series, but whilst I criticised the café scene above, it has at the very least added something to this character. The guest cast perform their roles as well as the script allows, but I do wonder how much longer we can go on with this enlarged TARDIS team, as here it seems that Yaz is just the Doctor’s personal assistant and I would love her to have a more major role in the new series. I feel like I’ve said that quite a lot recently, but sadly she just feels quite a bit like superfluous at the moment.

Ok, stop. I don’t care how it’s been for you. This ain’t about us commiserating with each other. This is about you making things right.

Ryan Sinclair

Verdict: A story in which the Daleks felt as though they packed a real threat again, but it did suffer from some poor writing in places which damaged the pacing. Jodie Whittaker’s performance facing off against her first Classic monster does help save it a little though. 7/10
Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Charlotte Ritchie (Lin), Nikesh Patel (Mitch), Daniel Adeyboyega (Aaron), Darryl Clark (Police Officer Will), Connor Calland (Security Guard Richard), James Lewis (Farmer Dinkle), Sophie Duval (Mum), Callum McDonald (Teen 1), Harry Vallance (Teen 2), Laura Evelyn (Call Centre Polly), Michael Ballard (Sergeant) and Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks)
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Wayne Yip
Behind the Scenes

  • This is only the second time that Chris Chibnall has written a story featuring a classic monster – the other time being The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, which saw the return of the Silurians.
  • Wayne Yip is the first director in this run who has directed an episode of Doctor Who prior to this series. Yip directed The Lie of the Land and The Empress of Mars and several episodes of Class.
  • The Daleks were last seen in Twice Upon A Time and last appeared as the primary antagonist in The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar.

Best Moment

The scene with Lin in the bathroom where we see that the mutant is on her back. It is really well acted.
Best Quote

No matter how many times you try, no matter how long you wait, I will always be in your way, backed up by the best of humanity. Now, final, final, final warning – cos I’m nice, I really do try my best. Stop the signal, get off this planet.

Thirteenth Doctor

Dalek Doctor Resolutin

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

This review contains spoilers for The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.  You have been warned…

tardis team battle.jpg

Roughly translated, means Disintegrator of the Soul.

Oh, another cheery one.

Thirteenth Doctor and Graham O’Brien

Synopsis

On the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos, lies the remains of a brutal battlefield.  But as the Doctor, Ryan, Yaz and Graham answer nine separate distress calls, they discover the planet holds far more secrets.  Who is the mysterious commander with no memory?  What lies beyond the mists?  Who or what are the Ux?

The answers will lead the Doctor and her friends to a deadly reckoning.

Preamble

Personally, I feel that finales of Doctor Who are best served by being made up of two parts.  This allows for further development of ideas established in the series and generally means the story has more of an impact, helped along by the cliffhangers. Since the show’s revival, this has allowed for moments like the Daleks coming out of the void ship in Army of Ghosts, the Eleventh Doctor being locked in the Pandorica by an alliance of his greatest enemies, alongside the destruction of the entire universe in The Pandorica Opens, and in more recent times, the reveal of the Mondasian Cybermen and the return of the John Simm incarnation of the Master in World Enough and Time.  The first part usually does most of the heavy lifting, allowing the second part to delve into some more interesting areas.  The only stand-alone finale to date that has really worked for me (and I know there have only been two excluding this one) has been The Name of the Doctor, but this is probably because of the hype leading up to the 50th-anniversary special.

As always, I went into this episode with a perfectly open mind, and having largely enjoyed this series so far.  Without further ado, I’ll get to the review.

Review

The Battle of Rankoor Av Kolos brings to a close Jodie Whittaker’s first series of Doctor Who, which has been in my opinion, a solid series with the only issue of having a consistent lack of a compelling villain.  It almost goes without saying, but the music, direction and casting are fantastic again here, as they have been throughout the series.  The show looks and sounds the best it has in years.

andi

Speaking of a lack of compelling villains, this week’s finale sees the return of Tzim-Cha, last seen in The Woman Who Fell to Earth, who I quite liked as a villain, even if he was underdeveloped, understandably, in favour of the new Doctor.  In a series of humans as the true baddies, or aliens who can be redeemed, Tzim-Cha stands apart, as we have seen him hunting innocents and here, willing to commit genocide on six planets in his quest to seek revenge on the Doctor for her role in his situation on Rankoor Av Kolos.  His defeat on Earth and his 3,407 year exile seem to have unhinged him even further, and he is truly beyond redemption.  Equally, I understand the frustration that the main villain is not a recurring enemy, like the Master or the Daleks, but this wraps up the Grace storyline for both Ryan and Graham quite nicely and I feel serves the story and series much better than if this had been left until Series 12, especially with the news that this won’t be broadcast until 2020.  Tzim-Cha is an intimidating and threatening screen presence, even if he does throw armies of battle droids at the Doctor, Paltraki and the TARDIS team.  His deception of the Ux, who believe him to be their creator, also marks him out as a master of manipulation and the strongest bad guy this Doctor has encountered, which admittedly isn’t saying much.  I also quite like the fact that this adversary isn’t one who is terribly well known to the Doctor, and therefore the audience.  This makes his ultimate plan less predictable and the Doctor actually have to work hard to try to counter his evil machinations, which add meaningful stakes to the story.

From a story perspective, I found the central premise and the more science fiction basis interesting and I liked the idea of the race of the Ux.  I also like the fact that this story takes place away from Earth, and although Earth itself is threatened as part of the grand plan, it genuinely does feel as though the TARDIS has landed galaxies away.  However, I do feel that there are too many ideas in play here, which means that the story feels as though it would have benefitted from a second part.  Specifically, I feel that the use of the neural blockers to prevent the memory loss effects of the planet really should have had more of an impact on the plot.  I feel that they’re quite effective when being used to allow the gradual recall of Paltraki’s memories through the story, but when the Doctor removes them from herself and Yaz, I feel that there should have been more consequences for either one of them or both of them.  As it happens, the only ill effect is a bit of a headache, which feels a bit frustrating.  I’m also not a massive fan of the Doctor being able to summon the TARDIS with her sonic screwdriver, which I know is not without precedent as far as the audios are concerned (for the record, I’m not a fan of it there either).  The explanation that alignment to Stenza technology helps this happen feels a bit like lazy writing and I feel like a simple throwaway line expressing surprise that it worked may have reconciled it a bit for me.  As it is, it feels like a deus ex machina and makes the sonic screwdriver feel even more like a magic wand than it already does.  It did make me shout at the screen, which I never feel is a good moment.  The climax does also feel very abrupt, which seems to be a recurring issue when Chibnall is writing.

battle

What happened to “never do weapons”?

It’s a flexible creed.  Doors, locks, walls, buildings, fair game.  If it can be rebuilt, I’ll allow it.

No, no, you stopped me shooting at Sniperbots before.

You were new.  I have to lay down the rules if someone’s new.  Also, don’t quote that back to me, my rules change all the time.

Ryan Sinclair and the Thirteenth Doctor

Bradley Walsh continues to be the beating heart of this TARDIS team, and we see him here brought face to face with the creature responsible for Grace’s murder at the beginning of the series.  I completely bought him as someone who was willing to kill Tzim-Cha to get revenge and was completely accepting of what this meant for his relationship with the Doctor.  The interchange between him and the Doctor when they realise that a member of the Stenza is present and the Doctor states that if he goes through with it, he can no longer travel in the TARDIS is one of my highlights of the episode.  Of course, when Graham does get the chance to kill “Tim Shaw”, he is unable to go through with killing him, and the overall resolution of this plot strand does feel a lot more satisfying in general.  I’m looking forward to seeing more Bradley Walsh in the TARDIS, something I didn’t think I’d say ten weeks ago.  There are nice moments between him and Ryan, but Yaz again has little to nothing to do.  I really feel that this team is a bit too large and I really hope that this gets addressed in the not too distant future!

I’ve said it so many times and I’m not going to go into massive detail here as this blog is longer than I intended, but Jodie Whittaker gives another strong performance.  My personal highlight of her performance was her enthusiasm at meeting the Ux which I felt was perfectly played.  I have not been entirely onboard with not having returning foes this series, but it has allowed this element to come to the forefront in the majority of her stories.  Ultimately, the Doctor should be excited by elements she experiences in her travels – the First Doctor did leave Gallifrey because he was bored, after all!

You’re kidding! The Ux?  As in the duo-species, only ever two of you?  Lifespans of millenia.  Only found on three planets in the whole universe?  I’ve never met an Ux!  Congratulations! It must be so cool!

Thirteenth Doctor

Verdict: All in all, I feel that this does give us closure on the major themes of Series 11, aided by another fantastic performance by Bradley Walsh.  There are elements of this story that did fall flat though. 7/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Phyllis Logan (Andinio), Mark Addy (Paltraki), Percelle Ascot (Delph), Jan Lee (Umsang), Samuel Oatley (Tzim-Cha)

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Jamie Childs

Behind the Scenes

  • The Doctor refers the TARDIS having regressed Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day (aka Margaret Blaine) Slitheen into an egg in Boom Town and towing the Earth back across the universe in Journey’s End.  Equally, the use of planets to power a weapon was previously seen in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End
  • The Doctor has previously encountered planets being shrunk before, in the Fourth Doctor story The Pirate Planet.

Best Moment

The moment the Doctor meets Andinio.

Best Quote

Yippee ki-yay, robots!

Graham O’Brien

Because a Die Hard reference always wins.

graham battle

It Takes You Away

Warning:  This review contains spoilers for It Takes You Away.  If you haven’t seen it yet, come back after watching.

Norway TARDIS

Is it me or is this woman completely mad?

Trine

Synopsis

On the edge of a Norwegian fjord in the present day, the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz discover a boarded-up cottage and a girl named Hanne in need of their help.  What has happened here? What monster lurks in the woods around the cottage – and beyond?

Review

From the beginning, It Takes You Away seems to be formulaic Doctor Who.  The audience are presented with a boarded-up house, an abandoned girl and a monster in the woods.  Then the narrative leaps off in a completely different direction, giving us one of the first episodes of this series to give us a big science fiction concept, and an examination of loss and grief again.  The episode focuses on Hanne, a blind girl who is terrified by a creature in the woods outside her house, and it is a superb performance from Eleanor Wallwork.  It is rare to see Doctor Who defy expectations like this, and this is a strong debut story from Ed Hime. This is the last story to be written by a guest this series, and I feel that these stories have been amongst this latest batch of Doctor Who episodes.  As far as I am concerned, Malorie Blackman, Pete McTighe, Joy Wilkinson, Ed Hime and Vijay Patel can all come back whenever their schedules allow.

Ribbons and the TARDIS crew

The story here is particularly intriguing.  It seems to start as a Scandi Noir thriller but then twists and turns into a plot around an alternative plane of existence which gives both Graham and Erik the temptation of living their perfect life with their deceased loved ones.  In the early stages, it benefits from good direction from Jamie Childs, evoking horror tropes and making us truly believe that there is a monster, which helps to make the twist all the more effective when Ryan realises that the sounds that they have heard up to this point are just a recording.  I like that there is a distinctly different colour palate in each of the three main settings: the main universe is quite muted and bleak, the Anti-Zone is bathed in dark shades of purple and red, whilst the parallel universe is bright.  There are also lovely moments of humour in this story, such as the reveal that Graham has been carrying around sandwiches.  There are some fantastic scary moments and I thought that the Flesh Moths are quite a creepy idea and keep a sense of stakes in the Anti-Zone, whilst Kevin Eldon is pretty fantastic as Ribbons who is unpredictable and horrible.  I think the shot of a Flesh Moth crawling out of his eye socket is going to stick with me for a long time.  I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about the Solitract taking the form of a frog in its final exchanges with the Doctor, which initially did bother me, but on rewatching, I think that I’m either thinking about it too much or it is a perfectly reasonable thing for a sentient universe to take the form of.  Perhaps I was expecting a returning character to face the Doctor instead but I’ve finally reconciled myself to this decision.  Maybe this is why this review is so late!

hanne dad

Hanne might just be one of the strongest one-off characters we’ve had this series, who is constantly underestimated by the Doctor and her companions.  She is able to instantly sense that something is wrong with the universe that she arrives in and the copy of her mother is a fake.  Despite being blind, she is also incredibly perceptive and able to tell that Ryan is lying to her about the message that the Doctor wrote on the wall and about their surroundings when they are walking through the Anti-Zone.  It is this message that seems to really impact Erik and realise how selfish he has been by wanting to stay in the parallel universe.  It’s not a complete redemption of his character, but it does at least give her character the chance of a better future.  It’s a really great guest performance from Eleanor Wallwork in a series that has had a particularly good guest cast.

Grace and Graham

From the point of view of the companions, the biggest moment of consequence was the fact that Ryan finally acknowledges Graham as his grandfather, a plot thread that I wasn’t expected to be resolved until next week’s finale.  We also see the return of Grace in the Solitract Plane, and I believe that Bradley Walsh gives one of his best performances as Graham here.  His reaction when he sees Grace is so heartbreakingly played and the conversation between the two of them where he can’t believe that his dead wife is in front of him.  I am surprised by how much Graham has grown and developed from a character that I initially found a bit irritating into the beating heart of the TARDIS crew.  One of the few issues I have with this story is that it takes so long for Graham to come to the realisation that this Grace isn’t real after she prevents them from re-opening the portal to save Ryan.  However, in my mind, I’ve rationalised this as Graham still recovering from the shock of seeing his dead wife only to be told that they can’t be reunited in the main universe and it is only the second time that Grace seems indifferent to Ryan’s fate that he finally gets the message through.  Ryan gets some good characterisation, although I’m not sure about him dragging Hanne around to stop going through the portal, but his theory about what has happened to her father does prove to be correct, however cynical it could seem to be.  Yet again, Yaz gets the short straw here with little time spent here, but I appreciated the little touches – the fact that, of the TARDIS crew, she is the best at handling children due to her police training and that when Ribbons holds Graham at knifepoint, she is quick to try and act to defuse the situation.  She is also quite a good sounding board for the Doctor to fire ideas against and she asks the right questions to enable the Doctor to work out what the parallel dimension is.

Don’t do this to me.

Graham O’Brien

It’s another good performance from Jodie Whittaker again as the Doctor and it is clear here that she really has the feel for the character.  Something that I really like about the Doctor, and it’s something that I really liked about Matt Smith as the Doctor, is appreciating the beauty of really weird aliens, and it’s something that Whittaker does really well here.  The Doctor here is prepared to sacrifice her future travelling around in the TARDIS, and the interchange between her and the Solitract is really nicely played, and her frustration at having to leave despite having only “scratched the surface” of the Solitract universe and she does seem to be sincerely sorry about abandoning the Solitract to its solitary existence.  It’s always nice to have a bit more of a delve into the Doctor’s past and childhood and here we get the revelation that the Doctor had seven grandmothers, and I quite like the throwaway line about the seventh believing the second grandmother to be a Zygon spy!

She’s not your wife! She’s furniture with a pulse!

Thirteenth Doctor

Verdict: With great performances from Bradley Walsh and Jodie Whittaker and a rug pull I did not see coming, It Takes You Away is a great and moving story.  9/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Eleanor Wallwork (Hanne), Kevin Eldon (Ribbons), Christian Rubick (Erik), Lisa Stokke (Trine), Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien)

Writer: Ed Hime

Director: Jamie Childs

Behind the Scenes

  • Yas tells the Doctor that she would reverse the polarity, a phrase commonly associated with Jon Pertwee.
  • Upon landing in Norway, there are references to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – the Doctor states that they are near one of the frilly bits of Norway and Graham talks about the fjords.  The author of Hitchhiker’s, Douglas Adams, wrote for Doctor Who and was briefly script editor during Tom Baker’s time on the show.

Best Moment

Either the discussion between the Doctor and the frog, or the conversation between Graham and Ryan at the end of the episode.

Best Quote

Our reality cannot work with Solitract energy present.  The most basic ideas of the universe just get ruined. Think of it as a kid with chicken pox – nuclear chicken pox – who wants to join in but always ends up infecting everyone else.  Our universe cannot work with the Solitract in it.

Your gran told you this as a bedtime story?

Only when I had trouble sleeping.

Thirteenth Doctor and Yaz

The Witchfinders

Spoilers: This post contains spoilers for The Witchfinders. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it and come back!

james i

Anyone else missing the party vibe all of a sudden?

Graham O’Brien

Synopsis

In 17th Century Lancashire, the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham become embroiled in a witch trial and the arrival of King James I.
Review

At this stage of the series, it’s almost no surprise to see another good historical story from this production team, however, it is a surprise to finally get a decent alien invasion storyline this year. Alan Cumming also looks like he had a great time playing James I, and he is perhaps the highlight of this story, and despite the darker subject matter of witch hunting, this does feel a lot more of a romp than previous entries this series.

In the Old Testament. There’s a plot twist in the sequel – “Love thy neighbour”. Which is why we’ve come. To help you fix your problems without killing anyone. That’s what King James would want.

Thirteenth Doctor

becka savage

We have had quite a few historical stories this series, with The Witchfinders following in the tracks of Rosa and Demons of the Punjab, but here we see the TARDIS crew in 17th Century Lancashire. The big difference here is that the Doctor does interfere much more than previously, where a softly-softly approach had been favoured. Whilst witch hunts are an established part of English history, what we see here has a much more fantastical background and is based in the fictional village of Bilehurst Cragg, which allows a bit more creative freedom for Joy Wilkinson. The story benefits from great casting, especially Alan Cumming playing King James I (VI) and Siobhan Finneran as Becka Savage. Savage does appear to be the expected human baddy that we have become accustomed to over the past few weeks, so the twist that she has been infected by the Morax is a nice surprise. That being said, both Savage and James are beyond redemption, as Savage has had 36 people killed under the pretence of them being witches, and James kills the Morax possessing Savage in the end. His reaction when the TARDIS dematerialises is also fantastic.

Do you know why the ducking stool was invented, Doctor? To silence foolish women who talk too much.

Yeah, I did know that. Which is daft, cos talking’s brilliant.

Lady Savage and the Thirteenth Doctor

If I had to pick a flaw in an episode I largely enjoyed, it would be that the companions do not have a lot to do in this story. Yaz almost fades into the background in the story again, and it’s a shame to not get more insight into Yaz’s story about being bullied at school, as this would be some nice character development for her, as this does seem to be at the core of her decision to become a police officer. It is interesting that this is the first time that the Doctor has been underestimated and Graham being assumed to be the leader, as this was something that I was concerned about becoming a recurring theme following this regeneration. I do enjoy his protest that they are all equal, but of course this doesn’t fit in with the beliefs of the time period. Graham does have slightly more to do than the others when he becomes Witchfinder General, and I like the fact that he reinstates the Doctor’s ‘position’ meanwhile Ryan just seems to act as a love interest for James I. This does lead to one of my favourite conversations in the episode between him and James I, and the history graduate inside me had a moment when James mentioned that Mary, Queen of Scots was involved in the plot to kill Lord Darnley, his father.

morax

The Morax are potentially one of the best villainous aliens that we’ve come across this series, although this has been quite slim pickings so far. The Morax look fantastic, even if the majority of them could be boiled down to being zombies. The Queen of the Morax looks genuinely intimidating and the episode is really effective at scaring us. For the second week in a row, I’ve genuinely felt that the Doctor and her friends were in genuine danger, and it’s nice to have this uncertainty and peril return. I like the sudden revelation of their involvement in the story and in particular, the idea of the alien technology keeping the alien army under Pendle Hill imprisoned. I feel that these aliens packed a seriously genuine threat as a world invading force – they are much more menacing and believable than the Pting, for example!

I’ve got so many questions right now – like did you drink that or absorb it? Are you all one big muddy mass or separate entities, only taking the one body?

Thirteenth Doctor

I feel like I say this every week, but Jodie Whittaker puts in another great performance here, and we get to see more of her darker, angry side here. The scene where she first encounters the Morax possessing Old Mother Twiston shows her perfectly capture the Doctor’s enthusiasm at coming across something completely new to her, and the questions she asks are delivered at such speed almost like a stream of consciousness. In this story, she gets more moral grandstanding speeches, which she also delivers really nicely, as she exposes the hypocrisy of Becka Savage and James I, as well as attacking the idea of mob mentality here. She’s yet to put in a sub-par performance as the Doctor and I can’t wait to see more.

Verdict: The Witchfinders demonstrate that this series’ biggest strength is the historical episodes again, with great performances from the two main guest stars, Alan Cuming and Siobhan Finneran. It would have been nice for the companions to have more to do though. 8/10
Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Alan Cumming (King James I), Siobhan Finneran (Becka Savage), Tilly Steele (Willa Twiston), Tricia Kelly (Old Mother Twiston), Arthur Kay (Smithy), Stavros Demetraki (Stavros)
Writer: Joy Wilkinson (1st story written)
Director: Sallie Aprahamian (2nd story directed)
Behind the Scenes

  • The Doctor quotes Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • The TARDIS team are supposed to be travelling to the coronation of Elizabeth I at the start of the episode. Elizabeth I appeared in The Day of the Doctor, where she married the 10th incarnation of the Doctor, and would later (or earlier from a viewer’s perspective) have him banished from her kingdom. Perhaps the TARDIS is trying to keep the Doctor safe by not taking the team to this point in time.
  • Whilst Bilehurst Cragg is fictional, there was a witch trial in 1612 relating to Pendle Hill.
  • This is only the third story to be written and directed by women. The other two are Enlightenment and The Mark of the Rani.

Best Moment

The conversation between the Doctor and James I, where she strips away at James’ perceived heroism and delivers an impassioned speech. Usually this would result in a change of heart by the monarch, so it’s a nice twist to see James call for the guards to take the Doctor to be tried.
Best Quote

You can’t go hurting people just because you’re scared to face up to the darkness inside you. You have to be better than that.

How do you know these things?

I know because we’re all the same. We want certainty. Security. To believe that people are evil or heroic, but that’s not how people are. You want to know the secrets of existence? Start with the mysteries of the heart.

Thirteenth Doctor and James I

james and ryan

Kerblam!

Warning:  This post contains spoilers for Kerblam! If you haven’t seen it yet, come back after watching!

kerblam man

Remember: if you want it, Kerblam it!

Kerblam! Man

Synopsis

A mysterious message in a package draws the Doctor and her friends to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer, Kerblam.

Review

It still continues to amaze me how some writers can just get Doctor Who.  Recently we’ve had fantastic debut episodes from both Jamie Mathieson (Mummy on the Orient Express) and Sarah Dollard (Face the Raven), and Pete McTighe’s first episode for the show feels like a traditional episode of Doctor Who, with a strong mystery at its core and some expert misdirection.  It also says something for the production that a digitally created world and a delivery warehouse can look as visually stimulating and engaging as some of the series’ most beautiful location settings, and the director, Jennifer Perrott, deserves a lot of credit for this.

Yas kerblam

I’ll start this week by talking about the story, as I feel it was particularly good this week.  The story succeeds in some great misdirection in the mystery surrounding the Kerblam! warehouse and the message received by the Doctor at the start of the episode.  Initially, with the power outages and the sinister-looking robots, it seems as though it is technology being the sinister force behind the disappearances, then the focus switches onto Callum Dixon’s Jarva Slade, who seems like an archetype of an evil boss.  When the real bad guy is revealed to be Charlie, a seemingly amiable maintenance man, and the corporate machine is revealed to be benign, the rug pull moment really works.  Along with the revelation that the message to the Doctor has come from the operating system, this episode really works well.  If I was to draw a parallel between another story from Doctor Who’s past, it would be Planet of the Ood, with the idea of the Union and the treatment of workers, here addressing the almost constant worry about technology advancing to the point of being able to take over human jobs.  Kerblam! as a company is a fairly thinly veiled satire of online delivery companies like Amazon, but the virtue signalling that may have annoyed some viewers here is not as blatant as in previous weeks.  We also have the most references back to the show’s past, like the fez and the mention of Agatha Christie, but these don’t feel as shoehorned in as they have done in some previous episodes.  If I were to find a flaw in the story, I would say that the fates of some of the characters are a bit predictable – as soon as we hear about Dan’s daughter, or that Charlie has feelings for Kira, the audience can tell that at least two out of three of them are doomed.  All in all though, this is probably one of the strongest stories we’ve had so far this series.

Now.  Ever hidden in a panelled alcove?

No.

You haven’t lived.

The Thirteenth Doctor, Ryan and Yaz

The supporting cast to the Doctor and her team also deserve credit for making this one of the best episodes so far this series.  When I heard that Lee Mack had been cast in this series of Doctor Who, it did make me feel a bit uneasy, but he was one of the highlights of the episode and I wish that we had spent more time with him before his untimely demise.  Julie Hesmondhalgh as Judy Maddox, head of people, also gives a great performance and adds real heart to the episode.  The performances of Claudia Jessie and Leo Flanagan as Kira Arlo and Charlie Duffy is strong too and it really plays with the audience’s emotions and expectations of this as a story when she is taken away and killed by the evil bubble wrap.  I’ll never pop bubble wrap in the same way again.  The Kerblam! Robots are extremely creepy, and although they are revealed not to be the ultimate bad guys by the conclusion, their design helps the misdirection at the start of the episode.

tardis team kerblam

As for the Doctor and the TARDIS team, this is the first episode where we really feel like there is a genuine threat to their safety, which benefits the story.  We see a bit more of the Doctor’s harder side when she confronts Judy and Slade about the missing people, and I love her enthusiasm (as well as Ryan, Graham and Yas’s confusion) when the Kerblam Man delivers the fez.  The little jump for joy she does when she sees him is just perfect.  The TARDIS team again get split up, and it’s nice to see Yaz and Ryan working together this week.  It seems that the writers have finally decided to remember Ryan’s dyspraxia this week, which has flown under the radar for the last couple of episodes, with his coordination issues actually having the potential to affect how useful he is to the Doctor.  Bradley Walsh is fantastic again as Graham, who offers great comedic moments, like his reaction to being told that he is on the maintenance team is great.  On the other side of the emotional spectrum, when Yaz talks about how Dan saved her life and asks the Doctor if they can take his necklace back to his daughter is another great moment for her.

Verdict:  A strong writing debut for Pete McTighe, Kerblam! is a great story, which feels like a more traditional Doctor Who adventure.  The guest cast are great, and I’d love to see Pete McTighe come back next series.  8/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Julie Hesmondhalgh (Judy Maddox), Lee Mack (Dan Cooper), Callum Dixon (Jarva Slade), Claudia Jessie (Kira Arlo), Leo Flanagan (Charlie Duffy), Matthew Gravelle (Voice of Kerblam)

Writer: Pete McTighe (1st story)

Director: Jennifer Perrott (2nd story)

Behind the Scenes

  • The Thirteenth Doctor uses Venusian Aikido again, previously seen in The Ghost Monument.
  • This is the first episode of Doctor Who to feature an exclamation mark in the title.
  • On top of the obvious fez reference, we also get a call back to The Unicorn and the Wasp with the Doctor alluding to having met Agatha Christie.
  • The opening scene was previewed on Children in Need on Friday 16th November, with an extended version being uploaded to YouTube later that same day.

Best Moment

The moment that the Doctor and the team realise that Charlie was behind the mystery all along.

Best Quote

How would you like a warning for insubordination?

I’d love one, I could add it to my collection!

Jarva Slade and the Thirteenth Doctor

13 fez