Jenna Coleman

The Woman Who Lived, review by Eddie McGuigan

The Woman Who Lived

Review by Eddie McGuigan

So, half way, almost, through this season. Half way out of the dark.

It’s fair to say that this has been the most successful run of episodes in many a year. Sure, there’s the odd droopy drawers moaning about this than and the next thing, but on the whole, it’s been pretty positively received. Part Two of the season promises to be a little more experimental – especially episodes 9 and 11 – but more of that at another time.

If I can criticise s9 at all at the moment it’s for its lack of great enemies – the Fisher King and the Mire are intriguing creations, but not nearly fleshed out enough, meaning they come across, unfortunately, as the Monster Of The Week. With the exception of Davros and Missy there’ve been no stand outs. Yet.

Unfortunately, The Woman Who Lived is pretty much following on in the same vein. It’s a cross between a character piece and a historical romp with a fair bit of jolly old banter, which, despite his protestations, the Doctor does well. Capaldi continues his evolution to be Doctor Prime as he wanders around with a Curio Detector. He seems surprised that it detects curios.

Catherine Tregenna takes a darker tone than Moffat and Mathieson last week in the fate of Ashildr and Maisie Williams manages quite admirably to get a lot of age into her young eyes. She’s not the villain of the piece, but that in itself is pretty much a catch all, over designed Any Monster.

The joy in this episode is in the dialogue and the drive and very much in the chemistry between Capaldi and Williams – this episode is very much Clara lite – and how the two old souls interact. The Doctor’s reticence to take Ashildr with him is beautifully played in Capaldi’s eyes, as is her desperation to leave such a backwards planet. The Doctor’s footprint is not as light as he would like it to be, it seems.

Rufus Hound, himself a huge fan, turns up as part of the deus ex machina finale which you’ll all see a million miles away, and is all a little convenient, but he’s fun in the role of Sam Swift the Quick and again gives more gravitas to the performance than you’d think.

The setting – 17 century England – and the Highwayman conceit – is pretty much irrelevant to the piece, it could be set anywhere, and could have any kind of monster in place of the Tharil-a-like we have, but it’s all pretty inoffensive and does what it does well enough.

There are ramifications in the actions of this story, and it’s all a bit serious and worthy and you just know it’s going to creep up again – and it should, or it’ll be a loose thread of Jenny proportions.  It’s a better episode than The Girl Who Died as it’s way less bitty and way more linear, and the performances are way more serious – director Bazalgette calmly and understatedly ushers the tale along – but it’s unlikely to win any awards, despite the hype. The echoes of this episode will ring more loudly than the episode itself probably deserves thanks to Maisie Williams and Ashildr but that’s fine – it’s a new thread, and, whilst it sort of echoes Captain Jack (Williams is way less sympathetic than Barrowman in Utopia) it won’t bother anyone enough to complain.

The Girl Who Died, Review by Eddie McGuigan

The Girl Who Died

review by Eddie McGuigan

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Doctor Who, we know, has to be everything to everyone. It has to be a space adventure, it has to be historical drama, it has to be a romance, a horror story and it has to reflect its past with a nostalgic glow.

Of course, there are people out there, feral, skitter people who live on The Internet, who will tell you that Doctor Who better not be a bloody romance/horror story/soap opera. They’ll tell you it hasn’t been the same since Dicks/Saward/RTD left and they’ll tell you, without a doubt, that You Are Wrong. Then they’ll throw a teddy at you and stomp out.

The Girl Who Died is going to scatter these Internet Dwellers like skittles on a Friday night in France. It’s going to make others punch the air in excitement and it’s going to make others scratch their head a bit and go “Really? OK then…” (more…)

Before The Flood, review by Eddie McGuigan

 

Before The Flood

review by Eddie McGuigan

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The Doctor, O’Donnell and Bennett go back in time…

Under the Lake has to be one of the most formulaic Doctor Who adventures in a long time – and more power to it for being that way. It’s a traditional story with a traditional Doctor/Companion dynamic and throws a punch directly into the face of the viewer for being so. It is, without a doubt, superb.

As a second part of the same adventure, Before The Flood couldn’t begin more differently and, indeed, continue to push against the traditionalness of Part One. It begins with a direct to camera monologue by the Doctor – some might say this is for the fan who doesn’t understand or like temporal shenanigans or paradoxes – but it allows Capaldi to showboat and talk directly to us about the story ahead – indeed, the scene itself has no plot drivers at all – but it is nonetheless a clever conceit which leads straight into a theme tune played, it seems, by the Doctor himself.

After those titles, we are we are treated – and treated is the word – to another type of Whovian trope – the mysterious village, so ably portrayed in The Android Invasion, for instance – as the Doctor and his friends search out the truth behind the Ghosts in the Drum and their reason to exist – a search which will bring the Doctor face to face with the Fisher King and his own mortality.

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Ghost Doctor… but what’ he saying?

Whilst still giving us the action adventure of Under The Lake with echoes of Alien³, and the creepiness of not just a haunted house but a terrifyingly ghostly Doctor, we also get the backstory to the spaceship and the Trivoli undertaker, which enhances the story with rich layers of plot.

So the story is split in two parts – inside the Drum and before the flood – and each intertwine with themselves as the stasis chamber discovered in Under The Lake slowly begins to open.

It’s fair to say that whilst the Drum sequences allow Clara more space to take charge, she’s not entirely separated from the Doctor thanks to some timey wimey skyping, whose presence is felt in both the past and the presence as Capaldi continues to dominate this story with aplomb. The base under siege story is continued whilst the mystery behind it unfolds in a time travelling paradox cleverly realised by Whithouse’s intelligent use of the device. It’s a little bit Sapphire and Steel and a little bit Bill And Ted. To say more would ruin the surprises.

Guest star wise, Paul Kaye channels David Walliams as the now alive Trivoli undertaker and does a great if fleeting job. Sophie Stone as Cass is impressive too, and the fact that she is deaf isn’t ignored either. It’s great that her deafness isn’t seen as a disability at all, but used to great effect in this episode in a creepy scene which will have everyone on the edge of their seats. Morven Christie continues to audition for the role of companion with a great turn as the likeable, somewhat cooky O’Donnell for the most part, with Arsher Ali’s Bennett being the other stand out, scared but unafraid to call out the Doctor when required. Peter Serafinowicz is creepy as the confident Fisher King as well, and, as its body, Neil Fingleton is terrifying.

Again though it’s Capaldi’s Doctor who dominates this episode in everything that he does – as his ghost in the present or the rebel Time Lord in the past. He controls every scene he’s in as he scampers through the adventure – ably scored it has to be said by Murray Gold, who’s now less melodic than before but has begun to channel the operatic of Hans Zimmer – and is capable of showing a traditional Doctor but one still capable of seeing the bigger picture, and making alien decisions for the greater good, again an echo of Mummy on the Orient Express.

I can’t fault this episode – although I do think its more divisive than Under The Lake and perhaps less traditional – but I loved it, and would have Doctor Who like this two parter all the time. Again, there were no arcs, no old enemies, nothing to link it along, but with fan pleasing nods and plenty of comedy to counteract the drama and horror, this is exactly what Who should be.

Bravo, Toby, bravo.

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just before the flood…

 

Doctor Who Series 9 Review: Under the Lake, by Eddie McGuigan

 

UNDER THE LAKE

Review by Eddie McGuigan

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The Doctor is fascinated by something..

In the olden days, when the Universe was half its present size, Doctor Who used to start like this:

It was autumn, getting dark, maybe a little windy and cold outside. Curtains were drawn, tea had, everyone on the couch. The haunting melody would drag that old blue box down a swirling tunnel and open up to some plucky guest stars with some pretty distinct characteristics in a claustrophobic base set slightly in the future. There’d be a leader, brusque but true, a scientist, a creepy and slightly untrustworthy specialist, and a few immediately likeable characters who you could envisage as companions to the Doctor. Just as we’re getting to know them, something will happen – a likeable character will be killed, a monster will appear…

…and elsewhere in the base, tucked away in a cupboard or utility area there’ll be a strange, wheezing, groaning sound and an old blue Police Box will materialise out of thin air. It’ll sit for a second, as if gathering its thoughts, then an eccentric man will spring from the creaking door, sniffing the air, followed by a pretty, plucky companion, eyes wide with excitement at the start of a new adventure. Before long, the man – known only as the Doctor – will be embroiled in the situation, with his companion a loyal sidekick, and he’ll take control of the group meeting various levels of resistance, from suspicion, aggression to immediate new friendships.

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The Doctor takes control

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…but what’s he up to?

This is how Doctor Who used to start. It didn’t start with grumpy some-time companions working elsewhere, or with a domestic drama. It didn’t start with a convoluted backstory or a timey wimey arc. It started, it ran. And it ran.

Luckily, writer Toby Whithouse remembers those autumn nights, and how important those first few minutes were, and, to my absolute pleasure, he has recreated that perfectly here with Under The Lake. It is without a doubt the most traditional Doctor Who episode in quite some time, echoing tropes and conceits last seen in Mummy on the Orient Express, with much the same result. You get, in 42 minutes, true, undiluted, distilled and pure Doctor Who.

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Haunted corridors

Whithouse also knows Doctor Who should be scary. Weeping Angels scary. The Flood scary. Osirian Mummy scary. Weng-Chiang scary. So he makes the “Ghosts” scary too – he even manages to make the Tivoli scary, with the help of guest star Paul Kaye.

The Base Under Siege trope in Who has been around since Davis and Lloyd went “aaahhhh” in the 1960s, and it never fails. Under the Lake has echoes of The Ark In Space and Revenge of the Cybermen. It has shadows of The Seeds of Death and Waters of Mars. It also apes other sci-horror stalwarts like Buffy The Vampire Slayer – the Ghosts are very reminiscent of Hush’s “The Gentlemen” with their slip/slidey approach, terrifying look and incessant whispering.

Director Daniel O’Hara knows the score too. An impressive set is moodily lit and cleverly shot. There’s only so many ways to shoot the same corridor, but this director has nice camera angles and long shots coupled with some claustrophobic close ups and the filters give an underwater, cramped feel to the base. Before long we all know the geography of the place, and fear what’s behind each corner.

Guest star wise Morven Christie is the stand out, and her character O’Donnell would make a fabulous companion. A former UNIT operative, she knows the Doctor very well, and he takes to her pretty quickly, it seems. The rest of the cast, especially Paul Kaye who has little to do than look menacing, are comfortable and very adequate in their roles, and the ensemble – a much larger troupe than in the previous two episodes – is very believable as the weary gang stuck under the water.

This episode, though belongs to Peter Capaldi who bounces off of Jenna Coleman’s much more likeable Clara like a Tom off a Lis. This is without a doubt the most comfortable Peter has been in the role. A couple of years ago, I spoke to Tom Baker about the role of the Doctor, and he told me this: “You don’t act the Doctor, really… that’s doomed to failure. You’re with him too long to try and pretend. You have to let him inhabit you, and before long he’s more you than you know. I was the Doctor before I was given the scarf, and I will always be him”. In Series 8 it seemed perhaps Peter was “acting” the Doctor, but, like all the actors, his second season is a lot more relaxed. His scenes here are testament to this, as he takes command of the room, eyes up potential allies and enemies and insults and charms in equal measures. He is, more than ever, the Doctor. His “card” routine with Clara is fantastic.

I can’t fault this episode. It’s a step up from the previous two, which were fab, and a return to proper, old school, scary Doctor Who, something it’s 8.25 start time reflects. It really is time to hide behind the sofa again with a proper, genuine and unique Doctor.

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Run you clever boy…

 

Series Nine Preview, by Eddie McGuigan

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Regenerations have hung heavily over Doctor Who for a while now it seems. Ever since the Doctor was warned about Trenzalore we’ve head multiple Doctors, his death – more than once – secret incarnations, the end of a regeneration cycle and, spectacularly, the beginning of another. But that wasn’t the end of the story. This new regeneration harks back to the “classic” archetype; alien, difficult, rude, grumpy and, well, old. And just when the Doctor himself is getting used to being less matinee idol and more renaissance man, his best enemy goes and shows up in a skirt and his best friend is reincarnated as a zombie cyborg.

 

Identity and the perception of it has been a theme for a long, long time in the series, so much so that now it’s almost a trope, a signature of Moffat’s Second Age, and Series 9 – BBC1, 19th September – continues these themes and plays with those perceptions.

 

There are lots of returns in the new series. Returning old enemies – some you know about, some you don’t. Returns to places as well. Returning friends – both old and new. Return of the roundels as the console room gets a tweak! Return of the crazy hair as Peter Capaldi is finally allowed to express his Doctor without being shoehorned into “as far from Matt as possible”. Return of the two parter and therefore the return of the cliffhanger. And, of course, the return of the Master.

 

Episodes one and two hark back to many classic Who episodes – many, many Who episodes – in which the Doctor and Clara face threats from many sides – but perhaps not one side you’d automatically think they would – and explanations are forthcoming about the Master’s survival – both from s8 and perhaps before. He’s not become a She randomly.

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Identity and perception are again important in Ep 3 – prepare for a surprise, one of many this season –  and writer Toby Whithouse gets his teeth into a meaty 2 parter. But even your perception of two parters will be stretched this year. This series should really be seen as a 12 parter – the episodes mostly all link, and themes and events resonate across the series in a much more insidious way than the usual “Bad Wolf”esque arc.

 

No clearer is this shown in the “two parter” The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived – whilst these are indeed two parts of the same story, they are written by different writers and have very, very different feels. And both include a character the Doctor will have a very significant history with!

 

Much more traditionally a two parter is the Zygon story Invasion of the Zygons/Inversion of the Zygons by Peter Harness. This is an action adventure far more in tune with old school Who, or indeed, RTD’s era, in which the Doctor and UNIT battle a worldwide Zygon invasion. Again, though, identity and perception are important, as the Zygons epitomise this series main conceit. Don’t let the familiarity box you in though!

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The last third of the series is much more experimental. Mark Gatiss gets to go spooky and scary and all out horror, at last, with a very clever, if by now not new, twist on the series which might even not have credits! A brilliant Halloween Special, this could be Mark’s best to date.

 

Episode Ten is a divisive one which will probably blow fandom apart, and has cleverly snuck itself under the radar until now. Well done Episode Ten!

 

The two part finale falls into this “no it really is a two parter!” style with two very distinctively different episodes, one of which had Peter Capaldi exhausted! Alone he may be, but, as always with the Doctor, he’s never really alone, is he?

 

I’ll leave ep 12 hanging in the air, I think, as the “returns” trope is turned to 11 and we’ll be left with our heads whirling with events and locations.

 

I am very much looking forward to s9, and I’m loving the way it’s subverting what we know and trying different things. I can’t wait to get into reviewing it! Stay tuned!

eddie mcguigan

Doctor Who Magazine 482

Doctor Who Magazine 482 Cover

JENNA COLEMAN TALKS ABOUT THE LOVES AND LIVES OF CLARA OSWALD, EXCLUSIVELY IN DWM 482!

Jenna Coleman, who plays the Doctor’s companion Clara Oswald, gives a revealing interview about her time so far on Doctor Who

DWM asks Jenna if the Doctor and Clara can finally move on in their relationship – and after the sacrifice of Danny Pink, can things ever be the same again? “I think so,” Jenna says. “But they are a bit addicted to each other, and to the dynamic that they share. It’s getting so that one can’t go without the other, and I think that’s definitely what Clara’s realised. In a way that’s quite dangerous now, because she realises that there is no going back for her…”

ALSO INSIDE ISSUE 482 OF DWM…

  • Rachel Talalay, director of the 2014 series finale two-part finale, reveals the secrets of how Death in Heaven was brought to the screen.
  • Peter Purves, who starred as companion Steven Taylor in the 1960s, talks in-depth about his time on Doctor Who.
  • Discover fascinating new facts about the acclaimed Seventh Doctor story The Greatest Show in Galaxy in The Fact of Fiction.
  • Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat answer readers’ questions – including the knotty problem of the Doctor’s many wives! – in his exclusive column.
  • Writer David Fisher, who wrote three memorable stories for the Fourth Doctor in the 1970s, revisits his work.
  • The Doctor and Clara face Sontarans and Nazis as The Instruments of War continues, a brand-new comic strip written and illustrated by Mike Collins.
  • Sarah Jane and the Brigadier are reunited, as the Time Team watch The Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane.
  • Jaqueline Rayner wonders how the Doctor’s companions would get on in the Cubs in Relative Dimensions.
  • Last Christmas is put under the spotlight in The DWM Review.
  • The Watcher considers the many surprising ways that Doctor Who stories can change from script to screen in Wotcha!.
  • The Watcher gives the answers to his Fiendishly Festive Christmas Quiz! How well did you do?
  • Have your say on Peter Capaldi’s first series as the Doctor in the DWM Season Survey.
  • The DWM Crossword, prize-winning competitions, and much more!

Doctor Who Magazine 482 is out on Thursday 8 January, priced £4.99.

The Skaro Review: Last Christmas, by Eddie McGuigan

Last Christmas

reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

 

The Doctor Who Christmas Special is now as big a part of the festivities as any BBC series has ever been. There is a generation of children who have never known it not to the case.

 

I know for us gnarled old veterans of the Dark Times it’s difficult to believe that the Special is still not a new fangled phenomena, but it’s not, it’s now as Christmas as The Top of the Pops Special or The Queen’s Speech.

 

But as it becomes so, so the expectations on it become greater. They can’t just churn out any old nonsense; they have to balance something that is Christmassy enough to be, well, Christmassy, Doctor Who enough to be, well, Doctor Who, and generic enough to keep the attention of Granny Muchy and Great Aunt Matilda as they sit farting discretely and digesting their turkey. Now, it’s fair to say, they probably get it as much as the breathless explanation little Johny gave earlier of Grand Theft Auto, but nonetheless it has to at least aim at that particular snowman.

 

It’s fair to say that in the past it’s been a little hit and miss. The Runaway Bride with its filmed-in-a-heatwave-but-here-are-some-baubles paid nothing more than lip service to the concept and The End of Time may have had a Christmas tree or two in the background, but the story itself was more important. That’s not to say these were bad episodes, not at all, but since Steven Moffat became showrunner he’s drenched the Christmas Special with Christmassiness by the bucket load, aping, with absolutely no shame such Christmassy tropes as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Victorian chocolate box Christmases and even that standard, A Christmas Carol. Last year’s offering went so far as to set the whole thing in a town called Christmas. The Moff definitely lets you know it’s Christmas.

 

Last Christmas is no different. It is, without a doubt, the most Christmassy Christmas Special of them all. It’s set at Christmas, in the snow, is all about wishes and dreams, has our old friend Merry Christmas Everyone not only take pride of place but danced too, with Noddy Holder crying out in dolby stereo, and has as its guest star none other than Santa Claus.

 

And make no mistake, this is Santa Claus. The hero of Christmas. With a sleigh and flying reindeers and elf helpers. Far from worried parents having to field questions about how Santa is an alien from Fla’Chant’Ra 5, Nick Frost cheekily fields questions about the absurdity of his character with verve and class, answering some of the curve balls parents have no doubt had to field this year. On flying reindeers: “Of course reindeers can’t fly, it’s a physical impossibility!” And, after a beat of superb comic timing: “That’s why I feed them magic carrots!” Frost is superb. He’s cocky, cheeky, clever, absurd and funny as well as heroic, kind and relevant. He’s more than a cipher and more than a caricature. We get a fully rounded Christmas spirit filled real man. The real Santa.

 

The rest of the crew on the polar base Clara and the Doctor find themselves on – that’s a long story, by the way – are likeable and believable. None are too precious but neither are they particularly stand out, but they don’t need to be, as the big characters are what this episode is about. Most underwritten is, surprisingly Michael Troughton’s Professor Albert, who, when we first meet him, is absolutely doing a vocal impression of his dad.

The story of this episode is difficult to explain without giving too much away. And it’s a long story… Santa crashes on Clara’s roof, the Doctor appears, takes her to a Polar Base under attack by something called Dream Crabs, which latch onto people’s faces and slowly digest them whilst psychically inducing a dream state to subdue their victims. But is everything as it seems? When all seems lost, Santa pops in to save the day, but, again… that’s a long story.

 

The main thing about this episode is the relationship between Clara and the Doctor. It’s been… well, “some time” since they last met, but both have missed the other, and they fall back into their old team with little effort. Clara still takes no nonsense from the Doctor, who himself is a lot more open and less abrasive. In fact, this is Peter Capaldi’s most accessible and likeable turn as the Time Lord. Both regulars have tempered their performances and there is a love and warmth between the two characters that, whilst hinted at a lot over s8 was never properly explored. But oh how it is here.

 

One thing Steven Moffat is often criticised for is being more a concepts man than an emotion man – it’s a common perception that RTD did the emotion and the Moff does the plots – but here Steven out RTDs RTD with a superb study in friendship, love and second chances. There are some achingly beautiful scenes in this episode, and again, like the rest of s8, it doesn’t skirt the awfulness and horror of some of the situations they find themselves in or they remember from times gone by.

 

Also in keeping with the rest of the season (and make no mistake, Last Christmas, more than any other Christmas Special is very much episode 13 of s8 and shirks none of the tropes and themes from that here) is the development of the Doctor, despite his best efforts, he’s a lot more cheerful here, but also willing to walk away and forget the humans when he thinks the job is done.

 

Capaldi and Coleman are superb in this episode. I’d go so far as to say this is Capaldi’s best performance as the Doctor and (possibly) Jenna’s as Clara. Both are likeable, heroic, rounded and eminently watchable.

 

For continuity hounds, big questions left hanging in Death In Heaven are answered, including Clara’s fate – and then some! There is also a continuity thread from the main season in the derivative moments which ape old episodes or movies – Time of the Doctor is heartbreakingly mirrored here in a beautifully touching scene, and films from The Thing, Alien and A Nightmare on Elm Street are referenced, some even in the dialogue.

 

Director Paul Wilmshurst continues his fine work from Mummy on the Orient Express by balancing comedy, drama and horror whilst dousing the lot with liberal sprinkles of Christmas spirit and Murray Gold does a wonderful job helping all the winks and references be underlined with a subtle and heartwarming score.

I honestly can’t fault this episode. It’s as good as the best Capaldi episodes to date (Flatline and Mummy FYI) and the best Christmas episode ever. It manages to be a Special whilst also being a clever episode of Who that compliments its audience with intelligence and attention.

Series 8 DVD Launch

OK I’m going to say…..Frank Skinner is my new hero!

Well Doctor Who has always been my hero but he has serious competition right now.

By not only being a charming and witty host, Mr Skinners passion and knowledge of Who really came to the fore.

Series 8 DVD Launch

What other TV host else would quip after Peter Calapdi’s revelation that he had turned down the chance of auditioning for the 1996 Paul McGann movie’

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

…’Imagine all the Big Finish’s you would have done by now’

delicious and hilarious which sums up my day very well…..

 

cue titles and run VT

dum dee dum… dum dee dum….

BUNNY GALORE AND THE MONDASIAN CYBERMEN

(more…)

The Skaro Review Death In Heaven Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

The Skaro Review

Death In Heaven

Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

 BEWARE: SLIGHT SPOILERS

 Death in Heaven

In part one of the finale, the theme was death and the afterlife, and this is taken to the nth degree here with the Master’s evil machinations in full flight… although her actual motives are not what you think. A CyberArmy is released on the world… and the world takes selfies. “We have to warn everyone!” UNIT cries “The world just went weee…,” the Doctor informs it.

 

So with the dead rising in newly upgraded bodies, much to Seb’s glee, and the Master’s plan unfolding, we find out more about the afterlife in general and the beliefs in it through out Man’s history. “She’s a Time Lord. She must have a TARDIS somewhere… so a LONG time…” the Doctor tells Kate. (more…)

The Skaro Review: Dark Water, Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

Dark Water

Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

Clara needs the Doctor, but the Doctor is busy. When they DO meet, it’s Volcano Day!

Doctor & Missy

Dark Water is a sprawling, epic, head spinning finale episode that starts to pull in all the parts of the series to date and, more than anything takes a Doctor and a companion and gets them adventuring.

It’s very good to see the Doctor and Clara in a situation like this, landing the TARDIS with no control and investigating. It doesn’t happen near enough.

But there is much more to this episode than that. It begins with the most gritty, realistic piece of drama you will ever have seen in Doctor Who and it will jar you as much with its eyewatering reality as any magical forest did with its fairytale nonsense. This realism continues with some crystal clear flashbacks to Danny Pink’s time in the army and the realisation of what exactly he did when he was there. And it continues further with Clara’s reaction to events which are raw, real, desperate and sore. (more…)

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