Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar Review (or “So Davros Just Couldn’t Be Bothered Opening His Eyes Before Now?”)

September 26, 2015

Right then; so as I explained last week, I don’t see the point in doing reviews of single episodes when they are part of a larger story, and that’s why I’ve waited until now to fully review The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar.

I’m not exactly sure why these episodes are named as they are mind you, considering there’s no obvious link between them and what happens on-screen. It’s like calling The Power of Kroll ‘The Lugubrious Teapot’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not daft; I realise that they are paired episode titles where The Doctor is considered The Magician and Missy is The Witch, but still…any episodes involving them could be called that. Should this not have had a title more relevant to the matters at hand?

But anyway, on to the review.

Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar Review: What’s This One About?

Davros – who it turns out has just been keeping his eyes closed out of laziness all these years – says he’s dying and wants to see The Doctor one last time having just remembered that he left him to die as a child.

But what he really wants is to trick him into giving away some of his Time Lord energy so that the Daleks can be made more powerful.

But the Doctor actually knows this and it’s a double bluff.


Thoughts – Don’t Look Too Closely, It’ll Just Ruin The Moment

So I’m a bit torn over my review of this one.

I liked it and I thought it was great fun to watch, but that was while I was still in a position where I didn’t really know how it was going to end.

The Special Weapons Dalek's Appearance: Token Fanwankery

The Special Weapons Dalek’s Appearance: Token Fanwankery

I think if I watched it again with the benefit of knowing how the entire story pans out, it wouldn’t be quite so good.

And in 2015, I think that a story needs to be able to hold up to repeated viewings if it’s going to be considered a success in the long run.

But what’s the problem with it, I hear you ask?

Well there are a few things.

For one, despite some fantastic build-up in Episode One and for the majority of Episode Two, the ending was a bit flat. I could accept that Davros was tricking The Doctor into giving away his Time Lord energy; that was actually a good twist considering the emotion and tone of the scenes building up to it. However, The Doctor operating a double bluff whereby he knew exactly what was going to happen all along doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Quite honestly, it let down all that had come before it.

Then there’s last week’s cliffhanger. Now I appreciate that Doctor Who has struggled for years with cliffhanger resolutions because 90% of them involve The Doctor and/or his companion quickly getting out of a life threatening situation, but this one’s a bit different. This was a trick cliffhanger.

It was a misplaced scene deliberately presented out of context. Long term readers of this blog will remember I criticised Image of the Fendahl for doing the same thing.

The implication last week was that The Doctor was going to travel back to kill Davros as a boy to prevent Clara from being killed. That was exciting. But the actual reason – that he wanted to instil the concept of mercy into a character who famously tried to save his own life at the end of Genesis of the Daleks with the line “Have pity” – wasn’t exciting at all. Especially when you realise that Davros only actually remembers his meeting with the Doctor a long way into his own future.

Meanwhile, the rewriting of lore bugged me a little bit. The notion that the Dalek casing translates the words of the occupants into basic Dalek-isms is adding new detail that doesn’t hold up, while the idea of the sewers being alive with living Dalek remains was only there to explain away the ending.

You could argue that any Doctor Who writer is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t with the Daleks. If they try to add a new twist to Dalek lore, people like me will criticise it for not holding up to what was previously established. But if they don’t add anything new then it’s just another story based around a tired old monster that should have been put out to pasture years ago.

I guess once again I’m coming to the conclusion that this is another Dalek story that would have been better if the Daleks weren’t in it.

We Almost Got The Davros Story I’ve Been Asking For

And that’s a point. I’ve said a few times over the years that what Doctor Who really needs is a Davros story and not a Dalek story.

Mummy, mummy, what's the Doctor doing to the old blind man?

Mummy, mummy, what’s the Doctor doing to the old blind man?

These two episodes are evidence of that.

As much as I’ve criticised certain elements of this two-parter, I thought the exchanges between The Doctor and Davros were magnificent. Both Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach were on top form and were ably assisted with – credit where it’s due – some superb dialogue written for them by Steven Moffat.

The scenes where they discuss how they’d love to have fought on the same side, and share their passion for their own planets was top-notch, and the one where they share a laugh was something I didn’t think I’d ever see.

And even though it doesn’t make even a lick of sense, the bit where Davros opens his eyes was touching. It actually had me sucked in thinking we were going to see a situation where Davros repents for the choices he’s made and asks the Doctor to go back in time to kill him as a boy.

That would have been a braver and better ending; an ending that people would either be furious about or remember with reverence for years to come.

Alas it was not to be.

I’ll repeat though; if this was just about Davros on his deathbed it would have been a vastly superior story.

Random Observations

  • My attitude to fanwankery sways with the wind. Sometimes I think it’s cool and other times I think it’s there to paper over the cracks. In this story, I thought some of it – like trying to recapture the design of the Dalek base from their 1963 debut – was great, and yet in others – namely having the Special Weapons Dalek hanging around the control room and never even shooting its gun – was daft.
  • Armed with the knowledge that Jenna Coleman is leaving the show, but ignorant to how and when that happens, I was quite excited by the thought that Missy might have tricked the Doctor into shooting her
    Wait...he's not blind, he's opened his eyes!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!!

    Wait…he’s not blind, he’s opened his eyes!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!!

    in the case. Then when that didn’t happen I thought she might die when being disconnected from the plugs in her brain. After all, didn’t Missy allude to nobody knowing what would happen when they unplugged her? But they just dropped that bit.

  • Going back to my point about the Dalek case translating Clara’s words, I’m sure you all know that I’m just thinking “Ian Chesterton, The Escape, 1964”.
  • As much as I would have preferred it if Missy was a character in her own right rather than The Master turned female, I do think she’s a great addition to the show. Michelle Gomez is pretty fantastic.
  • The line about sourcing the only other chair on Skaro was good.
  • So was the one where Missy says she’s been wanting to meet Davros for years.
  • As I suspected last week, the stuff with UNIT at the beginning didn’t really have any purpose beyond shoe-horning them in. Not that I mind that, but still…
  • I won’t be fussed if they’ve decided to write out the Sonic Screwdriver in place of the super-shades. Change isn’t always a bad thing.

Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar Review: Final Thoughts

I think The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar could be summed up as a story where the performances of the actors and strength of dialogue in certain scenes make up for a rather dodgy plot that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Knowing how everything pans out, I don’t think it will be as enjoyable on repeated viewings, but at least we’ll have the scenes with Capaldi and Bleach to make up for that.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 



Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice Review (or ‘By Avoiding Spoilers, You Get A Nice Surprise’)

September 19, 2015

Yay, Doctor Who is back!

And here’s the thing; since I have absolutely no interest in checking out spoilers – unlike a great percentage of the Who fans out there including my brother – I didn’t actually know that this episode had Davros or the Daleks in it. I didn’t even know Missy was in it.

So it was a nice surprise. If you knew all this stuff in advance, the chances are that you’ve ruined what would have been a cool moment for yourself.

Anyway, I’m led to believe that for the most part, this season of the show will have a number of two-part stories, and much like last year with Dark Water, I’m not keen on the idea of ‘reviewing’ half a story every

It's a bit like visiting your gran in a nursing home.

It’s a bit like visiting your gran in a nursing home.

second week.

Therefore, my plan is to do the full write-ups when each story concludes, but to keep my finger on the pulse, I’ll do these little placeholder articles at the end of the ‘Episode Ones’ if that makes sense.

So how am I feeling about The Magician’s Apprentice so far?

Here’s a brief Random Observations section to tide you over until next week.

  • The buzz on social media is that this felt like a Season Finale in terms of scale, budget and gravitas, and I’d agree. Usually the opening episodes have a tendency to be a bit flat, but this was straight in at the deep end level stuff today. I thought it was great.
  • Like I said above, Davros returning was a nice surprise, as I was hugely praising of Julian Bleach in his last appearance in The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End. He was just as good here. His line delivery is just fantastic.
  • Of course, with Davros must come the Daleks too unfortunately, and a bit like Asylum of the Daleks, I think that having lots of different Dalek designs was there purely to try to disguise the fact that they are such a busted flush these days. The Daleks have been done to death and have no appeal to me anymore.
  • But hey, when writing is as good as it was here you can’t fault it, and in spite of the Daleks, this was a great episode.
  • And maybe if we all cross our fingers, next week will result in them being written out for ever. That’s certainly what the exciting cliffhanger suggested. I doubt it’ll happen though.
  • There was a definite element of Star War-ishness to this. The scale, the ‘Cantina’ scene, the light speed stuff. But it worked.
  • If I was to be critical, I’d suggest that maybe though there was too much knowledge expected of the viewer for everyone to enjoy it as much as die-hard fans.
  • Although I suspect that line about the Doctor being a little girl was put in to enrage those very viewers.
  • When I come to review the entire story next week, I imagine I’ll dismiss the opening scenes with the planes as being unnecessary.
  • Capaldi is beginning to look a bit like Pertwee isn’t he?
  • The opening scene with the hand mines was about as ‘Moffat’ as it gets.
  • How did Davros get a copy of the Doctor doing his speech about killing the boy in Genesis of the Daleks. Was he under observation all the way through that story?
  • In a world of predictability, I’m not actually sure how the cliffhanger is going to be resolved. So that’s something to look forward to.

And on that note, I’ll leave you until next week.

Remember that although some of my Doctor Who reviews from An Unearthly Child onwards are hosted on this site, you can read them all by purchasing the eBooks over on Amazon. For more information, read this.


Doctor Who – The Brink of Death Review (or ‘The One Where The Sixth Doctor Finally Regenerates’)

September 9, 2015

I was recently asked if I’d be interested in going back and reviewing all the Doctor Who Big Finish audio adventures.

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t, and there are a few reasons for that.

For one thing, it would be too great an undertaking, as there literally hundreds of stories to get through.

And not just that; I actually find them quite difficult to listen to. What I mean is that if I put on a Big Finish last thing at night, I only stay awake for a matter of minutes before falling asleep. If I try to listen to one in the living room in the evening, I’ll find my attention wanders. Really, the only times I can properly enjoy a Big Finish are on long journeys or first thing in the morning.

Most of all though, I wouldn’t really want to. As high quality as Big Finish can be – and stories like The Holy Terror are as good as any episode of Who that has graced our screens – there’s also a hell of a lot of dirge in there as well. It would be unfair to say that the standard of writing is perhaps not what it once was on these stories, but it’s certainly a valid point to suggest that after sixteen years of these releases and 10 years ofsixthdoctorthe_last_adventure_image_large the TV show being back on the air, there lacks a freshness about their output.

And that’s my biggest problem with Big Finish; the lack of imagination that seems to plague it now.

A quick look at the recent releases show that there have been some Rani stories, another E-Space Trilogy, a Cyberman one and of course plenty of Dalek releases. The latest Dalek story seems to be one about how they’ve gone back to 1987 to take over the computer games industry. I mean…what? It could be Doctor Who at its finest for all I know, but it’s a far cry from the Daleks’ Master Plan in terms of scale. This genuinely is Pudding of the Daleks territory (Pudding of the Daleks being my idea that having explored every other Dalek avenue, there will be a story where the Doctor goes for lunch somewhere and they are in control of the kitchen).

Then there’s this idea that they come up with their stories by spinning a wheel and hoping for the best. That certainly seems like the most plausible explanation for why there are stories involving The Fifth Doctor, Steven & Vicki or the Seventh Doctor & Jo.

Plucking some names out of thin air, I could say that there might one day by a story involving the Sixth Doctor, Mike Yates and Leela where they have to team up with Group Captain Gilmore to battle against The Nimon in London in the Swinging Sixties. And you wouldn’t be hugely surprised if that turned out to be scheduled for release in 2016.

I get it though; Big Finish are a business, and they have to create what sells. Despite its obvious quality, the aforementioned Holy Terror was one of its lowest sellers because it didn’t involve any marquee names in Doctor Who.

So while I can forgive them for what they do, I don’t have to enjoy it.

But having said all of that, I am going to write a Big Finish review today.

After all, The Brink of Death is the one where the Sixth Doctor finally regenerates…

Doctor Who – The Brink of Death Review: What’s This One About?

Replaced in time by The Valeyard and stranded as a ghostly image in The Matrix with only six minutes to live, The Doctor faces a race against time to save not just himself, but the entire Time Lord race.


This is a story that you’d imagine both Colin Baker and Big Finish have wanted to do for some time, both for creative and financial reasons. I’ve written before about how Baker got a bit of a rough time of it in how he was written out, and so I think it’s good to see him get this chance to bring some form of closure to his character.

And that’s what this is all about; closure. It bridges the gap between The Ultimate Foe and Time and the Rani, it offers a final confrontation between the Doctor and the Valeyard (and even manages to rejig the lore behind that character to make more sense in a world where we know he wasn’t a version of the Doctor between the 12th and 13th regeneration) and it explains the circumstances behind the Sixth Doctor’s demise.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. When you take a moment to think about it, the writer of the story – and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to discover that the person chosen by Big Finish Head Honcho Nick Briggs for this prestigious task was Briggs himself –  is boxed into a corner from the start. No matter what he writes, it has to end up with the Doctor dead on the TARDIS floor on the planet Lakertya. So what leads up to the regeneration has to explain why they are there.

To be fair to him, I think he manages it without it seeming tenuous, so he deserves credit.

Is it the best story in the world? No. Without its significance – i.e. if the Doctor simply defeated the Valeyard and lived to fight another day – I doubt many people would go out of their way to recommend it. But it’s good enough. It held my attention, it wasn’t overly complicated and it had a small cast who all did a good job with what they were given.

If I had any real criticisms, they would be twofold.

Firstly, it seems as though Bonnie Langford is in it because she has to be. Mel makes only a fleeting cameo appearance, which I find disappointing because she’s actually very good in these audios.

The second is the way it finishes. What you’ve got to remember about this being his ‘regeneration story’, is that he doesn’t actually regenerate in it. That happens in a pre-credits sequence before the start of episode one of Time and the Rani. So this audio actually ends before the big event. If it was me, I would have gone out of my way and paid what I needed to pay to have this story finish with audio from that television episode. If it had ended on the line “Leave the girl, it’s the man I want”, the coolness factor would have gone way up for me.

Alas it was not to be, but as it turns out, someone on Youtube has had the same idea. I won’t link to it,  but it’s easy to find.

Should You Listen To The Brink of Death?

Put simply, for the historical significance alone, you should definitely listen to The Brink of Death.

It’s a decent story that flows well, and Nicholas Briggs does a good enough job considering the constraints he was working under.

At last, Colin Baker is allowed to send his Doctor off in a way that is fitting of a man who has poured his heart and soul into making these audio adventures over the last 15 years.

So give it a listen, even though there are better Big Finish audios out there.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book Two: The Modern Era Now Available

February 26, 2015

Hi guys,SG_Cvr_04

Just an update to let you know that at long last, Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book Two: The Modern Era is now available on Amazon. Prices vary in different markets depending upon exchange rates, but it hovers around the $9.50/£6.50 region.

You can buy it to use on any smartphone, tablet or ebook reader.

For anyone who doesn’t want to buy from Amazon, perhaps because of geographical restrictions, you can buy a PDF to use on any device directly from me and pay through Paypal. Just get in touch either through the blog or through the Stuart Reviews Stuff Facebook site for more info on that.

The book deals with reviews from Rose through to Last Christmas and also contains the Stuart Reviews Doctor Who ‘Colossal 258’, ranking all the Doctor Who stories from worst to best.SG_Cvr_03

Spoiler Alert: As a random example, The Long Game is ranked #194.

If you’ve followed the blog over the years, I’m sure you’ll be interested to see how my own personal rankings differ from the flavour of the month style rankings by fandom in the Doctor Who Magazine.

At the same time as launching the second book, I’ve also gone back to Book One and sorted out some of the niggling formatting issues and any errors/spelling mistakes that people have pointed out to me. If you’ve already bought the book, you’ll be able to get an updated version through Amazon.

So I hope you buy it, and if you enjoy it, please leave a review on Amazon.

The links to the books are…

Book One
Book Two

and for the US Store…

Book One
Book Two


Stuart Milne



Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review (or “Nobody Likes The Tangerines? Sounds Like a Classic Case of West Coast Bias To Me”)

December 30, 2014

I’ve written the original introduction to this to review in my Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two document (available early 2015). It makes sense in that, but not here.

So in lieu of writing a completely different intro to this article specifically for the blog, let me just take the opportunity to wish all my readers a happy and prosperous New Year, to thank you all for reading (and for tweeting me, emailing me and putting comments on Facebook to tell me to hurry up and write the bloody review ;-)) and to look out for my Stuart Reviews Stuff Year End Awards which I’ll be writing soon.

Anyway, back to Last Christmas

Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review: What’s This One About?

Inception style dreams within dreams, with a mild dash of Alien, a dollop of Christmas and a surprise rewrite at the end.

Thoughts – The Stuff You Miss On First Viewing

So it’s December 30th and I’ve only just got round to reviewing the Christmas episode. Apart from the fact I was in a mild food coma whilst watching it the first time on Christmas Day, it also seemed to me to be the type of episode you’d want to watch again before committing your thoughts to eternity.

That’s not to say Last Christmas was complicated, but rather that I wanted a second look to spot the hints for plot twists to come. For example, it was interesting seeing the scene in the infirmary where the Dream

According to one review, the only good thing about this story was the casting of Michael Troughton. O....kay.

According to one review, the only good thing about this story was the casting of Michael Troughton. O….kay.

Crabs first attack them. How did I not notice the first time that there was a long cut between them dropping from the roof to Santa turning up to save them? And when he does save them, why didn’t I spot that they are standing in a different place with the Dream Crabs nowhere in sight? The second time around it seems obvious.

Also, the other bits like the hints about Shona clearly not being a scientist and Clara wanting to stay in the dream at the end (for reasons I’ll get to) stood out.

And that’s to Last Christmas’s credit. It’s well and written and has more than one layer to it.

On a more general level, it was also just an enjoyable episode of Dr Who that could have worked on its own merits without any Christmas influence. But the influence it did have worked well and used Santa appropriately.

Certainly based on the end of season cliffhanger I thought it was going to be about some kind of evil alien Santa, but this turned out far better, even though his initial sinisterness didn’t necessarily make that much sense.

From what I’ve read, some people are proclaiming this to be the best Christmas special the show has ever done, but I’d disagree. As you’ll see reflected in my episode rankings in the book, I do rate it highly, but not as highly as the brilliant ‘A Christmas Carol’. That will take some beating.

The Curious Case of Clara and The Suspected Rewrites

So everyone assumed that Jenna Coleman was leaving in this episode. The tabloids had reported it, she’d been coy about it, and both the title of this episode and the first one of the next season was suggestive of it too.

But as it turns out, she stayed.

And I’m glad about that because not only has the she improved immeasurably since Matt Smith’s final season, but it seems as though there’s further for her character to go. Plus she’s got great chemistry with the

Speaking of his character, won't his family find him dead and with that attached to his face? Bit grim isn't it?

Speaking of his character, won’t his family find him dead and with that attached to his face? Bit grim isn’t it?

fantastic Peter Capaldi.

The word on the pavey though – as they’d say in Dundee – is that she had a late change of heart and the final scene was hastily rewritten to allow for that.

Though it’s just a rumour, it’s one that I believe.

It seemed to me that this episode was built around the revelation that the Clara who was dreaming was now an old woman. Apart from the continual references to it being a Last Christmas, the way she didn’t want to leave the dream – especially in scene in the sleigh – suggested she was remembering that she was old and that this was her back in her prime.

If it turned out that was the case, it would have been a solid and acceptable end to her character. The scene with the Doctor not acknowledging how she’d aged and helping her pull the cracker was a mirror image to the one from Time of the Doctor one year previous. It was sad, very well acted and would have given her realistic conclusion.

Still, I’m glad that it didn’t end like that and that she’s staying aboard the TARDIS.

The Even More Curious Case of Clara and Her New Home

Clara is a school teacher at Coal Hill in London. She’s not the head of a department, she’s young and has only been in continuous employment for a short while (before which she was a nanny).

'mon then

‘mon then

As far as I can tell, her small family aren’t particularly well off either.

So how the hell did she manage to afford to move into that new house?

Maybe she’s been using time travel to her advantage by investing in stocks that she knows will turn out good? Or maybe she’s got a copy of Sports Almanac hidden away somewhere?

That seems to be the only logical conclusion to arrive at.

Random Observations

  • Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi are both from the Glasgow/Paisley area of Scotland. Therefore, I’m calling out West Coast Bias and anti-Dundee Utd sentiment with the “Nobody likes the Tangerines” line that was used twice. Could they be Zombies? Does anyone who doesn’t follow Scottish football know what I’m talking about? Stephen Thompson, ya bass!!!
  • When The Doctor asked Clara to pick a page number and she said “57”, my brother declared – totally seriously – “Did you know in that situation, everyone picks 57?”. Erm…no they don’t. Of course, he’ll read this and tell me that he was deliberately playing me in the hope that I’d write this in the review, just like he supposedly did with the Keeley Hawes thing (see: Time Heist Review). Aye…right.
  • The bit where the Doctor took the reins on the sleigh was very ‘Punchtheairtastic’. I thought we’d seen the last of that.
  • I loved the line about how it’s no wonder Earth gets invaded so much if we have a film called ‘Alien’.
  • I also liked the line about how Danny Pink might be “…texting women of low moral character”. It was a very 12th Doctor thing to say.
  • Why was Shona walking through the infirmary at the start anyway?
  • Given the attitude that Clara has towards the Doctor on being asked to collect the specimen Dream Crab, do you think the Doctor longed for the days of having companions from the 1960s who offered up cups of tea without giving him grief?
  • On proof reading, I noticed I’d originally written that as ‘Dram Crabs’ in the paragraph above. That could either be whisky based crabs or an affectionate nickname for the Macra.
  • As you might expect, the Doctor Who forums are full of mixed reactions with some people declaring it the worst thing in the history of the world. If I knew I didn’t like a TV show, I certainly wouldn’t waste my Christmas Day watching it.
  • The best piece of criticism I read though was that the only good thing about it was the casting of Michael Troughton. Why is that good? From what I could see, he just seemed like a nondescript fat bloke who had the fewest lines and had the indignity of being the only person killed off. Oh wait…I know why it’s good; because he’s the son of Patrick Troughton and therefore he’s amazing. #WarpedLogic.
  • But speaking of Troughton’s character, I assume somewhere in the world at some point in time, he’s going to be found dead with a Dream Crab attached to his face. Does The Doctor not plan on cleaning up that particular mess? No? Oh well.
  • Ok, so in the Doctor Who universe, is Santa real or not? And is it not a leap for the 8 year old believers who were watching to pick up on the subtext of the Tangerine at the end rather than the other 59 minutes of ‘Santa is a fictional character’.
  • I’m surprised that nobody tried to sue the BBC for ruining their offspring’s childhood with that one.

Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review: Final Thoughts

It was a solid episode and it was an enjoyable episode; I’m happy with its quality.

But for me, the most significant thing to take from it was that Clara is staying, and that’s better news than I would have thought possible a year ago.

Bring on Season 9.

Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review (or “Long Live Peter Capaldi”)

November 8, 2014

And so the latest season of Doctor Who draws to a close.

Compared against any season in the show’s history, this has more than held its own in terms of quality, but especially after how poor Matt Smith’s final season – excluding the late 2013 specials – was, it just seems all the better.

Still, if you’ll recall, the last review I did wasn’t exactly favourable.

Following a run of six quality stories in a row, they hit a brick wall with In the Forest of the Night.

So my hope was that the season would reclaim its consistency in the two-part finale, Dark Water & Death In Heaven.

Did it?

Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review: What’s This One About?

The Master is back…and she’s a woman now!

And the Cybermen are back, and they don’t say much!!

And Danny Pink dies!!!

And Clara Leaves!!!!

Or Does She??????

And The Brigadier makes a comeback from beyond the grave!!!!!

Oh Em Gee!!!!!!!!

Thoughts – Storylines Wrapped Up, Even When They Didn’t Make Sense

It’s always a good thing to wrap up a story-arc, and to Steven Moffat’s credit, he did that on every count with this story.

Whether it was the mystery of Missy, the bits about dead people, the “Who left the ad in the paper/Who gave Clara the number” stuff, the “Am I A Good Man” question, the Danny Pink/Clara story or even giving a fitting send-off to a character whose actor died a few

To be fair, this Cyberman is more convincing as Nicholas Courtney than Sylvester McCoy in a wig was as Colin Baker

To be fair, this Cyberman is more convincing as Nicholas Courtney than Sylvester McCoy in a wig was as Colin Baker

years ago, this two-parter managed it.

And I liked that.

I especially liked the end to Danny Pink’s story. It was quite a shock at the beginning of Dark Water when he was killed off, but everything that followed it made sense to me, and the way he managed to save the day not only suited the writing of his character, but it also settled his issues with the Doctor and Clara. Powerful stuff.

No, Danny’s character and the romance storyline is not to everyone’s liking, but hey, that’s just tough. It appeals to me as much as the other elements of the show, but it’ll also appeal to people who are less interested in elements like the Cybermen.

Meanwhile, though it may be a bit cheesy, and though it may also not make a huge amount of sense that one Cyberman evaded Danny Pink’s orders, it was still a powerful moment to see the Doctor – and the viewer – get a chance to salute and say goodbye to the Brigadier. That was more emotional than it had every right to be.

But if I was to criticise anything about the wrapping up of story-arcs, it would be the one about how Missy had engineered it so that Clara and the Doctor would come together. Maybe I’m just missing something obvious, but I don’t think it was explained all that well. Yes, she did it, but why? Who knows.

And speaking of Missy…

A Female Master: Does It Set A Precedent?

First off, in spite of her suddenly becoming Scottish in the second episode when she wasn’t in the first, I thought that Michelle Gomez was excellent.

Unlike the terrible John Simms, she managed to combine being amusing with a large dollop of menace, and unlike any actor to play the part since Roger Delgado, she actually made the Master seem multi-layered and likeable.

But should she be a woman?

Well on the one hand, why not? It’s never been explicitly stated on TV that a Time Lord can’t change gender through regeneration. Indeed it’s been quite the reverse.

From an equal opportunities sense, why shouldn’t a woman be able to take on a role and make it her own, if she’s good enough?

But on the other hand, what it does is set a precedent. If the Master can become female then why not the Doctor? That’s what the tabloids have been after since the 1980s.

Well call me sexist if you like – even though I don’t think I am being – but I’d rather the Doctor didn’t become a woman.

I mean, I don’t think he ever will, because ultimately any casting of a female in the title role would be seen as gimmicky hot-shotting, but even beyond that, it just wouldn’t feel right.

It’s not wrong to say that the character of the Doctor is male, and that the dynamic of male Doctor, female companion works. Why change it?

The Cybermen: Best Seen But Not Heard

Meanwhile, the Cybermen are back.

When I heard that the finale would be a two-part story involving them I groaned with anguish. Why?!

The Pink Slip: In there just in case idiots hadn't worked it out yet

The Pink Slip: In there just in case idiots hadn’t worked it out yet

But to be fair, they were well handled here.

First of all, despite I think everyone watching knowing fine it was them in the dark water, it was written and handled with the right amount of pacing so that it still had the entertainment factor.

In the second episode, they were used the only way I think they can be these days – as silent back-up to a more charismatic villain.

In the 70s and 80s, the Cybermen only worked when they went against type. You all know I love the Christopher Robbie Cyber Leader, and have a soft spot for David Banks’ efforts too, but with the way the Cybermen are presented these days, that sort of character could never make a comeback.

So instead, Moffat went with Tobias Vaughn/Invasion Cybermen dynamic and presented them as mostly non-speaking background foot soldiers.

That worked better.

And let’s hope that’s an end to them for a long time, with the only exception being if they come back as Tenth Planet ones.

That would be awesome.

The Supposedly Offensive Subject Matter

I couldn’t believe it when I read that people had complained to the BBC about the subject matter of Dark Water.

Apparently, some viewers found the notion of the afterlife being presented as a con, while people from beyond the grave praying that they aren’t going to be cremated was deemed upsetting and offensive.

Give me a break.

The sort of people who do that just make me shake my head.

It’s a TV show. It’s fiction. Please take that piece of information in.

I’ve never understood how people can be so moved by a TV show that they feel they have to complain.

What is it I’m missing? Is it that some people are so entrenched in their beliefs of the uncertain (for that is what an afterlife is) that they can’t accept anyone having a differing opinion, or is it that by questioning it, it makes them question themselves and they don’t like it.

Either way it’s just bloody stupid. It’s like people who get scared by horror movies. The bad man with the knife is not coming out of the TV to get you, you fools.

Random Observations

  • Killing off Osgood was a bit of a shocker, but I liked it. What it did was give Missy some level of credibility, and it added some uncertainty as to the outcomes of the other incidental characters.
  • And I was more surprised that they killed off Kate, until I realised they hadn’t.
  • The Doctor’s freefall into the TARDIS was more than a little bit ridiculous, but it was still also fun.
  • And his line on the plane to Missy about how she’s always wanted to rule the world, and he managed it without even trying was fantastic.
  • I hope the long running references to the Doctor being the General of his own army now get rested for a few years.
  • Not only was it poor form for the Next Time trailer after In the Forest of the Night to include a scene from an episode two weeks later, but the “I’ve never been Clara Oswald” stuff was a total bait and switch.
  • Chris Addison is a bit of an over-actor, let’s be honest.
  • Clara, meanwhile comes across as a certifiable nutter at the start. I accept she was grief-stricken but what she planned on doing to the Doctor at the volcano was poor form.
  • And wouldn’t they be sweating a bit more if they were at a volcano? Ok, I know that they weren’t, but at one point we were supposed to believe they were.
  • Danny being a Cyberman was something I didn’t expect to see, but I liked it.
  • When Clara told him – without realising who he was – that the Doctor was the one she trusted more than anyone, it was a sad moment.
  • And by the way, having the camera zoom in on the name in his hand was unnecessary for anyone with a brain and reasoning skills.
  • Probably the funniest moment over the course of both episodes was the bit where you hear the scream of someone who has left their body to science.
  • I think we know that this is not the end for Clara, but even so, if it was, that would have been a nice way for her to go. Ultimately, she’s not going to be in the show for too much longer you wouldn’t have thought, so that would have been a nice point for her to bow out.
  • Does the Doctor still keep a spare key in David Tennant’s coat?
  • I don’t get why Dr Chang said something nice to Missy when she said “I’ll only kill you when you say something nice”. Why not tell her to piss off and then leave? Surely the worst that could happen was already going to happen?
  • Why didn’t Clara hear a crash or any sort of noise when Danny got hit by the car?
  • The notion that the Cybermen could turn the dead into more Cybermen is hokey, but I can live with it. It certainly made for some good visuals.
  • If the Cyberman had said “Nice to see you again” before shooting Missy, I’d have loved it.
  • I would have preferred it if Missy had turned out to be either Susan or Romana. They could have made that make sense easily.
  • Yay, it’s Santa Claus
  • Noooooooo, he’s played by Nick Frost.

Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review: Final Thoughts

You could argue that the resolution of this episode is slightly anticlimactic, but when you build up a threat as big as the one in this story, I suppose it was always going to be.

So I don’t consider that a problem.

Indeed, I thought this was a fine story, and one of the best finales to a Doctor Who season in a long time.

The absolute best? No, probably not. Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways and The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End probably pip this, mainly because the emotional impact centred around characters bigger and better than Danny Pink, but it was still very good.

Even the Cybermen were used well, and that’s saying something.

Roll on Christmas, I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Peter Capaldi’s First Season: Final Thoughts

So there you go, a season with 11 stories and only two of them were what I would consider to be poor.

The Best Doctor. No Question

The Best Doctor. No Question

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Steven Moffat has turned things around and has done a great job this year.

But what of the star of the show?

I think I speak for almost everyone – because there are bound to be some people out there who disagree – when I say that Peter Capaldi has been nothing short of excellent.

Playing a different kind of Doctor than we’ve ever seen, he’s been a breath of fresh air for the show.

I’ll lay my cards on the table now and say it; based upon these performances, Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor.

And as I write this and prepare to release my second Stuart Reviews Doctor Who book, I think it’s superb that we’re in a situation now where 51 years into the show’s existence, it’s got its best ever leading man in the title role.

Will his stories make him the highest rated in terms of that? You’ll have to read my rankings to find that out. But even if they don’t; even if there are Doctors out there whose stories are more consistently high on my list, that doesn’t change the notion in my eyes that he’s the best one we’ve ever had.

Long may he reign.

Keep Following the Blog

So for a lot of you, this’ll probably be the last time you visit the blog before Christmas, but I’d urge you to stick around and either like this on Facebook (on the tab on the right) or follow me on Twitter @sgmilne.

Like & Retweet The Article

If you enjoyed this article, please like and share it on social media

Buy The Book

Remember that my complete reviews of the classic series can be found  on Amazon. But it today.

Look Out For the New Book

Finally, with this season coming to an end, I’ll shortly be releasing my second book, which will contain all the reviews from Rose to Death In Heaven. It’ll also include my rankings of every Dr Who story from the start.

Doctor Who – Dark Water Review (or “Not Yet Folks”)

November 1, 2014

No doubt you’re opening this expecting to read my review of Dark Water.SG_Cvr

But one thing you might have noticed about my reviews is that I review the stories as a whole.

Dark Water is only Part 1 of 2.

So not yet folks; you’ll have to wait a week until the finale has been transmitted to read my overall thoughts on this one (although I will say this; The Master is a woman? Uh oh)

But until then, a cheap plug…

After next week’s episode is transmitted (well..maybe within a few days of it) I’ll be releasing Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two – The Modern Era, but what’s most crucial about that is that it’ll be the one and only place to read the Stuart Reviews Doctor Who Colossal 257, where I rank every story from worst to best. Let’s just say it’ll differ ever so slightly from the most recent DWM fan poll.

So look out for that, and if you want to get a copy of my first book, you can either get it from Amazon or – as was the case this week with one reader who couldn’t access Amazon from their corner of the world – I can sell you a PDF copy directly.

See you back here next week.


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