TV Review: Doctor Who S10E09 ‘Empress of Mars’


So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

“Please, do no judge mankind by his cruelty, or indeed by my cowardice. Spare my friends and my world.”

This week on Doctor Who the Doctor we get to go back into space, specifically, Mars. Well, Mars being explored by soldiers of Victorian era England. It’s Doctor Who, it makes sense, eventually… So back in present day, NASA is using a new kind of probe to take images of Mars’s icy surface when they see a message written in rocks: “God save the Queen”, with the Doctor’s grin of delight there is no question of which mystery he, Nardole, and Bill are solving next. Next stop, Mars, 1881!

Shortly after arriving on Mars at the point when the messages was written, the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole each find themselves in their own set of trouble. Bill falls down a hole in the tunnels under Mars’s surface and is found by a Victorian soldier. Nardole, in trying to find something in the TARDIS to help Bill ends up getting stuck there and sent back to earth. The Doctor? Well, in trying to find Bill, he gets ambushed by a lone indigenous Martian, an Ice Warrior. A creature which is human like in form but covered from head to toe in a green, armour of thick scales. It turns out that the lone Ice Warrior is teamed up with the Victorian soldiers. So Bill and the Doctor find themselves having tea with the two leading officers who explain how they came to be mining on Mars for gold. The Doctor is wary of the deal made with the Ice Warrior as he knows their race to be one of war, though beyond the context of war they wouldn’t hurt a fly. So being stuck on Mars for the foreseeable future the Doctor tries to discover more about the real motives behind the deal.

At this point things seem to be going relatively well, the Doctor and Bill are drinking tea, the lone Ice Warrior seems all chummy with the invading humans, and everyone else seems to be getting on relatively well for being stranded on an ice planet, but I spoke too soon. It is shortly after this conversation that the mining soldiers make a breakthrough in the wall they have been chipping at and find a cavernous tomb. My doubts are confirmed as the Doctor declares “it’s not just any tomb, this is the tomb of an Ice Queen”. From here on in the Victorian soldiers make one bad decision after another all based on greed and selfish desires, all on the claim “Don’t belong [on Mars]? We’re British, Mars is part of the Empire now”. It is this human ignorance, and the fact that (like always) no one actually listens when the Doctor speaks, that this series of bad decisions lead to the awakening of the Ice Queen herself. From there, the Queen awakens the rest of the hive and declares war on the invading humans. I, like the Doctor, expected this entirely and was so frustrated with the string of idiotic decisions these soldiers had made it was almost laughable.

Despite this human stupidity (which I’d expected), ‘Empress of Mars’ has honestly been my favourite episode this series, apart from the series opener of course. As well as bringing back a Classic Who (pre-2005 series) monster, the whole plot and episode cut felt very much like I was watching an episode from before the modern era of Doctor Who, and I loved it for it. There were no overly complicated time jumps, or a monster with an excessively emotional backstory. All the episode really was, was just some humans on Mars poking at something with a stick and only getting the message that they messed up when it was almost too late to redeem themselves. For that, I commend Mark Gatiss (writer S10E9). One thing that did stick out with me is the number of mentions of the ‘sacrifice of the soldier’ which, in light of the episodes plot, may mean nothing, but I can’t help but wonder if this may play a part later in the series final. Especially with only three episodes to go, and the Doctor having been referred to as a soldier in other episodes too.

Overall this episode was entertaining and exciting, and with the nod to the classic Doctor Who episodes there wasn’t too much I could fault. Sometimes it’s nice to have a break from the time based, more confusing episodes, even if it means forty-five minutes of pure frustration at the hands of some very greedy and self-righteous characters. I can’t complain though, they fit the story perfectly, plus the Doctor, Bill, and the Ice Queen definitely put them in their place.

Rating: 8.5/10


TV Review: Doctor Who S10E08 ‘The Lie of the Land’


So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

“You see, the Monks erased themselves, humanity is doomed to never learn from its mistakes.”

This week on Doctor Who we see both the climax and the close of this trilogy of episodes. With the ‘consent’ from Bill in last week’s episode the Monks have taken over humanity. As they only want to save humanity from themselves, on the surface they have done no harm, however under that façade humanity is slowly losing itself to the Monks. In order to ‘save’ humanity, the Monks have rewritten history and in doing so have become the soul religion and power house over earth. Those who show deviance from the controlled mindset or rise against the cause are either killed on the spot or sent away to camps. This dark, and gloomy earth shows none of the personality of before. As the eye of the storm, Bill hasn’t been drawn in by the mind control the Monks are using and sets her mind on finding the Doctor. The Doctor himself, has apparently joined the Monks, though Bill doesn’t believe this in the slightest. Joined finally by Nardole, the pair go in search of the Doctor. In ‘mission impossible’ fashion they follow the signal of the Doctor’s broadcasts to find he really had joined the Monks. Well, or so they thought. Here Bill is tested by the Doctor so that he can work out if she has been taken in by the Monks’ telepathy, leading to a series of very emotional scenes on both the Doctor and Bill’s part. From here on in they all work together to try and take down the Monks and restore humanity to how it was before the Monks had taken over.

As the conclusion to this three-part story I was not disappointed in what this episode had to offer. It wasn’t perfect, but it most definitely delivered what was needed to tie up any loose ends that may have detached themselves in the first two episodes. As well as this, we saw Bill take the lead in trying to save humanity, and in turn, fix the problem she had created in trying to save the Doctor in the episode before. It was quite heartbreaking though to see how Bill reacted to the Doctor’s ‘tests’ early in the episode. In doing so we get to see just how strong willed Bill really is, for the whole time the Doctor his claiming his loyalty to the monks and beating her resolve down she doesn’t waver. Just how far the Doctor had to take the tests show just how strong the Monks power was, and so just how much they would need to do to fix things. It is here though that the Doctor decides to turn to Missy, his nemesis, the one who has been locked in the Vault since before the events of episode one. To turn to her for help, it seems the Doctor has lost faith that he can fix things himself.

Here we see just how much the Doctor does actually care for Bill, as inevitably the earth’s cure is in the eye of the storm. The only one who can take down the mind control is Bill, and of course, there is no way she’ll survive the ordeal. So in true Doctor style he spends the rest of the episode trying to find any way to fix things other than the solution Missy presented, one which Bill thinks is possibly the only way. This episode’s conclusion, though leaving me relatively satisfied, also left me with a feeling of dread. If they are willing to play the ‘almost death’ card for Bill so soon after playing it once before with the space zombies, what does that mean for Bill in later episodes of this series. The Doctor’s claim at the end of the episode that “In amongst seven billion, there’s someone like you. That’s why I put up with the rest of them.” in answer to Bill’s question doesn’t just show how much he cares, but also makes me worry for Bill. It is no secret that the more he cares the more your fate is sealed, and not in a good sense. Though I am probably getting ahead of myself!

Overall this episode brought more emotional scenes than I had expected, along with a relatively satisfying conclusion. I won’t ever get enough of Bill coming in and saving humanity, ever. I just hope that next time there is much less of a likelihood of her dying as a result!

Rating: 8/10


TV Review: Doctor Who S10E07 ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’


So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

“Your world is ending, you can do nothing, but we can save you.”

This week on Doctor Who, the Doctor and Bill try to pick up the pieces scattered in the aftermath of last weeks episode. That episode featured a completely simulated version of earth so that the aliens, referred to as the Monks, could study earth. One very strange piece of this ongoing puzzle seems to be a large stone pyramid which appeared overnight at an army base. The Doctor is called in by the UN to investigate. It doesn’t take him long to work out that it is the group of Monks from the fabricated earths who put it there, but the question of why they were monitoring earth and what there plan is was something much more pressing. It is obvious to see that the Doctor still hasn’t told Bill about the condition of his eyesight, something which he isn’t letting on to be visibly frustrating. This is challenged though later in the episode.

It turns out that the Monks have ‘seen’ the earths destruction will happen within the next year. Thus the reason they were monitoring earth was to work out a best way to help earth survive the terrible things that were going to happen sometime in the future. This is all well and good until you think about the reason why these Monks are trying to help earth, as they would probably be the first aliens (other than the Doctor) to do so. That being that at this point there isn’t one. Here we come to the question of the Monks wanting ‘consent’ from the highest figure of authority for them to save earth, what is in it for them though we still don’t know. If past dealings with aliens are anything to go by though, to go through with it wouldn’t be good. The Monks show them all a vision of the destruction of earth at humanities own hand and it prompts the small group to want to act. So, against the advice of the Doctor of course, the UN Secretary tries to give consent for protection no matter the cost. Unsurprisingly there is a catch to giving consent to the Monks. It needs to be given for the right reasons. The secretary gave consent out of fear, and so he died at the hands of the Monks, as did the other military officials who tried giving consent through strategy. The only time consent didn’t kill the one giving it was from Bill. The reason? Love. It will be interesting to see just how much this reflects on the Monks and their motives as we watch the episode next week.

As the doomsday clock appears on every device possible, it comes to light that as humanity has a hand in its own demise there is a chance they can stop it. Before their second visit into the pyramid the military leaders agree not to go to war which of course does nothing for the doomsday countdown. Which in this case, the Doctor works out, it is counting down until the first destruction domino that dooms earth rather than the moment the earth is destroyed. Conclusion: something will be released somewhere, quite possibly by accident, and thus lead to the destruction of earth. Nardole’s first thought is that it is something biochemical gets released on earth, which the Doctor instantly latches onto. So while the Doctor is still jumping to conclusions and tracking down the lab responsible Bill is left to deal with the Monks along with the military higherups. This as we already know doesn’t go so well, and here come the pinnacle scenes of the episode.

Interestingly enough, this episode didn’t live up to the epic thrills of the episode last week, and the first part of this story. So as a two-part, and newly discovered three-part story, it is the least strong episode. Despite the moments which definitely kept me on the edge of my seat: the Doctor unable to get out of the room with the poisonous gas bomb because he was blind and couldn’t punch in the code. Or those on the more emotional side: Bill giving consent to the Monks to help earth on the grounds that they would give the Doctor his sight back so to save him. It is impossible not to see how this episode serves more as an information dump which leads into the action than an action episode itself. More talk less walk – or run in this case. Which in some cases works, but here I feel the episode needed a little more, it was a definite ‘one of three’ type episode. Apart from these few problems I did enjoy the episode, aside from the stress. Honestly though, give me Bill saving the day any day of the week and I’ll be happy! Though it will be interesting to see just what Bill’s ‘consent for help’ did for earth, and whether or not it really did work out in humanities favour.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: Doctor Who S10E06 ‘Extremis’


So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

“I’m not sure I believe anything, but belief is all I am right now.”

This week on Doctor Who the Doctor visits the Vatican, or so we thought, until about thirty-five minutes into the episode, where we realise it is far from it. Honestly, until you rewatch this episode, it may be hard to get your head around – in this case it is place as well as time which is loopy, well, beyond loopy. We start the episode ‘A long time ago…” and in Doctor Who terms that means hundreds of centuries. Finally, will we be finding out who is in the Vault? Though at this point we don’t know either way, we do meet an old friend of the Doctor’s, Missy. She is on trial, for something we haven’t seen her do yet, but time will tell. This scene plays out in between the larger plot of the episode. Quite cleverly, we never quite see enough to connect the dots until the very end of the episode.

Back on earth the Doctor has an unexpected meeting with the Pope, only he doesn’t recognise him as he is still blind after the events of the last episode. This plays a larger and much more problematic part in the episode later on. On realising his mistake, he voices what we’re all thinking “You don’t do this. The Pope doesn’t zoom around the world in his Popemobile, surprising people.”. The reason, we find out, is because the Vatican’s library there is a text, but the language of the text is lost. They did however manage to translate the title somewhere along the line as ‘Veritas’, literally meaning ‘the Truth’. The thing about the text though is that everyone who has read the text has died, and their translations have disappeared soon after. A new translation had been made but anyone who worked on it, as well as anyone who read it is now dead too. The big thing is though that they don’t just die, what the Pope reverse to as a secret which drives all who know of it to take their own life. They then precede to ask the Doctor to read the Veritas. Yes, I said read. The complication of the Doctor’s lack of eyesight aside, if reading the text means death you would think the Doctor would refuse…but, no. Of course, the Doctor has a device which will temporarily restore his eyesight, the downside of this though is that it takes time off his lifespan. He shortly crashes Bill’s date to pick her up, and she, the Doctor, and Nardole, along with the Pope go to the Vatican’s library. Not without a very frustrated Bill, and I don’t blame her, I wouldn’t want the Doctor and the Pope crashing my date either!

It doesn’t take long for Bill to notice something is up with the Doctor, as it is difficult to miss the sunglasses which he is wearing inside. What she doesn’t know though is that the glasses work as a scanner feeding into the Doctor’s mind – he can see vague outlines of things, and the sonic glasses also give readings of nearby people. This isn’t the only thing odd though about the whole situation. Apart from the unusual number of deaths due to a three-page text, the library, and the mysterious clawed hand which takes the Pope’s translator into the wall that is – he isn’t seen or even mentioned again. In an attempt to further hide the secret of his eyesight from Bill the Doctor sends her and Nardole to investigate further while he sits down with the translation of Veritas. I was surprised that Bill didn’t put up more of a fuss, or even question the Doctor further about the glasses – though she still did do so, it wasn’t with her same determination or flare. This doesn’t take away from her character at all though, as once away from the Doctor she begins to question a lot more, and in turn, so do we.

It is here that the episode gets, well strange, and we realise who the big bad is for the episode, and honestly, it’s not what is expected. I mean, portals to other places start opening up in the walls, and Bill and Nardole are asked to say numbers aloud and end up saying the same ones in unison, this episode goes from strange to stranger within a matter of minutes. This made for a very exciting episode, once the explanation had clicked in my mind it was still only just easy to see how everything had worked out the way it did. Who would have suspected an earth simulation created by aliens to practice taking over the world with? Not me that’s for sure! This episode had me still puzzling over the ins and outs of the logistics of it all, but I’m getting there, and it looks like the next episode will (thankfully) continue this plot. Something else this episode did was give us context both for both Nardole’s reasons for sticking with the Doctor, along with an explanation for who is in the Vault. With the revelation of it being Missy (the Doctor’s childhood friend, and enemy), it is no surprise that she was in there in the first place. However, this does open up the question as to why she is there, something we will soon discover I am sure.

Though complicated, this episode delivered on excitement and mystery, as well as introducing not just a terrifying alien race, but a smart alien race. It will be a long wait to see just how the Doctor really gets out of this debacle, but I have a feeling whatever happens, it will be epic. It will be a long wait but I am looking forward to next week’s episode!

Rating: 8/10


TV Review: Doctor Who S10E5 ‘Oxygen’


So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

Now it feels like space!”

This week the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole go camping, well, they go to space, but in the Doctor’s eyes it’s the same thing (questionable, I know). I hope I never have a camping trip like this though. This is Doctor Who, so deep space unsurprisingly means deep trouble. As always, before the opening credits roll all seems well. Just a couple of ship mates doing repairs, right? Wrong. Or just about…within minutes we have more space men, but they aren’t space men, at least, they don’t look like space men anymore. If anything, they look more like space zombies – something I never thought I’d write.

So, rolling with the camping metaphor, “To really feel it you need the space equivalent of a wafer-thin sleeping bag and a leaky two-man tent.” Bill gets to choose the ‘campsite’. As far as metaphors go, that disastrous sounding camping trip is the equivalent of what happens once the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole step out of the TARDIS and onto the space station. It is here that they realise this isn’t any ordinary space station. Reason: The lack of oxygen. Pretty necessary for survival, right? Thanks to a very large air bubble created by the TARDIS, the three are free to roam wherever they want. It isn’t long before they find their first space zombie (this is the best term for them – as ‘the walking dead in spacesuits’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it), and if it’s not creepy enough already, it’s completely still, stuck standing in its space suit. The cause of death is obvious, but where are the other thirty-five space zombies which the Doctor’s sonic-screwdriver picks up on the ships scanner. Question two, where are the survivors? The group go forth to find those survivors, and the source of the distress call. Easier said than done – their path is soon blocked by an empty, automated space suit and what appears to be a rather angry ship, if sucking all the air out of the room is anything to go by.

As it turns out, the real reason though behind the deaths of thirty plus workers on a mining space station, apart from the obvious that is, is the suits. The space suits here control the air supply for each worker and there was a crew wide instruction sent out to all suits to “deactivate your organic component”. Not ominous at all then – and the best bit? The only way to breathe on this station is to put on a suit. So, as the Doctor put it, “On the bright side, we’re dying already.”, and on went the suits. This brings up a whole new set of problems. What with the four the doubting survivors, thirty-six space zombies chasing them to the centre of the ship, and Bills faulty suit, you start to question what else could go wrong? Whatever it is you’re thinking, it won’t be that. Trust me.

Despite what promised to be an exciting and even creepy episode, for me, in places it fell short of my expectations. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what was there. For all the running from space zombies, and Bill’s malfunctioning suit, this episode managed to keep me on the edge of my seat, there is no question of that. So, as the group prepare to go outside the space station to try and reach the centre and Bill’s helmet chooses that timely moment to disable, I was almost as panicked as she was. It is here that the episode started to decline, it was as if it reached the climax too early and was constantly trying to reach that point again. Which brings me to the next big reveal of the episode, and something which will definitely come into play in episodes to come. As the doors continue to open and Bill continues to lose oxygen the Doctor does the only thing he can do to save her – he gives her his helmet.

At this point I am really not coping, it’s not that the episode was actually scary, but the thought of not being able to breath puts me on edge. So, as the montage of disconnected images play to show Bill coming in and out of consciousness I can’t help but hold my breath. The Doctor’s sacrifice of his sight is what really stands out in this episode, not his speech after Bill’s supposed death where the suit that kills her in the first place, in all its dysfunctionality, saves her life. That is what I felt was meant to be the turning point of the episode, but it didn’t quite make it after such a nail-biting series of events.

It will be interesting to see how the Doctor’s loss of sight will play a part in episodes to come, especially as Nardole pointed out that the Prisoner in the Vault can sense any weakness in the Doctor. Still not many clues though as to who the Prisoner is, but time will tell. Overall an exciting episode, but a little lacklustre in terms of its ‘epic’ conclusion. After that bout of crazy though give me a leaking tent over space zombies any day!

Rating: 7/10