TV Review: Doctor Who S11E04 ‘Knock Knock’


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. 

“If you could save the one who brought you into this world, wouldn’t you?”

Doctor Who this week brought us back to earth with Bill moving into a student share house with a group of friends. After trying numerous places and none of them working for them, they leave the real-estate agent in a very dejected mood. This is until an old man says to them, “Excuse me, but are you looking for somewhere to live?”. Much to my horror they choose that place, as really, even desperate students would question the creepy old guy who came out of nowhere. The Doctor of course is asked to help her move house, and with a time traveling space ship at your disposal, who wouldn’t? I know I definitely would! The Doctor instantly, and quite literally smells something off about the place and insists on helping Bill bring her stuff into the house not just to the door. Much to Bill’s embarrassment, leaving her to introduce the Doctor as her grandfather. The house in question isn’t really a house, but more of a castle. With a mysterious tower, draughty corridors, and creaking floors and walls, I agree with the Doctor when he says to Bill quite seriously “You’re going to live here?”. The place has creepy written all over it, not to mention the quiet but ever present Landlord (David Suchet) who seems to know more than he was letting on.

It is safe to say that this old castle-like house is definitely no normal house. Before the credits have even rolled one of the house mates who was early to move in disappears with muffled screams behind a closed door. This episode promises a classic Doctor Who thriller, with a solid mystery to boot. As the episode progresses, in true ‘share house student’ style the other students don’t question the fact that this guy doesn’t leave his room, and so the character is soon forgotten, he does turn up later in the episode though.  It’s not long before the housemates, including Bill, and now the Doctor, begin to question just how ‘normal’ both the house and Landlord are. Strange sounds come seemingly out of nowhere, bringing out something different in each of the housemates. The flippant guy who completely dismisses the noises as some sort of animal. The two girls who seem to feed off each other’s fear while still managing to doubt the reality of the situation. The guy who takes the strangeness in his stride and ends up following the Doctor around for most of the episode. Then one poor girl who must have had some previous trauma begins to panic as the house closes them in, she gets out but only manages to get as far as the driveway before she is swallowed up too. Then there’s Bill who, though she is versed in the peculiar after her first few trips in the TARDIS, still naturally begins to get freaked out by the antics of her new house. Like the Doctor though, her logic stays strong and she ends up figuring it out.

It is here though that the episode met it’s peak. Though at a concept level the episode had the potential to be something very scary, and very cleverly plotted out, it seemed to fall short of my expectation. After the house has closed all the characters in and has picked off all the characters one by one until just Bill, the Doctor, and the creepy Landlord are left. Well, along with who we think is the Landlord’s daughter, but is actually his well preserved mother. Yes, mother. It is here the episode starts to loose momentum. Here we see Bill embodying my thoughts as my mind clicks over and I understand why all those people had to die. This is the moment where the creepy becomes sentimental, and the scary just becomes emotional. The house was eating people to keep the Landlord’s mother alive, which after such a strong and rather nerve wracking start falls short of my expectations. Though the sentimentality of the episode brought up connections with both Bill and the Doctor who have both lost their mothers to death in some form, which brought an emotional connection the episode needed. As a lover of the thriller genre though, it is easy for me to criticise the faults of the plotting of this episode, but we do need to keep in mind that Doctor Who is classified  a ‘family show’. Once you think about it though, with episodes like the Series 3 episode ‘Blink’ it is hard not to hold these sorts of episodes to a higher standing and critique them as such.

Plotting problems aside, in terms of character development, and the development of the relationship between the Doctor and Bill this episode shone. Honestly, it was the comic moments between the Doctor and Bill which in my mind, made the episode. I will never tire of the friendly banter between these two, especially Bill’s questions, which the Doctor answers begrudgingly but truthfully. Thanks to this, I was able to forgive the somewhat disappointing plot. Another thing this episode featured a lot more was the Vault. We see the Doctor and Nardole speaking to whomever is in the Vault, the mysterious inhabitant was also playing the piano. This leads me to believe that the Inhabitant is somewhat human, or maybe even Timelord (the Doctor’s species) as the Doctor seems quite familiar with them. Maybe even friendly, as in truth, who brings a prisoner Chinese takeaway food? Really?

All up, this wasn’t one of my favourite episodes but I am interested to see how it fits into the larger arc of this series. I’m looking forward to next week!

Rating: 6.5/10



TV Review: Doctor Who S10E03 ‘Thin Ice’


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. Here goes, Episode 3 – Thin Ice:

“If your future is built on the suffering of that creature, what is your future worth?”

This week’s episode lands us back on earth in Regency London, and in true Doctor Who style, the Doctor and Bill found themselves there completely by accident. As according to the Doctor you do not steer the TARDIS (his trusty time machine) you reason with it. Something which, more often than not, seems to get the Doctor into some sort of trouble. It was in no way different this week.

Regency London brings the Doctor and Bill much more than they bargained for. They’ve arrived at the last great Frost Fair of 1814, and The Thames is eating people. Drawn into the open by lights under the ice, people are being dragged below the ice and eaten by a massive sea creature. However, with only select pickpockets knowing the truth the festivities go on with the towns folk none the wiser. With the help of a small group of these pickpockets the Doctor and Bill find out the truth of what is going on below the ice. Interestingly though, they find the real danger to be above the ice, rather than entirely below it. This comes in the form of Lord Sutcliffe, the architect of the whole plan to keep the Loch Ness-esc creature chained under the lake, feed it, and harvest its’ waste for fuel. In addition, he is rude, racist, sexist, and an all-round disagreeable man. On account of this he receives a timely punch to the jaw from the Doctor, something which is very satisfying I can assure you.

Though advertised as a somewhat relaxed, and even humorous episode, ‘Thin Ice’ delivered something much deeper, and much darker than I’d expected. This brought out a very different side of Bill, one where she really began questioning who the Doctor is, and what type of person he is. Overwhelmed and emotional over the death of a child, a situation which she had no control over, Bill lashes out. Here we see something which is so much more than confusion, and anger, Bill is lead to question both hers and the Doctor’s purpose for traveling like this. So, when given the choice to save or to condemn the creature under the lake she doesn’t just initially refuse to do so, she also questions why she must choose at all. The decision over life and death is one which she has never really needed to spare much thought for, so faced with it now it is beyond overwhelming, it scares her.

Our misunderstood creature of the week is just as much a victim of the greed of humanity as the humans who fell to their deaths in its’ jaws. This is where the darker aspects of the episode kick in. Yet again the companion is left to consider both the fate of humanity and how it will be remembered, and make a choice. In this way, the episode ‘Thin Ice’ is a reflection of the second episode of series five in which the Doctor’s companion Amy has to make a very similar decision. This similarity doesn’t take away anything from the episode, as here the episode is set in the past, where the consequences of Bill’s decision are much more possible to a have a visible impact on the future.

Though this episode did finish on a more positive note, it will be interesting to see just how Bill’s new knowledge of the Doctor will impact on their relationship. Her questions on how many people he has seen killed, and also on how many people he has killed himself gave Bill answers she was half expecting, half shocked to find out. I’m curious to see whether the question of the darker side of the Doctor will raise its head again as the series progresses, especially as the knowledge of the Doctor’s 2000 years has the potential really change the way a companion sees the Doctor. In terms of the Vault under the university, we still have little to work with, though tonight’s episode revealed a rather sinister knocking coming from the other side of the Vault doors which seemed to rather rattle Nardole. This, and the fact that the Doctor isn’t meant to leave earth because of the Vault, doesn’t hint that there anything good being kept there.

Both the performances from Pearl Mackie (Bill) and Peter Capaldi (the Doctor) were absolutely stellar. Like I said before, we got to see a very different side to Bill’s character tonight, and Mackie brought a very raw, and very real feeling emotion to the screen which I loved. I hope we get to delve deeper into Bill’s character soon. While, Capaldi, as usual brings a beautiful, old soul feel to the Doctor, especially in his argument with Bill. These two are just getting better and better this season. Overall, a solid episode character development wise, making up for the slight lacking in the plot department. The message however, and the darker points of the episode were very well executed. I’m looking forward to next week!

Rating: 8/10

I hope you have a great week!
Anna 🙂

TV Review: Doctor Who S10E02 ‘Smile’


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. Here goes, Episode 2 – Smile:

“Between here and my office, before the kettle boils…is everything that ever happened or ever will. Make your choice. Past or future?”

This week our 2000 year old alien the Doctor takes Bill to the future. Why? To see if it’s happy. In this future however, we soon find out, you need to smile to survive…

Sometime in the future, humans have had to leave earth for another planet and colonise again. This time with the help of robots they built called the Vardi. On the surface, to the Doctor and Bill, it seems the emoji speaking, robots are simply that. Helpers to the human race, setting up for when the humans arrive. It’s not long after the pair receive emotion reading badges from one Vardi and they notice the lack of people that they begin to question the whole setup, to drastic effects. The Doctor and Bill go from one stressful situation to another while always having to smile, which is no easy feat when you’re running for your life.

There is something endearing yet oddly off-putting about a small robot who speaks in the form of beeps and emoticons. The strange familiarity of the form of communication makes for a rather entertaining robot, especially when you put a bemused Doctor and surprised Bill in front of it. This episode cemented what I said last week about Bill’s very human, and very relatable characterisation. She is completely fascinated by the alien world but still asks questions that we honestly haven’t heard before on Doctor Who, and it’s not just because of the situation the characters are in. This brings us to one of my favourite throwaway lines of the episode: The Doctor mentions the fact of his two hearts and the conversation that follows, short but sweet, says a lot about Bill’s delightfully odd yet logical thought process. You can see Bill considering the Doctor’s words as she listens to his excitement filled spiel about the ingenuity of the Vardi.

Bill: “Yeah, hearts though…why two?”

The Doctor: “Well, why one?”

Bill: “Does that mean you’ve got really high blood pressure?”

The Doctor: “Really high.”

It is hard to tell just how serious the Doctor’s response is to the question, but by the time you consider it the pair have already moved on to somewhere new.

Once the Doctor realises just how dangerous the Vardi are, the concept of happiness as an enforced staple becomes much more sinister. The knowledge that happiness equals life helps the Doctor and Bill to survive the Vardi, but there is only so much they can do once the rest of the colony wakes up. As it turns out the Vardi had never encountered grief, and when one of the colony members died of natural causes the grief spread through the workers. The alien emotion was something the Vardi wanted to eradicate, so they did so in the only way they knew how.

Despite the roundedness of this concept, there is something rather contrived, and maybe almost ridiculous about the use of a fake smile to protect you from the emotion reading robots. (Pun intended). So in the Doctor’s words, “Do you know what it means when something chases you very slowly? It means there’s a reason you don’t have to run.”, it is easy to see that the Vardi are only the initial cause, it’s the ‘flesh disintegrating’ flying micro-bots which do the dirty work. Thus somehow, the Vardi become much less sinister, and much closer to a manmade gimmick used as a nod to old earth culture. Not so scary now, right? Well, only if you’re still smiling!

As a whole this episode was very pleasing. Plenty of comedy, the time old doomed future of the human race, a lot of the Doctor coming to the wrong conclusions and backtracking, and an appropriate amount of running. As well as this, though questions have been answered in terms of the vault the Doctor and Nardol have been charged with guarding, this has only left additional questions for us to ponder until next week. Despite this the plot falls short of the nail biting fear and/or excitement of last week, and that of the normal Doctor Who episode. I have to say though that I am liking Bill as a companion more and more. She manages to bring out a much bubblier side to Capaldi’s Doctor. He seems to feed off her strange questions and odd sense of humour to make a very amusing dynamic. Thank you to the Doctor Who team for the spot-on casting with Pearl Mackie as Bill, she really is bringing a lot of life to the show!

So until next week…don’t forget to smile!

Rating: 8/10


TV Review: Doctor Who S10E01 ‘The Pilot’


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. Here goes, Episode 1 – The Pilot:

“Well, most people when they don’t understand something, they frown. You…smile.”

So, Doctor Who is back for Series 10, and it’s not just back…it is back! And terrifyingly so!

For those who may not be totally clued in on the ins and outs of this crazy show, Doctor Who follows the story of 2000 year old alien who stole a time machine from his own people and ran away with it. He now travels throughout time and space with human – and sometimes, not so human – companions; fighting aliens, saving planets, and doing an awful lot of running. That’s the short, errm, very short version, but it’s enough to be getting on with for now.

Last time we saw the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) he’d just said goodbye to two of his previous companions. As per usual, we only see the remnants of that grief, but it always managed to come through in the most beautiful, and delicate moments. Despite this the first we see of the Doctor this episode he returns with the sonic sunglasses and the electric guitar, playing the first few riffs of what sounds like the Doctor Who theme. New companion, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) is introduced with the backdrop of a much gentler but lively piece, so before she has even spoken, you have already grasped some of her warm and funny character.

The first thing I should say about this episode though, is that it was bloody scary. There is no other way to put it. It has been quite a while since an episode has really given me the shivers, and sitting in that cinema tonight was no exception. Producer, and writer for this episode, Steven Moffat has managed to yet again add to my list of the mundane which now can put me on edge. So far:

  • Children wearing gasmasks
  • Angel statues
  • Shadows
  • Cracks in the wall

…and now

  • Puddles, and the sound of a dripping tap.

Thanks Moffat!

It sounds ridiculous, but it will make sense later.

After reuniting with the Doctor, we soon discover that he’s been lecturing at a university for quite a while now. Nardole (Matt Lucas), a previous companion, is keeping him company while helping him to hoard something under the university. As usual, the Doctors’ job has become a cover for something much more dangerous going on in the background. A something which is locked securely behind heavy, and mechanical looking doors. This is where Bill comes in, she’s not a student, but she works in the university canteen serving chips, and much to the Doctors’ bemusement, she still attends his lectures. Bill is soon swept up in the Doctors’ crazy world as he offers to tutor her for no other reason than that she smiles when she doesn’t understand something in his lectures.

From here on in we begin to see much more of Bill and her own personal life. This is a breath of fresh air for Doctor Who, whose companions more recently have usually had some sort of connection to the Doctor’s world prior to their introduction. Bill, refreshingly, is oh so very human, with a human life outside of her interaction with the Doctor which I feel will feature much more as the series progresses. She is full of life, funny, and honest, as well as seeming to have very little filter from mind to mouth. This comes into play very well in the sequence in which she is introduced to the TARDIS. The usual, ‘It’s bigger on the inside!’ comes much later, bringing a timely comedic sequence to the episode. I am looking forward to seeing where Bills character is taken in future episodes, as even just from this episode, I can tell I already love her. Putting the controversy over Bills’ sexuality aside. This episode drew out this aspect of her personality in a very natural way, not just nodding to it in passing, but also making it a part of the episode, which for me was something really nice to see.

Back to the monster of the week. Those puddles I was talking about before? Well here they are, and in true Moffat style, they aren’t really puddles. Nope, they are the sentient, fuel oil of an alien spaceship. In addition, it’s masquerading as Heather, a friend of Bills’ from university trying to lure her into traveling with her. The episode plays out the romantic tension between the two women, ultimately leading to an unexpectedly emotional ending. Something which I am not completely happy about. Though big bad for this episode does get a solid resolution, I have a gut feeling that ‘Pilot Heather’ will be back at some point. When (and if), however, we’ll have to wait and see.

I am honestly finding it very hard to fault this episode. Apart from some dubious plotting and the uncertainty of Nardoles’ character role, it had everything I asked for. A scary monster – even if in this case ‘monster’ is the wrong term – lets go with ‘misunderstood alien’, a funny, gorgeous, kick-ass companion, and plenty of well-timed humour, not to mention the fact the Doctor finally to Australia! One beautiful thing this episode had was quite a few nods to the last series and companions, both good, and some on the more emotional front. I am going to have to do another re-watch to pick them all out.

It will be interesting to see how this episode set up for the overarching plot or theme of the series. As well as this, the episode brought up numerous unanswered questions which I am already speculating on. Time will tell whether we get our answers or not. So, as the Doctor rightly put it, “What the hell!” bring on the rest of Series 10!

Rating: 9/10

I hope you all had a lovely Easter or long weekend for those who don’t celebrate it! 🙂