Doctor Who S10E08 “The Lie of the Land” Review

p054dhlkWell that was underwhelming.

Despite this Monk trilogy having got off to a flying start, the three part storyline ended with a whimper rather than a bang and left more questions than it did answers. Despite a promising start, The Lie of the Land quickly petered out into a cliché filled climax that managed to wrap up the storyline without actually resolving anything at all. And in a very unsatisfying way at that.

For the Monks, the villains of this three part tale, are still just as mysterious as they were back in Extremis (still the best episode of this trilogy). We have no idea who they are, what their goals are, why they chose Earth and what exactly they were trying to accomplish apart from the fact they have invaded multiple planets before. Infuriatingly, The Lie of the Land did not take any time at all to explain who the Monks actually are leaving them the most vague and ill-defined Doctor Who villains of recent memory. While it’s possible the Monks could return later in the series, a common fan theory is that the Monks are Cybermen without their armour, it’s still poor form to not even attempt to define exactly who the villains of the last three episodes even are. We had a much firmer grasp of the Silence at the end of their debut story despite there still being a lot of unanswered questions there. Not even attempting to answer a single question about the Monks makes this storyline seem almost pointless and certainly not worth devoting three entire episodes to a villain that is going to end up being just a vague threat rather than a developed villain. This may be forgivable if the Monks make a reappearance in the Series 10 finale, but as it stands they’re a wonderful concept for and beautifully designed villain, but are ultimately vague and forgettable antagonists.


Now this could have been forgiven if The Lie of the Land had delivered elsewhere. Sad to say then that the episode was utterly unimaginative and dull despite getting off to a great start. The opening few scenes seeing Bill navigate a world where the Monks have seemingly been in control forever, despite only being there a few months, were excellent. A sort of dystopia, a world where people welcome their oppression with open arms. The episode seemed to be making a political point about the current rise of fascism in the world, despite us all having evidence that never turns out well. Indeed, scenes where the public cheered the Monks executing those who would question them certainly calls to mind people cheering on Donald Trump wanting to throw political rival Hilary Clinton in prison and people celebrating the Daily Mail’s headline proclaiming British Judges ensuring the Brexit process is done legally to be “enemies of the people”. The attempts to quieten any dissatisfaction also called to mind Donald Trump’s attempts to dismiss anyone who criticises him as “fake news” or liars. In fact, the Monks broadcasting “fake history” seemed to even be a comment on “fake news”, that despite those in power decrying those who oppose them as “fake news”, they are the biggest makers of it in the first place.

The Doctor actively helping the Monks was also a great touch, following on from the implication they’d brainwashed him when restoring his sight at the end of The Pyramid at the End of the World. The Doctor’s broadcasts were eerily similar to broadcasts seen in 1984 and The Hunger Games, promising all is well and feeding the populace lies to keep them placated and under control. A common tactic by many fascist regimes is to use the media to make the public love them so that was a nice touch. All this promised what looked set to be a killer of an episode. What a shame then it was all undone less than 20 minutes into the episode. Perhaps BBC has a mandate against the Doctor being evil for an extended period of time? Maybe they think there won’t be as many action figure sales…


The scene where Bill and Nardole confronted the “evil” Doctor was the best of the episode however. Pearl Mackie delivered perhaps her best performance yet as Bill, with a very passionate and emotion filled performance as Bill had to face the “reality” that her closest friend had betrayed her. Capaldi also matched her by playing the Doctor colder and harsher than he has done before. The acting between these two was magnificent and the scene kept building and building until the emotion climaxed in Bill shooting the Doctor, causing him to regenerate.

And then it was all a lie. In perhaps the biggest tease in Doctor Who history, the Doctor revealed it was all a trick just to make sure Bill wasn’t brainwashed by the Monks. The bullets were blanked and the Doctor was faking his regeneration. Which does call into question why the Doctor would fake his regeneration since Bill has no idea what regeneration is…

While sure, the Doctor was never going to regenerate midway through the series (we know for a fact Capaldi won’t be leaving the show until the Christmas Special), but it does call into question exactly what the point of the “evil Doctor” and the fake regeneration actually was… APART from having something to put in the trailers. The Doctor’s trickery doesn’t even place a strain on his and Bill’s friendship. Previous trickery by the Twelfth Doctor put massive strain on his friendship with Clara which took most of Series 8 to repair. Instead Bill just takes it. She doesn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with the Doctor deceiving her in such an emotionally manipulative way.


Now, I love Toby Whithouse as a writer. Being Human is one of my favourite TV shows and three of Whithouse’s prior Doctor Who scripts; School Reunion, The God Complex and A Town Called Mercy are three of my favourite episodes of the show. But the writing is where The Lie of the Land fell apart. Every fault with the episode can be traced back to the script. From the Monks being ill-defined antagonists, the “evil Doctor” plotline being pointless and having no consequences in the Doctor and Bill’s relationship to other things not quite working; one of the soldiers having their “truth audio” cut out and turn against the Doctor seemed to only happen to set up a Nardole joke. There are rumours Steven Moffat didn’t do any rewrites on this episode due to personal reasons, but I’d be incredibly surprised if Whithouse needed heavy rewrites on his scripts. So perhaps the fault lies in the story itself. Perhaps the Monk storyline just wasn’t strong enough to support three full episodes? Maybe splitting the story across three writers led to a lack of focus? The latter would certainly explain why the abilities of the Monks is so inconsistent across the three episodes and why its conclusion felt so familiar. The Doctor and his companions hijacking the airwaves to inspire humanity into driving an occupying alien species off the planet. Sound familiar? I’ll take your Silence as an agreement.

Speaking of the episode’s conclusion, I have nothing against Bill’s love for her mother saving the day. It’s heart-warming and would be a perfect moment for Bill’s character… if again this wasn’t something we had seen before in Doctor Who. Which seems to be the ultimate problem with The Lie of the Land, everything it does well was done better by episodes before it and everything it doesn’t do well was also done better by other episodes before it. It’s a hodgepodge of ideas that never quite gel together, leaving the episode an uncomfortable mess.

The episode scored points however by featuring the return of Missy, however brief as it may have been. Michelle Gomez was on fire this episode, proving once again why she is certainly the best Master since Roger Delgado. Perhaps the episode could have benefitted from a little more Missy, especially since Extremis implied the Doctor was actually going to release her from the Vault to seek her aid. Since Michelle Gomez has implied she may not return to play the Master once Capaldi and Moffat leave, it seems a shame the show isn’t taking full advantage of her when it can. As it stands, the scene with Missy might just be the episode’s second best scene (following the Bill/Doctor faceoff).


The Lie of the Land was an underwhelming conclusion that started out so well. Extremis was clearly the peak of this three part trilogy, enough to make me wonder if it would have been better served as a standalone episode so it could be enjoyed in the future by not being attached to The Pyramid at the End of the World and The Lie of the Land. Instead, Extremis will be forever shacked to these two underwhelming episodes leaving a trilogy that probably showcased exactly why other people probably shouldn’t play with Steven Moffat’s toys once he departs, since he seems to be the only one to make magic out of them. The Lie of the Land wastes a truly unique Doctor Who villain in a messy and uncoordinated plot that has too many Doctor Who clichés and pointless plot threads for it to truly standout.


Trivia and Speculation:

The Doctor shows images from invasion attempts by the Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels that the Monks stopped. Of the clips used, only one is actually on Earth – the clip of the Weeping Angels from Blink. The clips of the Daleks and Cybermen are pulled from Into The Dalek and Nightmare in Silver, episodes that did not take place on Earth.

Missy is seen with a piano: the same piano she was playing at the end of Knock Knock.

If Missy is committed to becoming good and this isn’t a trick, could the finale in fact be Missy working with the Doctor to stop her prior incarnation that is John Simm’s Master?


Doctor Who S10E07 “The Pyramid at the End of the World” Review

dw_ep7_15It is often agreed among many writers that the middle chapter of a trilogy is the most difficult. Even filmmakers agree about this. Peter Jackson has often called The Two Towers and The Desolation of Smaug the most difficult entries in his Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. This is often because the middle chapter of a trilogy struggles due to not having a proper beginning or end. The story was already begun in the previous chapter and the story cannot be resolved before the final chapter, leaving the middle chapter having the unfortunate problem of having to progress the story enough but not too much. And The Pyramid at the End of the World is no different. Which isn’t to say it was a bad episode, on the contrary it was an entertaining one, but the episode struggled due to its status as a middle chapter in this three part story.

The episode started out with a rather intriguing concept; the mysterious Monks made their reappearance by placing a large pyramid in the middle of a brewing conflict between three of the world’s largest armies, threatening the end of the world is nigh but they can save it. All humanity has to do, is consent. It’s a rather fascinating idea and the scenes where the Doctor, Bill, Nardole and the world’s military leaders were discussing the implications of consent and what exactly they were consenting to were perhaps the best of the episode. The Doctor’s hypocrisy of demanding that humans should never allow themselves to be ruled by an alien species, in the same moment that he himself is President of the Earth, was a nice touch.

Doctor Who S10 Ep7 The Pyramid At The End Of The World

But that said, the episode seemed to breeze past this in favour of the military leaders deciding they didn’t need to heed the Doctor’s advice; without real rhyme or reason for them to have even begun to distrust him. Especially since, at this point in the series, the Doctor has handled two massive crisis as President and handled them very well. The episode never lingered on the things it was doing well in these sequences in favour of rushing things towards the episode’s cliffhanger. Likewise, the Doctor and Nardole deciding bacteria was the cause of the coming apocalypse was a very quick leap. However, due to the recent attacks, lines about terrorism were removed from the episode by BBC so this could be a fault of those edits.

The slower pace this series has clearly been worth it for developing the Doctor and Bill’s relationship. The cliffhanger of this week’s episode would not have been nearly as strong without us having spent so much time with the two. The idea that pure consent can only come from love was an excellent touch and sealed the cliffhanger as being one of the most powerful since Clara’s Death.

But despite this, the episode was incredibly unsatisfying. Falling victim to being a middle chapter, the episode didn’t have a true beginning or a true ending which is perhaps the worst position you can leave the audience. The afore-mentioned The Two Towers and The Desolation of Smaug manage to avert this by making sure there was a suitable “climax” to the story. Previous Doctor Who three parters have also made sure each part was satisfying in its own right. Last series for instance had each part perfectly act as its own self-contained story connected by a larger over-arching story. In fact, the second part of that story Heaven Sent is often regarded as one of the best episodes in the show’s entire run. Even the Series 3 three part story Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords managed to make the second part of the story incredibly satisfying. The Pyramid at the End of the World however struggles to give a sense of satisfaction. Instead it leaves you wanting. While sure, this increases anticipation for the final part in this three part story, next week’s The Lie of the Land, it doesn’t help The Pyramid at the End of the World at all. In fact, this will likely be an episode that won’t individually be classed as great. Perhaps this is a fault of Peter Harness as a writer. His previous multi-part episode, 2015’s The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion suffered from a first part that was incredibly unsatisfying standalone, while still being good.


The episode also struggled with really allowing us to connect with the story and its supporting cast. Being a multi-part story, there’s no doubt at least some of the episode’s cast will make a reappearance in the next episode, but relying on the conclusion of the story to suddenly start developing it’s cast really doesn’t make much sense.

A major niggle of mine with this episode is how much of the episode relies on characters being stupid. Complain about Prometheus all you want, but the scientists in that film have nothing on the scientists here. For one, who designs an airlock that relies on a combination lock that doesn’t have braille numbers?! Or at least the numbers be embossed so one can feel them. It’s hard to believe such an obvious design flaw could be made, especially in the UK. What if the lights weren’t working and/or you had no way of seeing the numbers? Also who even designs an airlock where both doors can be left open at once? It kind of defeats the purpose of an “airlock”. Secondly we have a scientist who, while hungover, is clearly having trouble reading. So does he make absolutely sure his entries are correct before submitting them like any real scientist would do? Nah. It’ll be fine. Just submit them. The same scientist also removes his helmet, which is quite frankly just moronic, among potentially dangerous chemicals. I can understand the Doctor not telling Bill he’s blind (the Doctor’s pride has been focused on many times before) but these scientists really take the cake. “Idiot plot” is a term used for a plot that hangs together only because its characters act stupid for the sake of said plot. The Pyramid at the End of the World is a prime example.

And surely The Doomsday Clock would have been a better title for the episode?

However, the Monks were once again excellently creepy. It may only be just over halfway into the series but they are almost certainly Series 10’s standout monster. That makeup is just horrifying to look at and throw in that chilling voice and it’s the perfect recipe for instant nightmares. If there’s one area the episode exceeded in, it was giving us lots of terrifying moments with them. Hopefully, The Lie of the Land gives us a lot more.

Now I’m not going to say The Pyramid at the End of the World was a bad episode. On the contrary, it’s entertaining and it’s certainly not the worst episode Series 10 has to offer. That said, it suffered from being very unsatisfying and being a huge step down in quality from Extremis. It also suffered from underdeveloped characters, a plot that relied on its characters making incredibly stupid decisions (even when not under stress) as well as rushing a little too quickly to the cliffhanger hampered what could have been a great second part to this story. But an excellent cliffhanger and showing off more of perhaps the creepiest Doctor Who villain this side of the Weeping Angels, The Pyramid at the End of the World proved to be a suitably entertaining addition to Series 10, if not particularly standout.


Trivia and Speculation:

Bill refers to the President of the United States being “orange”, despite the President seen in the simulation not being so. Clearly Donald Trump’s victory was something even the Monks couldn’t foresee.

The Doctor is President of the Earth. The title was bestowed on him back in 2014’s Dark Water/Death in Heaven and the Doctor used his authority as President again in 2015’s The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion.

Due to a filming conflict with Holby City, Jemma Redgrave was unable reprise her role as Kate Stewart in this episode and so the character was removed.

In the Next Time trailer, we see Bill shoot the Doctor. Is this the moment where the Doctor “regenerates” as seen in the trailer? Hint: Look at the picture on the wall.

Doctor Who S10E06 “Extremis” Review

matt-lucas-peter-capaldi-and-pearl-mackie-in-doctor-who-extremisHow would you react if you found out your reality wasn’t real? That was the question posed by Steven Moffat during Extremis last night. It’s a deep question and one that doesn’t exactly have an easy answer. While it is not exactly a new concept to Sci-Fi, a very successful movie trilogy has already dealt with humans discovering they’re trapped in a simulation of the real world for instance, Extremis dealt more with the psychological aspects of such a revelation. For how would you react if you discovered you weren’t actually “you” and were just a simulation of the real “you”? Bits of code programmed to think and feel like the real “you”? That every thought you have isn’t yours and is just a programmed response? It’s an incredibly terrifying question and, as we saw with Bill, it’s an idea most of us will refuse to accept. It also becomes incredibly terrifying when we consider the fact that even though we can’t prove we’re all in a simulation, we can’t exactly prove we aren’t either…

For this is where Extremis excelled; posing a deeply philosophical question and surrounding it in a thrilling Da-Vinci Code-esque story with a forbidden book hidden deep in the Vatican’s forbidden library complete with alien Monks roaming the halls. Doctor Who does The Matrix meets The Da-Vinci Code is probably the most apt description of the episode. And it still wouldn’t come close to describing how damn good the whole thing is.

While Doctor Who has done the whole “what you think is real isn’t real” before in the fan-favourite episodes Amy’s Choice and Last Christmas, Extremis took the concept to a whole new level (amusingly it seems to now be tradition for each companion to be trapped in a fake world for at least one episode). The psychological ramifications of discovering your life is nothing more than computer code is terrifying and the scenes where the characters discover this were chilling. Calling to mind that all time bone chilling moment back in Forest of the Dead where Miss Evangelista revealed to Donna Noble that she was in a simulation simply by simply saying “Look at the children”, we saw Bill and Nardole discover the truth as a CERN scientist asks them to say a bunch of random numbers and learn, not only were they both saying the same numbers but the scientist was also predicting the numbers correctly. It was a very dark moment in the episode, further added by the fact the scientist was simply killing time until the bomb he’d set to kill himself went off.


This horror was only added to by the presence of the Monks; the alien masterminds behind the simulation. They showed a surprising amount of cunning for Doctor Who villains. Why invade the world unprepared when you can practice and make invading Earth a fine art? And their confirmation that every simulation they’ve run has ended successfully with Earth’s last defence, the Doctor, dying is certainly a very chilling thought. How can the Doctor hope to defeat a foe that has already perfected defeating him countless times? In essence, this makes the Monks the Doctor’s most dangerous foe yet by default. Let’s not even factor in that the Monks were actually scary, silently creeping around, talking without really talking. A sequence where a blind Doctor stumbles around the Haereticum trying to avoid the Monks who he can’t see or hear is practically chilling. If the next two instalments of this three part story use the Monks just as effectively, they will easily emerge as one of Steven Moffat’s best creations.

But this episode was perhaps most notable for the revelation of who is in the vault the Doctor has been guarding. And it’s none other than the mistress of all evil herself; Missy. Seen in an extended flashback throughout the episode, we see just how Missy came to be in the vault. Captured for an unknown crime, Missy is due to be executed by the Doctor’s hand as per custom on the planet (the executioner must be of the prisoner’s own species). The Doctor takes an oath to guard Missy’s body for 1000 years but does not kill her, instead locking his oldest friend in the vault. Michelle Gomez was at once a delight as the evil Time Lady and comfortably steps back into the role despite being absent for 17 episodes. Gomez plays the character with utter glee, yet also an emotional side as we see Missy truly afraid for the first time. The woman who faced certain death twice without barely flickering an eyelid being so utterly afraid was a powerful moment and Gomez did perfectly. If there was ever any doubt that Gomez was the perfect Master, then let it be erased with this episode. With the Doctor realising he may need Missy’s help to defeat the Monks, it looks like we’re going to get even more Missy over the next two weeks. And more Missy is never a bad thing. As the villainess herself would say; “Oh Missy you so fine, you so fine you blow my mind, hey Missy! Hey Missy!”


 The episode was helped brilliantly by a wonderful performance from Peter Capaldi. With the Doctor still blind after the events of Oxygen, Capaldi took the Doctor to a slightly different place this week. Seeing the Doctor try and keep his general attitude of “walk about like you own the place” without actually being able to see where he is was a fascinating idea to explore and Capaldi brings it to life spectacularly. The Doctor’s brazen overconfidence that his blindness means nothing while hiding it around others, only for the shield to crack when alone showing him to be just as terrified as most of us would be if we lost our sight was engaging to watch. The episode’s ending, seeing a terrified Doctor clutching the door to the vault, terrified that his beloved Earth is in danger and his blindness, being “lost in the dark”, may be what stops him from being able to defeat the Monks was a truly powerful moment.

All this would not have been possible without a truly amazing script by Steven Moffat. Moffat has proven time and time again that no one quite “gets” the show like he does and Extremis is another impressive addition to his already glowing Doctor Who CV. Much like Listen and Heaven Sent, Moffat brings the Doctor down and utterly breaks him with true fear and it’s the scenes where the Doctor is alone, when he has no one to be the “Doctor” for, where the episode truly shines. Moffat also sprinkles some truly excellent dialogue throughout (the Doctor’s “Super Mario” analogy is a standout) along with some truly hilarious jokes such as the Doctor saying he might get a reading chair with shackles as he might be able to finally finish Moby Dick with one and of course the Pope bursting in during the middle of Bill’s date, all of which leads to another belter of a script and easily the strongest of the series so far.

Extremis is one of those Doctor Who episodes that comes along every once in a while and reminds me why I love this show so much. It’s funny, it’s scary, it features some truly wonderful writing and performances, and it’s tightly paced and never feels rushed. It also poses some truly deep philosophical questions that will linger in your head long afterwards along with some fascinating and terrifying new monsters. Not only is Extremis the best episode of Series 10 so far, it might actually be one of the best episodes period.



Trivia and Speculation:

With this episode, Bill is now the fourth companion in a row to be trapped in a fake world. Donna was trapped in a simulation in 2008’s Forest of the Dead, Amy was trapped in a dream world in 2010’s Amy’s Choice and Clara was trapped in a dream world in both 2012’s Asylum of the Daleks and 2014’s Last Christmas.

Italian/English actor Joseph Long plays the Pope in this episode. This is not his first foray into the Doctor Who universe. He previously played Rocco Colasanto, the jolly and kind hearted Italian who, along with his family, was a fellow refugee with Donna Noble and her family after the destruction of London and ended up in forced housing with her in Leeds in 2008’s Turn Left, set in a parallel universe where the Doctor was dead.

The Doctor interrupting the first dates of his companions seems to be a habit. He previously interrupted Clara’s first date with Danny Pink (multiple times) in 2014’s Listen.

River Song’s diary makes a reappearance, presumably recovered from the Library where the 10th Doctor left it in 2008’s Forest of the Dead (coincidently another episode that dealt with characters trapped in simulations).

The Sonic Sunglasses make their return here, last seen in 2015’s The Husbands of River Song.

Missy mentions that the word amongst the Daleks was that the Doctor was living in domestic bliss on Darillium, as seen in The Husbands of River Song. When Missy was last seen she was cornered by the Daleks on Skaro in 2015’s The Witch’s Familiar.

What crime did Missy commit that led to her being captured and sentenced to death, and would lead to the Doctor being fine with her dying? Perhaps Missy has killed someone close to the Doctor? Or has committed an unforgiveable offence against him?



Doctor Who S10E05 “Oxygen” Review

telemmglpict000127710244-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqek9vkm18v_rkiph9w2gmntm3najpw-2_ovjcis6cocuJamie Mathieson, writer of the acclaimed Doctor Who episodes Mummy on the Orient Express (a personal favourite of mine) and Flatline as well as 2015’s The Girl Who Died, returns to the show with his fourth episode; Oxygen. Mathieson has been called by many the “Steven Moffat” of the Steven Moffat era; a writer who continually writes strong standalone episodes who many wish to see as showrunner one day (before Chris Chibnall was announced to take over the show in 2018, Mathieson was the top pick for many fans). So does Mathieson’s latest entry exceed lofty expectations? It really does and perhaps emerges as the strongest episode of Series 10 so far.

Perhaps the strongest thing about Oxygen is how it takes a rather tired old Doctor Who trope, the “base under siege” story, and manages to make it feel fresh and exciting. Much like Mummy on the Orient Express, Mathieson creates a unique monster with a very unique gimmick that makes the episode stand out from other episodes using a similar set up. The spacesuits being the villains was an unforeseen twist early on, with the marketing of “zombies” being very clever misdirection. The monsters were technically zombies sure, but just not the ones we expected. This continued on with a very unique concept; oxygen being a commodity, packaged and sold by corporate capitalists. It was a rather dark idea for the future and it was rather frightening seeing how those living in the future saw the packaging and selling of something of the most basic of bodily functions, breathing, as normal.

This tied into the episode’s overall theme, which had a very anti-capitalist/anti-corporate message. While this was no doubt a total coincidence, it’s rather fitting that during the current time of political uncertainty, with the rich and powerful capitalists and governments becoming more intertwined and inseparable while the average person is quickly being judged as an asset/investment judged on their profitability, that a Doctor Who episode should tackle how wrong this attitude is. For indeed, the government should work for the people first and not the rich businesses. This was perfectly summed up when the Doctor mentions that their enemy are the “Suits”, both metaphorically and literally. It’s rather terrifying seeing human life judged as an “organic component” that can be removed once it is no longer “profitable”.


But returning to the episode’s main threat, the “zombies”, we saw a lot of rather innovative ideas here. The limited amount of breaths available to the group led to some rethinking of classic Doctor Who tropes; no frantic running down corridors here. Instead the group had to conserve their breath as much as possible and that means trying to stay calm in the face of death. One of the most interesting ideas was seeing Nardole keep telling Bill to breathe deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth, to make sure she didn’t burn through all her oxygen in a hurry. Much like Smile, the episode needed the characters to remain calm in order to survive; with varying levels of success.

I must add that Nardole was an excellent addition to the episode. Nardole has only been a bit player in the series so far (perhaps confirming the rumour he was a late addition) but has quickly emerged as being a wonderful character. Much like River Song, it’s wonderful having a character who knows the Doctor incredibly well and thus able to call him out on things as well as, perhaps, having smarter ideas about some things. Matt Lucas plays the character incredibly well and I certainly hope Nardole has a big role in the rest of the series. He also got the funniest line of the episode; “Some of my friends are bluish”.

But where this episode really thrived was in how it dealt with the Doctor and Bill’s relationship. Despite only knowing her for a short time, the Doctor has come to care for Bill incredibly deeply. Seeing the Doctor sacrifice his eyesight just to save Bill was a powerful moment as was the moment when the Doctor agonised over being unable to save Bill and promising her he would find a way to save her. The Doctor’s worry over her was so great that he couldn’t even tell her a joke when she asked for one as way to end things on a smile.


However, much like Knock Knock, the episode really didn’t develop its supporting cast enough for us to really care about them. Perhaps this is the sacrifice we have to make for having a larger TARDIS team. Instead the supporting cast was entirely forgettable. But this was no fault of the actors, it purely seemed to be a constraint of the show’s running time. It’s surely no fault of Mathieson as he has proven in the past to be able to develop supporting characters incredibly well; Maisie and Perkins in Mummy on the Orient Express, Rigsy in Flatline and Ashildr in The Girl Who Died for instance.

But that said, it was refreshing to see Doctor Who be incredibly tense for once. It’s rather amusing that this episode ended up being a lot more threatening than the supposed “scary” episode that Knock Knock was supposed to be. While the episode was far off from being truly scary, the tension was just right. Enough to make you involved, but not enough so it’s too much for the kids. The suits, along with the “limited breaths” gimmick, was a fascinating notion and hopefully Mathieson has more ideas like it buzzing around in his head. If Chris Chibnall doesn’t secure Mathieson for Series 11 ASAP, then he’s clearly missed a trick. Especially since Mathieson has a Doctor Who idea that even Steven Moffat, creator of the Weeping Angels, found “too scary” for the show.

Overall, Oxygen was another fine addition to the show’s canon from Mathieson and easily rivals Thin Ice for being the best episode of the series so far. Here’s hoping Mathieson returns for a future series. Much like Mummy on the Orient Express, Oxygen seems to be a showcase for everything the show does so well.



The TARDIS’s air shell makes a reappearance. The TARDIS’s ability to generate such a shell has been used multiple times before.

The TARDIS fluid link makes a reappearance. The Doctor previously sabotaged the fluid link on purpose way back in 1963’s The Daleks and claimed the TARDIS couldn’t fly without it, just to create an excuse to explore Skaro. This episode exposes that statement as a lie.


The Doctor will undergo a part-regeneration to regain his eyesight – this is where the regeneration shots from the trailer come from.

Missy is imprisoned in the vault, but for her own protection.

Doctor Who S10E04 “Knock Knock” Review

Mike Bartlett’s debut episode of Doctor Who starts perfectly with a perfect setup for a good story; Bill and her friends move into an old creepy house with an old and creepy landlord and there’s something living in the walls eating people. It’s such a perfect Doctor Who concept. And it’s done to almost perfection. If one liberally uses the term almost.


When Knock Knock excels is in its creepiness. With the creaking sounds, moody lighting, enveloping darkness, the Landlord appearing from nowhere, a wooden woman sauntering about and the real sense the characters are completely cut off from the outside world, the episode has a definite creepy atmosphere, the likes of which have not been seen in the show since Amy Pond wandered round an abandoned orphanage wondering why there were gaps in her memory in 2011’s Day of the Moon. For while there’s always that one episode a series that aims to scare the pants off the kiddies, more often than not those episodes sacrifice atmosphere in favour of a scary looking monster.  Whereas here, the opposite is true. The atmosphere is perfect. It’s calling out for a scary monster to emerge to make everything click. But such a monster never emerges, leaving the episode a bit of a horror movie without its monster. An Elm Street with no Freddy Krueger, if you will.

Which isn’t to say the episode would have been improved with a big scary monster running around. But the episode’s main threat, the Alien Woodlice, never really cross the threshold from “slightly creepy” to “scary” that other monsters such as the Weeping Angels and the Silents crossed in their debuts. I was spending the whole episode waiting for “more” and ultimately the woodlice were the main threat. And they were… alright I guess? They served the episode well, but when people list the best monsters of Series 10 they’ll most likely be ignored; especially since the “the monster doesn’t understand it’s doing wrong, it’s only trying to help” trope is quickly becoming tired (this series already used it in Smile).  Like some Doctor Who episodes, they are utterly forgettable antagonists.


This was showcased in the final ten minutes of the episode, where the plot was very quickly (and rather haphazardly) resolved. With everything happening so quickly, it was rather hard to digest what was actually happening. Not to say the resolution was bad, in fact there were some really good ideas, but the way everything was handled lacked. This was a problem that was spread through the episode, with the plot not really kicking off until at least 20 minutes into the episode and everything then being resolved 20 minutes later, really giving us only 15 minutes of typical Doctor Who action. While the slow burn first act allowed Bartlett to properly develop the episode’s atmosphere and characters, it did lead a sense of everything feeling rushed once things kicked into gear. Perhaps this showcased a limit of the 45 minute format. With an extra 15 minutes the episode could have breathed a bit more, devoting more time to the conclusion to help space it out and allowing more time with everything the episode did so well. For future series, BBC should consider bumping the running time of each episode to 1 hour to alleviate this “rushed” feeling, since it’s becoming clear for the last few years that the show’s writers are struggling developing a full story within the current time frame.

A longer running time could have also helped the episode develop its cast. Apart from the Doctor, Bill and the Landlord, the characters struggled to stand out. Perhaps it’s thankful that Nardole took a backseat this week because of this. While having a large cast is necessary for Doctor Who, just so a character can “die” every few minutes, it also means that these characters struggle to be developed. Even as the cast is whittled down, Bill’s housemates are still pretty blank and forgettable characters, with none of them particularly standing out or showing much individuality apart from one likes music, one has a crush on Bill, one is easily scared etc. Now this could be the age old Television issue of writers in their 30’s or older struggling to write characters in their teens/early 20s, but it could also again be an issue with the show’s running time. Regardless, the supporting cast (who we’re supposed to care about) are as nondescript and lack individuality. Not unlike the cast of your average slasher film which, if it was intentional, is a stroke of ironic genius.


The same cannot be said for David Suchet’s the Landlord. Unlike the rest of the supporting cast, the Landlord is memorable and utterly chilling on screen. Contributing most of the episode’s creepiness, Suchet does an excellent job feeling like he’s walked out of a horror film all his own. While there are times he almost veers into typical “Scooby-Doo villain” territory (to the point where you wonder why no one ever clocked on that he’s obviously evil) Suchet manages to keep the Landlord grounded by being creepy, but not too creepy. This also works later in the episode, especially when it’s revealed the Landlord is only killing people to keep his mother alive; that after all his time he’s still a little boy scared to lose his mum. Suchet’s performance brings the character of the Landlord to life ensuring that, even though the rest of the episode may be forgettable, the Landlord will be remembered.

Ultimately, Knock Knock is perfectly passable filler but is ultimately the first underwhelming episode of Series 10. It’s enjoyable, offers some creepiness with an enjoyable antagonist, and is a perfectly fine way to pass 45 minutes. However it’s also rushed, suffers from underdeveloped characters, has a lacking resolution and offers up some underwhelming monsters. In the grand scheme of things, Knock Knock will be a perfectly forgettable episode; it’s good fun when it’s being watched but won’t linger in the memory.



The character Harry was originally supposed to be the grandson of 4th Doctor Companion Harry Sullivan. This was ultimately cut from the episode due to Bartlett and Moffat feeling general audiences would not remember the character.

If the Landlord’s house looks familiar, that’s because it is. The location, Fields House in Newport, has been used several times before in the show including the interior of General Latimer’s house in The Snowmen, Clara’s house in Last Christmas and Wester Drumlins – the lair of the Weeping Angels in Blink as well as various episodes of Sherlock. The upstairs hallway scenes were filmed at a house in Usk meanwhile, which was also used in 2011’s The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.

The Doctor is unable to escape because yet again, the Sonic Screwdriver doesn’t work on wood. This would not be the first time the Doctor would struggle with the most common of materials; he once faced wooden enemies in The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe and not one, not two but three incarnations of the Doctor were utterly stumped by a locked wooden door (which unbeknownst to them wasn’t actually locked) in The Day of the Doctor.


Who oh who could be locked in that vault? My bet’s on Missy. Who else would joyously play “Pop Goes the Weasel” at the thought of young people being eaten?

Doctor Who S10E03 “Thin Ice” Review

Doctor Who S10It’s been a long while since Doctor Who has done a historical. The last historical (an episode set in Earth’s past) was 2015’s The Woman Who Lived which took us to 1651 England. And now two years later, the historicals are back (and according to reports this will be the only one in Series 10). Sitting in the writer’s chair is Sarah Dollard; writer of the critically acclaimed and universally loved Face the Raven (Series 9 Episode 10) which is remembered most for ending in the apparent “death” of former companion Clara Oswald. So to say the bar was high for Dollard’s second entry is saying something.

Thin Ice takes the Doctor and Bill to 1814 London, to the last of the great frost fairs only to find there’s something under the ice eating people. Unlike most historicals, where the setting takes a backseat to the story, Thin Ice took the time to indulge in the Frost Fairs showing the Doctor and Bill having some fun while exploring. This is something I hope the show continues, it’s nice to see the Doctor and his companion having fun in the past before taking on the threat of the week. In fact, it was probably the episode’s plot that was its weakest aspect; it was overly familiar and a story Doctor Who has done before. A giant monster deep below, kept prisoner in a barbaric way and fed a regular diet of humans before the Doctor and his companion free the creature in an act of compassion. Thin Ice or 2010’s The Beast Below? But tackling a familiar story allowed the episode to focus on other aspects such as character development and the racial tensions found in our past.

Doctor Who S10

As the Doctor says early in the episode; “history is a whitewash”. This perhaps speaks true of the show’s treatment of the past has always strayed away from dealing with the social and racial tensions of the time. Apart from a jab made from a snobby schoolboy to Martha in 2007’s Human Nature, the show hasn’t really touched it at all. So it comes as a great surprise to see it dealt with here. As we see in the episode, Bill fears how the people of the past will treat her. But, as the Doctor points out, history is a bit more colourful than you’d think. The Doctor points to Jesus as an example; commonly portrayed as white but was almost certainly not. But there are a few people who don’t look at Bill the same way as everyone else. And, tying into the strong character work of the episode, the Doctor is not quite as ready to let it slide as he says. For instance, despite saying he is more handled to talking to Sutcliffe than Bill due to him having a cooler temper, the Doctor at once punches Sutcliffe without warning as soon as Sutcliffe refers to Bill as a “creature” due to her skin colour. This tackling of racial issues would have been the episode’s highlight had there not been some excellent character work as well.

The episode really delved into the Doctor and Bill’s relationship, providing us a quite different look at the 12th Doctor. The Doctor, at first, doesn’t seem to care about the lives of those at the Frost Fair. Indeed, in one of the darker moments of the episode, the Doctor dives for the hand of Spider as he is sucked into the ice only for us to see the Doctor is only attempting to retrieve his Sonic Screwdriver and not save the life of the young boy; the Doctor having already dismissed him as beyond saving. At first this seems like an incredibly callous act (expect the BBC to receive complaints) but, once thrown into context, makes a lot more sense. As the Doctor explains to Bill, he’s seen countless death and moves on quickly but yet, in his speech to Sutcliffe, he places great pride on the value of a single life and angrily uses Spider’s death as a way to appeal to Sutcliffe’s humanity. It throws the Doctor’s earlier actions into a new light. While to us and Bill, it appeared the Doctor could have saved the boy but perhaps to the Doctor, who has more experience in these matters, it’s probable Spider was already dead. Considering how frozen the boy’s hand was it’s likely this was the case. The Doctor’s later attempts to improve the lives of Spider’s friends also indicates the death was weighing heavily on his mind; from giving them food to reading them a bedtime story to finally altering Sutcliffe’s will to allow the children to inherit his house, title and money. These same thoughts were also clearly running through Bill’s mind in the episode. At first she reacts with horror at the Doctor’s apparently callous attitude, she later comes to understand why the Doctor acts like he does and, while she may not always agree with it, she can come to accept it. This begins to rub off on Bill as, when the Doctor asks her what is to be done with the creature, Bill asks him to set it free regardless of what may happen. Indeed, this episode felt like the Doctor was testing Bill’s morality. It’s likely, if she had wanted the creature to die or be left to rot, her travelling with the Doctor would have ended then and there. But Bill’s decision seemed to spark some pride from the Doctor, perhaps implying he has a great plan for her in mind.

All of this was done brilliantly with some wonderful performances from Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie. The two show real spark and work together brilliantly. The show continually makes me want to spend more time with them, with the two having the same kind of chemistry that made previous TARDIS teams so engaging. The 12th Doctor, Bill and Nardole could be well on their way to rivalling the 11th Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song as the quintessential TARDIS team. Special mention must also go to guest star Nicholas Burns as Sutcliffe who, despite limited screen time, managed to make a truly despicable Doctor Who villain.

Doctor Who S10

Despite all this however, the episode had its issues. The pacing was a little off at times leading the episode to feel slightly rushed when the story had to come into focus. It was when the episode slowed down and focused on the characters that it truly shined. Thin Ice isn’t the first Doctor Who episode to suffer from this issue. Perhaps BBC should consider bumping up the length of the average Doctor Who episode from 45 to 50 minutes? An extra 5 minutes spread throughout episodes such as Thin Ice could greatly improve the pacing.

So was Thin Ice perfect? No. It has issues. It’s a little rushed and could have done with a little less dashing about and a little more focus on the excellent character work. But that said, it was also a lot of fun. Sarah Dollard has proven herself to be an excellent asset to Doctor Who, having delivered two quality episodes featuring some of the best character work in the show. BBC would be mad to not secure her ASAP for the next series. Thin Ice may not have surpassed Face the Raven, but it provides more of what made it such a modern classic in the first place.


Trivia: With Spider’s death, this episode is the first Doctor Who episode to feature the death of a child since 2008’s The Stolen Earth – not counting any off-screen deaths during invasions.

Being set in 1814, the episode is a little too early for the Paternoster Gang (Vastra, Jenny and Strax) explaining their absence.

Lingering questions: So, it’s not less a what than a who that is trapped in the vault. Is it the Master? Or is that perhaps too obvious? Whoever it is, they seem to terrify Nardole perhaps implying they may not be a friendly face.

Quote of the week: “Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age, that’s… what defines a species.” – The Doctor

Doctor Who S10E02 “Smile” Review


Frank Cottrell-Boyce has a troubled history with Doctor Who. Despite being a beloved author, his previous Doctor Who episode In The Forest of the Night (Series 8 Episode 10) received a very mixed response. So the decision to bring Boyce back was met with a lot of scepticism. However, on his second outing, Boyce has delivered an excellent Doctor Who adventure which, if not a classic, was certainly a lot of fun.

Smile, following the trend of most companion’s early outings in the TARDIS, took us to the far future with the companion confronting that the future isn’t as bright as they thought. Just like how Rose had to confront the destruction of Earth with rich aliens treating the planet’s death as a distraction rather than something sad in The End of the World (Series 1 Episode 1), Martha saw most of humanity trapped in an eternal traffic jam in Gridlock (Series 3 Episode 2), Donna and Amy had to confront humanity subjecting benevolent creatures to torture and slavery in Planet of the Ood (Series 4 Epsiode 3) and The Beast Below (Series 5 Episode 2) and Clara witnessing a civilisation worshipping a sun like being who demanded to be fed with stories or the sacrifice of a young girl in The Rings of Akhaten (Series 7 Episode 7), Bill had to confront the dark fate that awaits us, eventually leading humanity to evacuate Earth. Bill witnessing humanity’s future in the book, bringing tears to her eyes as she begs the Doctor for answers, was easily one of the strongest scenes in the episode. Pearl Mackie’s acting really hammered the emotional effect of the scene.

But perhaps the episode’s best aspect was the introduction of the show’s newest merchandise seller: the Emojibots. They were adorable, funny and brilliantly designed. Much like the Adipose, the Emojibots will likely be popular long after people have forgotten the episode they originally appeared in. They definitely provided the episodes biggest laughs; especially in the scene where the Doctor proclaims “Look! I’m happy! Happy happy happy!” and an Emojibot responds with a less than convinced expression.


The concept for the bots was also fascinating; robots that will kill you if you aren’t happy. The idea is a great one and one of the most unique concepts I’ve seen from Doctor Who in a while. The opening scene managed to prove how difficult this is. Can anyone be happy as their loved ones die all around them?

The episode also had some rather clever ideas introduced; such as the amount of lies the Doctor tells his companions to keep them safe. For example, when Bill figures out that the Doctor doesn’t need her to read the map to him as he’s already memorised it, it raises the question on if the Doctor was lying when he’s done this sort of thing before.

The guest cast didn’t get much chance to impress however. This was more likely due to their limited screen time than anything, but they didn’t get much chance to feel like fully dimensional characters; mostly existing to fill out the story than anything else.

The directing in this episode was also pretty great, making good use of the exotic Spanish locations. Apart from an odd moment where the Doctor and an Emojibot fall off a balcony, all the action was very well directed and the director even managed to add an air of creepiness to the episode’s early scenes as hordes of Emojibots watch the Doctor and Bill from countless windows. The episode was also really well paced, not once did I feel the episode was dragging nor did it feel too short; it hit the right pace a Doctor Who episode needed to.

Boyce’s script also kept me guessing which is always a plus. The episode never took the direction I expected it to; for one I expected Bill to save the day so for the episode to subvert this was a great idea.

The episode however suffered from perhaps tackling too many ideas at once; quite a few of the ideas were left underdeveloped especially the Emojibots and how to escape them. I never thought I’d say this but I wanted more scenes of the Doctor and Bill running down corridors trying to escape them. The music also wasn’t up to scratch. Despite Murray Gold being a musical genius when he wants to be, he phoned it in a little this episode. Especially with a bizarre use of the Dalek theme during the episode’s conclusion. Perhaps Gold phoned it in here due to being more focused on other episodes?

While the episode wasn’t perfect, I can’t really fault it. As a filler episode it did its job and wasn’t bad at all. Could it have been better? Yes. But it could have been a lot worse. And for what it’s worth, the episode introduced a lot of great ideas and was a lot of fun to watch. And of course it introduced what is likely to be the most memorable new monster of Series 10, bar any terrifying new creations Moffat cooks up in his next standalone episode.


Lingering questions

The Doctor mentions he came to be guarding the vault because of something that happened and an oath he took because of it. Something truly terrible must have occurred.

Fun facts

Mina Anwar plays Goodthing in the episode’s opening. This is not Anwar’s first foray into the Whoniverse. She previously played Gita Chandra, the mother of main character Rani Chandra, in the Doctor Who Spin-Off The Sarah Jane Adventures. Perhaps Goodthing is a distant descendant of Gita, being another case of spatial genetic multiplicity in the show where someone shares the same physical appearance of a distant relative or ancestor; previous cases are Gwen Cooper from modern day Cardiff looking like her very distant relative Gwyneth from 1800s Cardiff and John Frobisher in modern day London looking like his distant ancestor Caecilius (and a certain Time Lord). This idea was introduced into the show by Russell T Davies to provide a story excuse allowing actors to portray multiple characters.

The Doctor mentions other ships that evacuated Earth. He mentions he has encountered some of them; most recently Starship UK in 2010’s The Beast Below.