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Review of Listen
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

Clara F***ing Oswald

I had an even harder time than usual this week making myself go back to re-watch the episode before reviewing it. Once I did, I finally figured out why.

It's not that I didn't like Listen—quite the contrary. It's that I enjoyed it so much that my extreme disappointment with the last three minutes utterly ruined it in retrospect.

Knowing what was coming the second time around, I found I could isolate the ending from the rest, preventing it from tainting my appreciation. Perhaps, like the whole "half human on my mother's side" thing, I'll end up just putting my fingers in my ears and chanting "I can't hear you!" about this, too.

So let's go back to the beginning, and look at what Moffat's pulled out of his hat this time. Continuing in his usual vein of finding ordinary things to make extra scary, the Moff has decided this time to prey on the idea that the urge to talk to oneself when alone just means we're talking to an invisible companion.

It's full of ambience and a lovely creep factor—at least on first viewing. Unlike his previous memes (any statue could be an Angel; the Vashta Nerada aren't in every shadow, but could be in any shadow; you can't even remember you saw a Silent), the bogeymen of Listen—the breath on the back of your neck that makes you talk to not-yourself when you're not-alone—lose all their power once you realize it's the Doctor's imagination running away with him. From the get-go, everything now has a rational explanation, even the word scrawled on the chalkboard in the Doctor's own hand. "Well, I couldn't have written it and forgotten it, could I?" he insists. But when Clara counters, "Have you met you?" I can't help but nod and agree there's no reason he couldn't have.


Heavy Meta


Review of Robot of Sherwood
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a Doctor Who episode with such strong metatextual themes. From the moment the Doctor tells Clara that "old-fashioned heroes only exist in old-fashioned storybooks" and she asks, "What about you?" the ideas of story and reality overlap in ever thicker layers.

Nor is the episode afraid to call back to the pre-Hiatus era—and skillfully enough not to make new fans wonder WTF is going on, I'd wager. Twelve certainly channeled his inner Three, first with reference to a miniscope and then with a carefully timed "Hai!" to chop Robin's sword from his hand at the archery tournament.

Even without any of that context, though, Robot of Sherwood serves as an important milestone in the Twelfth Doctor's tenure: his first "romp."

Writer Mark Gatiss is on top form here. It's certainly my favorite from him since his inaugural outing in The Unquiet Dead. The fact that Clara an active role in sorting out what the Sheriff's plan is, having proved herself the ringleader through the simple act of keeping her yap shut, is refreshing (though I'm not sure that making the Doctor into a petulant twit set on one-upmanship is a great trade-off). Clara and Twelve are settling into a more comfortable relationship, and she's back to happily giving him what-for when he needs it ("Can you explain without using the word 'sonic screwdriver'?").


A Good Dalek (Episode)


Review of Into the Dalek
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

If you'd told me a month ago that one of the episodes of this series would be The Invisible Enemy meets Dalek, I'd have been, shall we say, dubious at best. Yet that's what we got in Into the Dalek, and I have to say I think it worked.

The very fact that I'm willing to mention this episode in the same breath with Dalek, a personal favorite from the post-Hiatus era, tells you something about how much I enjoyed it. Granted, is was not completely flawless (though to be honest, I doubt such a beast exists), but it was, for me, certainly one of the best since Moffat took over as showrunner.

Yet while the main conceit of the episode—literally getting inside a Dalek's head—is new and therefore interesting, it was not, in fact, the driving force of the story. Instead, it's a character piece.

Most of the character development is for our new Doctor. We the audience are still getting to know him (as is Clara and, let's be honest, he is himself), so this is important stuff for us to see. And I was fascinated to realize both that I like Twelve less than I did in his debut, and that I find him an infinitely more interesting character than most of his predecessors. This distinction is important to me, so let me put it another way to be sure I'm making myself clear: this Doctor is not nice, but I adore him.




Review of Deep Breath
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

The new Doctor has officially arrived, and I can release the anticipatory breath. My biggest fear was that Capaldi would not live up to all my expectations. That one, at least, I can put to rest.

As for the remainder of the episode... Well, let's just say the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's a series opener, so we all knew before the list of titles, writers, and directors was released that this was going to be a Moffat story. I had my fingers crossed, but it came out true to form. On my first viewing, I really enjoyed it; certain details niggled at me, but I was able to ignore them and enjoy the ride. On second and later viewings, the flaws started to do more than niggle, and it became ever more difficult to enjoy certain scenes. That, for me, is the classic Moffat signature.

Before I go any further, let me be clear: I thought Capaldi's Twelve was bloody brilliant. I love him already. He was everything I hoped for (with the possible exception of some overly friendly chatting up of a lonely female T. rex), and I can't wait to see more of him.

Clara, however, was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, she really stepped up her game, executing a very Doctor-ly bluff-calling when set against the Half-Face Man (more on that later) and standing up to Vastra. On the other, she—the Impossible Girl, who had saved the Doctor time and again in his many incarnations—couldn't get over the fact that he wasn't the same man anymore. On the whole, I think she came out net positive for me (her improvements outweighing the backsliding), and I'm hoping she continues to grow into a character I could miss.


Confession #67: I Won't Be Sad to See the Back of Clara


This past weekend, just days before the first episode of Series Eight is to air, rumors started to surface that Companion actress Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) would leave the show at the end of the series (specifically, at Christmas). Should the rumors prove true, Clara's departure comes sooner than I would have anticipated, but I can't honestly say I'll be sad to see her go.

That's not to say I actively dislike the character, and I certainly think Jenna has done well with what she's been given. I simply have never taken to her. As long as two years ago, before she even arrived on the scene, I was disinclined to enjoy Clara's turn in the TARDIS. As I pointed out at the time, she's yet another in a long line of 21st Century Brits to tag along with the Doctor, and it's getting tiresome.

Once she had a chance to show her personality, though, she... barely had one. No, that's not fair. Clara's got a personality; what she doesn't have is agency. The character's entire raison d'être is dependent on the well being of someone else ("I was born to save the Doctor"). From a narrative standpoint, she's only there—just like Amy was in Series Five—as a mystery for the Doctor to unravel (the Impossible Girl).



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