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DOCTOR WHO Season 10 Episode 6 “Extremis” Review

Now that the relationship with the new companion is established, it is time to get to what has been going on in the background all season. Nardole, who we first met as a companion to River Song, turns out to be looking after (i.e., monitoring) the Doctor at her behest. It is, not surprisingly, Missy who has been confined to the vault. The oath that the Doctor took is to look after her for a thousand years, the result of his unwillingness to kill her. He is also still blind, so the stakes are high at every level.

Nardole has his own agenda. Missy cannot be trusted. Bill finds the Doctor a bit of an inconvenience, but willingly teams with him when something interesting is happening. And yet, that is just what things appear to be.

The deeper mystery “Extremis” is with the new menace who have created a computer simulation to better allow them to conquer the Earth. The simulacra Doctor manages to figure out the deception and warn the real Doctor.

DOCTOR WHO Season 10 Episode 5 “Oxygen” Review

I’ve lost count of how many times there has been a Doctor Who episode set on a space station or inside of a ship in peril. The set-up is always the same, The Doctor and companion(s) arrive, are almost immediately separated from the TARDIS, realize they are in danger and are met with suspicion by the survivors. There are often dark corridors and some running involved, and ultimately a puzzle is solved and a sacrifice is made.

So, this time, The Doctor has to save the day before they are all turned into space zombies or run out of oxygen. As it turns out, this isn’t such an accident after all, since oxygen is a commodity that can be sold by the breath. The Doctor sums it up with “The universe shows its true face by asking for help. We show ours by how we respond.” He, of course, responds by risking his life to save Bill, only there are unexpected consequences.

There, too is a confrontation with Nardole over The Doctor’s duty with respect to whoever is contained in the vault.

DOCTOR WHO Season 10 Episode 4 “Knock Knock” Review

The idea is entirely believable that some college students could be so desperate for a place to live that they would ignore the obvious red flags. They take false comfort in safety in numbers when they move into the “too good to be true” lodging, and well, we know what happens next. We don’t even need the requisite nighttime thunder and lightning to set up the spooky mansion story, but it is a nice touch and it doesn’t take long for Bill and the Doctor to be looking for clues and answers.

The easy chemistry between Capaldi and Mackie makes me wish she had been around longer in the series. When she introduces the Doctor as her Granddad in this episode, it is just too funny, especially in light of how strongly he objects to the designation. That the TARDIS is employed as a moving van is also a nice excuse for a chuckle.

In terms of the MOTW, the alien lice were creepy enough, but nothing substantial was revealed about them. It would have been helpful to know where they came from, how they got there, and whether or not they were sentient. I’m glad the students inexplicably got reconstituted, I guess, but that took the menace out of the story for me and lessened the impact.

DOCTOR WHO Season 10 Episode 3 “Thin Ice” Review

The Doctor has been telling us things for millennia, sometimes we listen, but usually, we forget. This time, though, he has decided to listen to us.

It is the 1814 Frost Fair when the Thames has frozen over and the Doctor discovers a giant sea creature chained to the bottom of the river. It eats people who are provided by the energy mogul who imprisoned it. Should The Doctor set the fish free? Will more people die if he does? He leaves that decision up to Bill giving her a lesson in the ethical quandaries that come up while time traveling. It is never easy to assess the value of a life regardless if it is human.

The monster, though impressive, is the least important detail of this episode. It is Bill, once again, who is the center of importance. At first, she pleads with The Doctor to save a child, then gets a glimpse of how much death he has actually seen and been responsible for. Never cowardly or cruel, he carries unimaginable burdens, as Bill begins to understand.

The implications of his speeches give much food for thought and are the best part of the episode. They promise for heady discussions to come. I love this introspective version of The Doctor and I’m sure we’ll see more of his musings before what is in the vault is revealed.

Speaking of which, I doubt I’m going out on a limb if I say I think there is a living Timelord behind that door. Exactly what kind of Timelord remains to be seen, but whatever it is, I’m sure it will be epic when we find out.

 

Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 2 “Smile” Review

Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 2

I like Bill. In the tradition of companions who admire, but don’t adore the Doctor, question what he says and retain a human perspective, Bill is just right. Everything she does is earned. She is curious and thoughtful and maybe that’s just what the Doctor needs. I’m glad to have her around for this transition.

This week we have more about this season’s enduring mystery. There is a vault that the Doctor must protect and the vow that he must not leave Earth. There will be reveals and consequences to look forward to as Season 10 progresses.

Meanwhile, “Emoji” survives as the enduring language of humankind. That’s probably the most frightening aspect of the episode.

But “Smile” is a good episode. The audience is clued in right away by the menace these robots pose and before long the Doctor and Bill see it too, but in their attempt to fix the problem, they make it worse. There’s plenty of running and swiping out of component wires in this familiar but nicely paced story. It works as an easy intro to the new additions to the TARDIS and showcases the genuine chemistry between Capaldi and Mackie.

And no matter what Episode 2 implies, Emojis are evil and will always be evil.

Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 1 “The Pilot” Review

The final season with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor begins with him in semi-retirement as a university professor who has been around so long that if his physics lectures turn into poetry discussions, nobody complains. “Same thing,” he explains.

We also get the introduction to the newest companion Bill Pearl (Mackie). She works the fryer in the cafeteria and in her spare time audits the Doctor’s classes. She is immediately likable. Her innate curiosity and just plain exuberant niceness make her so relatable. The companion as audience surrogate is once again in the hands of a talented actor and so far she is written with great nuance. I hope she is still around for 13 and the next showrunner, she’s made that much of an impression on me.

I can’t say the same for Nardole (Matt Lucas), I like the character and the actor, but for now, he’s behaving like a servant which was funny with Strax the Sontaran (Dan Starkey), but just seems weird here.

Through the seasons of New Who, most of my favorite episodes were written by Steven Moffat and this is another to add to that list. Tender and bittersweet with menace exhibited in a mundane thing such as a puddle, all around satisfying at every level. Even visually it works with iconic details in the mise en scène of the academic office containing framed photos of River Song and Susan Foreman as well as a cup full of various sonic screwdrivers.

With any luck, this is indicative of the care dedicated to the rest of the season. Let’s see our aging punk rocker off with dignity.

General-DC Comics

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