Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: Series 7, Part 2

Hello, Whovians! I wanted to get a post up with some thoughts about each episode in the second half of series 7 for y’all and pass along the two commissions I made for Doctor Who. This won’t be a full-on set of reviews, as I am desperately trying to get my brand new store set up. Anyway, LET’S DO THIS!

Episode 6 – The Bells of St. John

I was actually lucky enough to watch this the night it aired. I happened to be in Washington D.C., as it was the very last night of my most recent tour. I gathered in the back room of a restaurant in a hotel in downtown D.C. with my mods/editors and friend Heidi, and we all watched “The Bells of St. John” on an iPad. WE ARE DEDICATED FANS.

The episode was… really strange. Really strange. I think that any writer who devises a story that centers on our Internet culture has a difficult journey ahead of them. The idea of danger in WiFi is a bit much to me, as was the constant use of the Spoonhead plot twist. Still, Clara’s chemistry with the Doctor was great! I don’t know that I’m all that into the idea that her very character has to be a huge mystery, but at the time, I was okay with it. This episode mostly just… happened? I had no real strong feelings one way or another, aside from the fact that what happened to Miss Kizlet was FUCKED UP. And there’s no closure for her! Oh my god, I’m not used to Doctor Who being so brutal with a character like this. 🙁

Episode 7 – The Rings of Akhaten

YES. YES. I fully admit that this episode is basically a combination between “42” and “Planet of the Ood,” and I don’t care. There are so many classic Who elements here that I adore. The Doctor takes a “new” companion to a totally bizarre and foreign location in space. I LOVE WHEN THIS SHOW ISN’T SET ON EARTH. And the costume design and make-up team did a phenomenal job creating the aliens of the planet of Akhaten. It was like a giant love letter to the Mos Eisley spaceport, you know? The writers also allow Clara to simply explore for nearly ten minutes. Normally, I might find the pacing odd for a television show, but this is Clara’s first real TARDIS journey, so I appreciated that this wasn’t a vicious, speedy plot. Plus, watching Clara bond with the Queen of Years was awesome.

God, so much of this is about bucking expectations. There isn’t even an antagonistic force until we meet the Old God, and even then, the Old God isn’t the Villain. It’s the Grandfather, who is LITERALLY AKHATEN ITSELF, a giant parasite that feeds off of possibility and time. (That’s a little bit too much like the Weeping Angels, but somehow, this didn’t feel repetitious to me.) And then we get Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman giving us INCREDIBLE MONOLOGUES and I just love this episode so much. I love the singing. I love the message of the inherent value of human life. THIS EPISODE WAS SO GREAT. It felt right, even if it wasn’t the most original Doctor Who story I’d ever seen. Bravo, Neil Cross. This was fantastic.

Episode 8 – Cold War

Wow, I’m really liking this season so far? This is alien politics set amidst the Cold War that constantly references John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s horror, it’s political intrigue, and OH MY GOD, IT’S DAVOS SEAWORTH AND EDMURE TULLY. While I’m still willing to admit that we’re not getting stories that are wholly original for Doctor Who, I’m pleased at how relatively solid part 2 has been. Yeah, I didn’t like “The Bells of St. John” all that much, but I think it was more a matter of personal taste than quality. That might be because these stories aren’t rooted in that all-too-common Moffat mystery style that plagued series 5 and 6. (THOUGH I LOVE SERIES 5, FOR THE RECORD.) Yes, Clara is still the impossible woman, but it’s not jammed in front of our faces so much that the episodes end up lacking subtlety.

Anyway, I was totally surprised by the return of the Ice Warriors, which included the unmasking of Grand Marshal Skaldak. Did that happen in the classic series??? I don’t think it did. It was done so well, especially by first having the creature inside escape the protective shell, and then having Skaldak choose to show his face to the Doctor. VERY DRAMATIC. But I’m okay with this episode being super over-the-top, full of horror tropes without subverting them, and casually reminding us that that TARDIS translates all language for the Doctor and his companions. Oh, and for Professor Grisenko’s obsession with pop music.

Wait, I just thought of something. Do Time Lords naturally speak English, or have we all just been experiencing them doing so because of the TARDIS?

Episode 9 – Hide

HOLY SHIT, YES. Neil Cross, I’m so happy you wrote this and “The Rings of Akhaten” because THIS EPISODE RULED SO MUCH. A super creepy haunted house? An examination of what it means to be a companion of the Doctor? The TARDIS accepting Clara? POCKET UNIVERSES AND FUCKED UP TREE BONE CREATURES AND TECHNICALLY, THIS IS ALL A LOVE STORY AND NOT A GHOST STORY, AND HOW WAS THERE A CHANCE I’D DISLIKE THIS? Oh my god, this episode was also ridiculously referential to the past. Health and Safety? That’s from “Partners in Crime”! Emma’s attempts to speak with Hila were very reminiscent of “The Unquiet Dead.” The Doctor’s space suit is clearly the same one (or very similar to the one) from “The Waters of Mars.” And Clara has a touching and emotional scene that called back to Rose’s existential freak out in “The End of the World.”

My god, this was FANTASTIC. Relentless creepy and ultimately quite satisfying with its conclusion, I’m REALLY PLEASED WITH THIS SERIES SO FAR.

Episode 10 – Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

UGH WHY WOULD YOU RUIN SUCH A GOOD STORY WITH THAT ENDING? My gods, that’s one of my least favorite storytelling devices in the history of the written word. STOP HAVING YOUR ENDINGS MAKE THE STORY NOT MATTER TO THE CHARACTERS. It seems the Doctor is the only person who remembers the story, though things were altered by the timeline reset? Gregor is briefly nice to Tricky, and Clara is much more trustworthy of the Doctor, which is so infuriatingly convenient that I can’t believe someone would think this was acceptable to put in a script. WHY. WHY. Was that just a clever way to erase the fact that she learned the Doctor’s name? Oh god, is his name like an essay that reveals the history of the universe or something? Nevermind, I don’t want to know. 

Otherwise, this episode had SO MANY AWESOME THINGS IN IT. The swimming pool! The library! Running in the TARDIS! Horrifying and creepy creatures who ended up being FUTURE VERSIONS OF ALL THESE CHARACTERS! Time travel scariness! Oh my god, WE GOT TO SEE SO MUCH OF THE TARDIS. So why would you erase this, then? Because you’re evil. Ugh, I’m so mad at that ending.

Episode 11 – The Crimson Horror | Video Download

Y’ALL, THIS EPISODE RULES. DAME DIANA RIGG AND RACHEL STIRLING. I’ve noticed that this half of the series is far more based in horror than anything else. The show has gotten real intense lately, choosing to tackle the scarier side of science fiction. I’m totally okay with this! For the most part, the various writers have done quite well at conveying some terrifying ideas while not distracting from the general themes that Doctor Who addresses. In this episode, Mrs. Gillyflower uses Mr. Sweet for a form of social control to create a utopia. At heart, it’s a deeply disturbing idea because… well, how far is this from what some people actually want? How many people wish that there was a world where they wouldn’t have to see anyone who wasn’t conventionally attractive? That’s represented through Ada, whose mother rejects her because of the disability she forced on her.

I am completely serious about wishing there was a Doctor Who spin-off show with Jenny, Strax, and Vastra. I love that the writers allowed these three to carry the first third of this episode because THEY’RE JUST SO ENJOYABLE TO WATCH. Is this so much to ask for??? Ugh, I just want my show with queer alien women and Strax, the bumbling patriarch, because it’s a formula for perfection.

Yeah, this episode was fantastic. AND THE PREVIEW FOR NEIL GAIMAN’S EPISODE LOOKS JUST AS GOOD.

Episode 12 – Nightmare in Silver

HOLY GANDALF, THIS WAS SO COOL. I mean, I’ve never found the Cybermen particularly frightening, and then Neil Gaiman created Cybermites, which are HORRIFYING. Oh gods, there is so much to love here. The Doctor takes Angie and Artie on THE BEST FIELD TRIP EVER. Well, for a while, it’s the worst field trip, but in the end? TOTALLY WORTH IT. Oh my god, I would totally be okay with more companions who are young kids??? Especially if they’re as constantly unimpressed as Angie, who gave me LIFE every time she tried to act like the Doctor was uncool. BLESS YOU, ANGIE.

Anyway, I absolutely adore the updates to the Cybermen. They move faster! They can infect any living creature! THE DOCTOR PLAYS CHESS AGAINST A CYBER VERSION OF HIMSELF IN HIS HEAD. Honestly, only Gaiman could have pulled off something so deliciously weird. Well, wait, no. Let me back up. Gaiman writing for Matt Smith is the key here. It’s like Gaiman saw just how fucking incredible Matt Smith has been playing Eleven, and then he wrote one of the most difficult roles imaginable for him, and Matt Smith knocked it out of the park.

Some praise should also go to this whole cast. Everyone was at the top of their game here. Oh god, WARWICK DAVIS. HOW GREAT WAS HE? How great was Jason Watkins? HOW AWESOME IS CLARA THROUGHOUT ALL OF THIS? I will say that I find all the weird flirting between Eleven and Clara to be largely boring, though? I dunno, I see their characters as being really good platonic friends, not anything else, and their chemistry feels more real to me in that sense.

Oh! Then there were all the deliberate parallel’s between Eleven’s loneliness due to the Time War and Porridge’s loneliness because of what he did as Emperor. VERY CLEVER. I’m just a big fan of character parallels? Actually… there have been a lot of them this second half, haven’t there? It’s like this second half of series 7 is an assessment of what it means to be the Doctor, given what he’s done in his life. I kind of wish that were addressed more, as I think it would be a nice way to acknowledge that the Doctor does really, really, really fucked up things. Alas!

I did not watch the preview for the finale, and I’m writing this before I start watching it. I’m actually quite excited! I’ve liked this season a lot more than I expected. It’s certainly not perfect, but I suppose my low expectations made it a lot more pleasing. So are we finally going to find out who Clara is and why she keeps appearing and why she doesn’t remember the other versions of her? I hope so. I don’t feel like we’ve gotten enough clues to that at all. In one sense, that’s nice, because it doesn’t feel like the mystery-laden plots of series 6, where there was too much emphasis on that. But at the same time, I hope there was enough so that this finale makes sense. Anyway, onwards!

Episode 13 – The Name of the Doctor | Video Download

Holy shit, what an episode. It’s not perfect, but it’s far LESS confusing and bewildering than the end of series 6. Let me start off with two larger complaints. First of all, I hated the whole, “I was born to save the Doctor” line. Yeah, no. How about we get characters with agency and their own motivations and their own lives? Yes, Clara has been shown to lead her own life, but this idea that her whole existence is specifically tied to the Doctor being saved felt kind of creepy to me. Make this be about her choice to sacrifice herself. If it some sort of forced destiny, it isn’t entertaining or exciting to me. It just feels stiff and unfortunate.

Also, I’m kind of forever confused about River and the Doctor? I love River as a character, and Alex Kingston is my queen, but what the hell just happened? Are we seriously supposed to accept the fact that the Doctor never said goodbye because it might hurt him too much? Dude, you stuck River into a library computer for the rest of eternity. It’s the least you owe her. And how did she even GET there? If you needed that tea or substance to access the conference call, how did they get this to River Song? How do they even know where River IS? If that was just an imprint of that digital memory, WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? There’s a hint that there’s something else going on, but I kind of don’t care? River’s timeline is so convoluted at this point that I don’t want to add anything else to it. It’s already so confusing! Oh god, I just thought of something else. Who was that serial killer in the beginning, and how did he know anything about the Doctor and Trenzalore at all??? WHAT WAS HIS PURPOSE?

Aside from this (and I know that’s a lot), I did enjoy this finale. The chance to finally see Trenzalore was fantastic, especially because of what that place means to the Doctor. The hints towards the end of his life are kind of weird because… well, this whole thing is so strange! The TARDIS will die, the Doctor will die, and they’ll do so in one last bloody battle. What happens??? I loved that the Doctor admitted that Strax, Jenny, and Vastra stuck with him through all the awful years he had after the Ponds left, his “dark” time, and that he owed it to them to save them, even if it meant great harm to himself. (Which just highlights how foolish his logic to River is because YOU HURT YOURSELF FOR THOSE FRIENDS, WHY CAN’T YOU DO THAT WITH RIVER.)

I loved all the glimpses of the past ten Doctors, as cheesy as they were, because it gave this story so much weight and importance. The idea that the Doctor’s life was represented by a “scar” was immensely clever, too, and it made the Great Intelligence’s revenge plot that much more powerful. To that specific villain, that’s all the Doctor’s ever done for the world: leave damage behind. He wanted to undo that, to kill himself in the process so he could experience a world without the Doctor. Of course, while some of his criticism of the Doctor sticks, it’s skewed in a way that causes great harm to other creatures throughout the universe.

So, I came into this finale totally unspoiled. I have ‘doctor who’ blocked with Tumblr Savior and I don’t read news stories on the show after the producers had the brilliant idea of spoiling the death of the Ponds as a form of marketing. (I’m still pissed about that.) I suggest watching the video commission for this just to see me lose my shit at the ending. I DIDN’T KNOW THIS. I LOVE JOHN HURT. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH. BUT I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? SO DOES THAT MEAN THERE ARE ACTUALLY TWELVE DOCTORS? WHERE DOES HE FIT IN THE TIMELINE? I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK

November 23rd is too far away. 🙁

Mark Links Stuff

The Mark Does Stuff Summer Tour is happening soon! Check out the posted dates, suggest new ones, help bring me to YOUR TOWN.
– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
– Video commissions are open, and you can commission a Mark Reads/Watches video for just $25!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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