Author Bonus: Heaven Sent (Doctor Who)

This is an author add-on, but I don’t feel like figuring out what number it would be. When I saw this episode, I knew I loved it, but it took me re-watching it to realize something important about it. I’ll get into that in a minute.

Quick Recap of the show:

The premise of the show is that there is a being called the Doctor that travels through time and space with various companions to fight evil. He’s an alien from a race called the Time Lords who lives and journeys in a 60s British Police Box called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). Sometimes he fights aliens, sometimes he eats hot dogs, sometimes he meets famous historical figures. Honestly, he just kind of travels, but the TARDIS tends to take him where he needs to be. Sometimes he changes history, sometimes he can’t, depending on the writing. At the time of this episode, there had been 12 doctors, and the current one was played by Peter Capaldi. His companion at the time was a woman named Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), who had been killed moments before this episode started, and he was forcibly teleported away.

Yes, he plays the guitar.


The episode begins with a wounded figure walking through a castle, as the Doctor’s voice-over talks about the fact that Death is always following. You run, it walks, but it’s always coming. Then, one day you sit still too long, and it catches you. The unidentified figure flips a switch, writes the word “Bird” in the dirt, expires, and disintegrates into a skull just as the Doctor is teleported into the same room.

The Doctor speaks, assuming that whoever brought him here can hear him, telling them that they should be very afraid right now, if they had any part in Clara’s death, and that he will never stop coming for them.


The Doctor finds himself inside of a castle in the middle of an ocean which constantly reforms and shifts around him. He determines from the teleporter that he can only be within 1 light-year of the Earth, so he knows that, when the sun sets, he can use the stars to tell his location. However, he also finds out that he is not alone. There is a monstrous figure of a veiled old woman, covered in flies, which slowly comes after him. The Doctor quickly realizes that the figure is from his childhood, from a funeral of an old woman he knew, where the heat was so great that the flies attacked her veiled corpse. Someone is using his oldest fear against him.


Trapped at the end of the hallway, the Doctor confesses that he is afraid to die, which causes the Veil to stop, allowing the Doctor to escape. He realizes that the figure will stop when he confesses a deep truth. It’s not trying to kill him, it’s interrogating him. The Veil shortly catches up to him again, but he escapes by jumping out of a window.

DoctorWhoTardisThen, the scene shifts to the Doctor inside of the TARDIS, talking to himself. It turns out that, due to the extremely advanced nature of his brain, whenever he has to make a quick decision, he goes into a mental version of the TARDIS where he can make calculations about the situation that would take hours outside in the span of seconds. Calculating the time of impact to the water, the Doctor avoids breaking his neck and the shock.


As he awakens under the water, he sees that the ocean is filled with skulls. Mountains of skulls. He makes his way back to shore and begins investigating the castle. For days, the Doctor explores the castle, avoiding the Veil. He discovers a message to him: “I AM IN 12.” The Doctor escapes the Veil again by confessing another fact: He ran away when he was younger because he was scared. He realizes that the Veil walks so slowly that, if he lures the Veil to one end of the castle, then runs to the other, he has 82 minutes before it catches up.


After more time passes while he works to find room 12 in 82 minute increments, the Doctor returns to the starting room, and sees the word “Bird” written in the dirt, as well as the skull of the figure from the beginning. A passage opens, leading upward. The Doctor stands on the roof of the castle, looking at the stars, and observes that, by their movement, he has traveled 7,000 years into the future. He then accidentally knocks the skull into the water, when avoiding the Veil again. The Doctor confesses one more fact to the Veil: He knows the identity of the greatest fear of the Time Lords – “The Hybrid.” He doesn’t disclose who the Hybrid is, however.


This confession finally reconfigures the castle so that the Doctor can access Room 12, where he finds the TARDIS behind a wall of crystal. This crystal is Azbantium, a substance 400 times harder than Diamond, and the wall is 20 feet thick. Then, the Doctor thinks back to the word “Bird” and finally remembers everything. More on that in a second.

The Doctor realizes that “Bird” is a reference to the fable “The Shepherd’s Boy” by the Brothers Grimm. And this breaks him, causing him to beg to be allowed to lose. To quit. Not to be the hero this time. However, a memory of Clara makes him press on.


So, with the veil approaching him, the Doctor starts punching the wall until the Veil catches him, and mortally wounds him. Dying, the Doctor crawls back up the stairs to the teleporter room, and uses the re-setting of the room to create another version of himself as he expires. The new Doctor then begins to recite the speech from the beginning of the episode.

doctorwhocapaldidying-e1521148401528.jpgWhat follows is a montage of doctors re-living the same sequence we just watched, over, and over, and over again. For FOUR AND A HALF BILLION YEARS, as he slowly punches through the wall, a punch or 3 each lifetime. Then, he is mortally wounded again, and has to agonizingly limp back to start the whole cycle over with his last breath. However, we watch as the Doctor slowly tells the Veil the story of the “Shepherd’s Boy,” in one of my favorite sequences in the show’s history.

“There’s this emperor and he asks this shepherd’s boy, “How many seconds in eternity?” And the shepherd’s boy says, “There’s this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it and an hour to go around it! Every hundred years, a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed! You must think that’s a hell of a long time. Personally, I think that’s a hell of a bird.”

The Doctor finally breaks through the wall and escapes, revealing that he’s been inside of his confession dial, basically a Time Lord will and testament, the entire time. And he sees that he’s on Gallifrey, and that his own people, the Time Lords, were the ones that put him there. He tells a small boy “Tell them I’m back. Tell them I know what they did, and I’m on my way. And if they ask you who I am, tell them I came the long way around.”


This scene of eating soup is amazing. Really.

Okay, so, this paragraph will probably kill me: Peter Capaldi is the best actor to portray the Doctor thus far. I’m sorry, but I genuinely believe that. I love David Tennant, and I think he is the best Doctor, and he is definitely My Doctor, but Tennant is behind Capaldi in terms of actual acting ability. This episode proved it. Capaldi explores every aspect of the Doctor in this episode, and he does it with such a level of subtlety and skill that he manages to get you to forget how relatively little actually happens in this episode. Tennant may have loved the role enough to bring it life that no other Doctor has (sorry Pertwee, Eccleston, Smith, and the Bakers), but dammit, this episode is up there with Martin Sheen in The West Wing or Elisabeth Moss in the Handmaid’s Tale. This is the sh*t people get awards for, and it’s an episode of DOCTOR WHO, a usually lighthearted sci-fi show. It’s the same reason why I love Captain Picard the most, because Patrick Stewart could bring you in with his performances when he was the focus. Capaldi just… f*cking nailed it.

The Groundhog Day-esque loops at the end are amazing, and it really does serve to show exactly how slow the Doctor’s progress is as he punches his way to freedom. Watching him die over and over again really makes us feel uncomfortable, because this is our protagonist undergoing agony dozens of times before our eyes, and billions more offscreen.


Also, the final remembrance. That’s the part that I think sets this episode apart. See, he’s not just realizing what “Bird” means, he’s remembering all of the times he’s done this before. He’s realizing that he’s suffered this sequence thousands of times, and that he’s going to have to do it billions of times to get free. He wants to quit. He wants to give up. This is a torment that no mind should be able to bear, being chased, tortured, and killed for basically as long as the Earth has existed, but he just quickly resolves that he’ll do it, he’ll bear it, he’ll persevere and he’ll triumph, because that’s what he has to do. He even realizes that he could be free in an instant just by confessing who the Hybrid is: But he refuses to do it, because it’s an important secret that should be kept (it’s later revealed to be a friend of his). He’s willing to undergo hell to protect that secret. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield, as a better author said.

This episode is one of the best hours of Doctor Who, and it is just watching the Doctor through triumph, agony, failure, regret, and overcoming the odds, all in short order. It explores levels of the character that we rarely touch upon, and it rests largely upon Capaldi’s performance combined with some excellent writing and cinematography. Truly, this was wonderful.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Best St. Patrick’s Day Episodes

Top of the Afternoon to Ye! For whatever reason, I didn’t think about writing a list of these until today, so I just cranked this out as fast as possible after oversleeping massively.  But, here you go:

5) St. Patrick’s Day (The Office)


Michael (Steve Carell) gets angry at Jo (Kathy Bates) for making him work late and upsetting his St. Patrick’s Day plans. After repeated escape attempts, Michael finally just tells Jo that he’s letting everyone go home, to which she, surprisingly, complies, showing respect for him for the first time.

Meanwhile, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) has been using Jim’s (John Krasinkski) and Pam’s (Jenna Fischer) desks while they have been on parental leave to make a “MegaDesk.” When Jim returns, Dwight tries to guilt him into leaving so he can have his MegaDesk back. Jim does leave and spends more time with his baby, but stacks four desks into “QuadDesk,” which forces Dwight to keep everything in about a 6 inch gap.

Alright, this one doesn’t have as much Irish spirit as some of the others, but since it’s about all of the things that eventually replace St. Patrick’s Day (work, kids), it’s still a pretty good episode.

4) Charlie Catches a Leprechaun (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)


It’s St. Paddy’s Day at Paddy’s Pub, and the Gang is trying to make some real money. Dennis, Dee, and Frank (Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, and Danny DeVito) take off in the “Paddy’s Wagon,” a bar contained within a van, but their inability to ever cooperate or think things through leads all the customers to get upset, which, in turn, leads the three to start robbing all of their customers and abandoning them out of the city limits.

Meanwhile, Charlie (Charlie Day) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) are watching the bar, but they quickly become distracted when Charlie catches a little person in a leprechaun costume (Kevin Thompson). After Mac leaves (for a gay bar), Charlie, who has been drinking paint mixed with alcohol, believes this to be a real leprechaun, and starts torturing him (Reservoir Dogs style), until the rest of the gang returns to stop him.

Basically, this episode is just the Gang ruining a bunch of people’s attempts to have a good time, but they’re also ruined by people robbing their bar when they leave it unattended. So… happy holiday about drinking?

3) The Funcooker (30 Rock)


30 Rock fans probably thought that this was going to be the episode “St. Patrick’s Day,” but screw that, this episode’s more fun.

While hosting the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) drink too much, causing Jenna to pass out and Tracy to violently swear on live TV.  However, after realizing that he can just pay all of the FCC fines, Tracy keeps swearing on TV. When sponsors drop out, Tracy just buys all the advertising time himself.

Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) is unable to deal with it because she’s stuck on the jury for the trial of a woman who worked in a similar capacity to Liz and ended up snapping and burning the building down. Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is attempting to find the name for a small portable microwave, and Kenneth the page (Jack McBrayer) suggests the “Funcooker” as the only universally non-offensive term for it. However, Tracy, now acting with impunity, moons the world while calling his ass the “Funcooker,” ruining the name and the network. Liz returns to find the chaos, and then accidentally starts a small fire, which scares everyone into compliance.

This episode shows the fallout that can come from bad St. Patrick’s Day decisions, so make sure that you drink slightly less than Jenna and Tracy.

2) Hoss and the Leprechauns (Bonanza)


Alright, so, this might be a jump-the-shark moment, but this is a hell of a funny episode of Bonanza.

Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker) is in the woods when he finds a bear that has treed a small man wearing green in a funny hat. Hoss scares the bear away, saving the man, and then finds a small box filled with gold. Hoss immediately suspects that it was a leprechaun. When he returns to town and the Ponderosa, no one believes him about the  leprechaun, and the gold disappears. However, at the same time, an Irish professor shows up and confirms that there are indeed leprechauns and pots of gold in the woods, leading everyone to go treasure hunting.

After finding a bunch of little people, it’s revealed that they’re all carnies who staged a rebellion and robbed their crooked boss, who is disguised as the Irish professor. This episode is a pretty hilarious farce, with even the audience doubting whether or not they are real leprechaun.

1) Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment (The Simpsons)


This is one of the best episodes of the Simpsons. It was destined to take this spot from the beginning. For those of you who point out it only starts on “St. Patrick’s Day,” shut yer gobs.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Bart accidentally gets shot with a beer cannon, resulting in him stumbling around drunk on television. A moral outcry leads the city of Springfield to finally enforce their 200-year-old law banning alcohol. However, Chief Wiggum is too corrupt, resulting in the city calling in Dick Tracy-esque Rex Banner (Dave Thomas), who proceeds to wipe out the mob and the speakeasies. However, Homer, die-hard alcoholic that he is, digs up all the buried beer in the dump, then sets up a system to supply the alcohol to Moe’s Tavern through a series of underground tunnels at the bowling alley.

Homer, now known as the “Beer Baron,” eventually runs out of beer and starts making his own alcohol. When Marge finds out, as opposed to being mad, she is impressed at how clever Homer is being. Eventually, though, Homer feels bad for Chief Wiggum’s unemployment, and turns himself in to the former Chief so that he will get his job back.

Homer avoids the punishment for brewing (which is “catapult”) after it’s revealed that the law was actually repealed 199 years ago. When Banner tries to criticize the drinking, he is catapulted out of town. The episode ends with one of the best lines in TV history:

To alcohol! The cause of… and solution to… all of life’s problems.

Thanks for reading, drink responsibly. Or don’t. I’m a blog, not a cop.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Author Bonus: 34a) San Junipero (Black Mirror)

If you’re confused, read my post on add-ons. So, now that we’re through that, here’s the review:

Black Mirror is designed to be a British Twilight-Zone-like anthology about media and spectacle. The screen we look at, the screen upon which this is read, the screen upon which it is written, these are all the black mirrors in which we look to see ourselves, others, and ourselves through others. For the first 2 seasons, the show usually had about 1 great episode in 3, with another 1 being good/really good, and another being okay. After Netflix took over, I think the quality rose a bit in season 3, if only because they managed to produce this episode.

Or because they have funding now!

“San Junipero” is, in a lot of ways, the opposite of a Black Mirror episode. The episodes usually take the point of view that the “Screen” is bad. That our virtual lives and obsession with spectacle are actually hurting our existence and our society. They manage to convey this through exaggerated scenarios, ranging from the contemporary to the dystopian future. To be fair, there are a few episodes in which the screen is not entirely negative, such as using it to punish pedophiles or child murderers through psychological torture, though in those episodes they point out that the pedophile and child murderer both used screens to commit their offenses. The closest they’d had to a positive episode was “Be Right Back,” which features a woman replacing her dead husband with an android copy… and it’s not super happy. This episode completely goes the other way and shows the absolutely magical potential of social technology through something that everyone can understand: Falling in love.


You know the look

The episode starts in the 80s-est 80s that ever 80s-ed, in the beach town of San Junipero. The audience is then introduced to two women, the timid virgin Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) and the bisexual party-girl Kelly (Gugu “I deserve much more work” Mbatha-Raw), who admits she was previously married to a man. The two form a quick, complementary relationship, which ends with the two having sex. When Yorkie returns the next week, she seeks out Kelly, but is unable to find her. Yorkie is advised to “try a different time.” She then searches  through bars in the 1990s before finding Kelly

The 80s were her time

in the 2000s. Kelly brushes her aside, leaving Yorkie crushed, until Kelly finally seeks her out to inform her that she is dying, and is just trying to avoid finding any real connections before she passes on. Kelly then asks to meet Yorkie in her real life.

At this point, it shifts to the Real World, where we are introduced to the real Kelly, an elderly woman with terminal cancer in a nursing home, and the real Yorkie, a woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state since she was 21 years old, 40 years ago, when her religious parents’ rejection of her sexuality led her to drive her car off the road. Now that San Junipero exists, Yorkie is trying to get euthanized so that her consciousness can be permanently uploaded to the program. In order to overcome her religious family, Kelly agrees to marry Yorkie to authorize the procedure. However, afterwards, Kelly reveals that she doesn’t want to spend eternity in the program, because her daughter and husband won’t be there. She acknowledges that she doesn’t believe she’ll be with them in the afterlife, but she also thinks that it would be breaking a promise to them if she stayed in San Junipero. Ultimately, though, Kelly chooses to join her new wife in their digital afterlife, together forever.

And yes, it’s set to “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle.


As I said, Black Mirror doesn’t do happy endings. Usually, their take is that technology is leading society to revel in spectacle, rather than actually living. But, this episode points out that spectacle isn’t always bad. Yes, San Junipero isn’t exactly the best place for deep introspection, but that’s not what they’re using it for. This isn’t the story of two young people using it to avoid living their lives, it’s the story of two people who can only really live through it. It isn’t replacing their real world, it’s giving them a chance to have a real world. It gives them a chance to really be with people in a way that life hasn’t or no longer does.

There’s a shirt.

Some people probably complain of the ending, because it is somewhat cheesy and unbelievably upbeat, but here’s the thing: Unless you die young and fast, there will come a time when you have to rely on something beyond yourself. It’s a part of mortality. You will look for something more to deal with the fact that you aren’t going to be here anymore. Several episodes on this list deal with that very thing. You might find faith, you might find peace in nihilism or existentialism, but, ultimately, you’re going to want something. This one just picks a different thing in the end. It’s a heaven of man’s own creation. It’s the ultimate showdown of science v. religion, because in this science has managed to replace the afterlife, the biggest and best “spectacle” religion has to offer. One day, this episode’s premise may be a reality, and we’ll have to see what people choose.

It’s on Netflix. Watch it.

PREVIOUS – 31: Doctor Who

NEXT – 30a: Gravity Falls

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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93a) Krusty Gets Kancelled (The Simpsons)

Welcome to your bonus entry. There are a few of these on the list for various reasons. This one is on here just because I originally picked this episode for number 93, but then decided to replace it with “Homer’s Enemy.” Since I wrote it already, it seems a waste not to post it, so here you go:

The main characters of the Simpsons are the fat, lazy, idiot father Homer (Dan Castellaneta); his wife who definitely could have done better Marge (Julie Kavner); his prankster (and later sociopath) son Bart (Nancy Cartwright); brainy daughter Lisa (Yeardley Smith); baby Maggie; and the city of Springfield (hundreds of characters at this point). It would take me days to explain all of the characters, but, this episode focuses mostly on beloved kids’ show host, Krusty the Klown.

Television is a fickle mistress. Some TV shows fail because they just don’t have the quality, but, occasionally, a hit TV show can fall off the radar just because something more popular comes on in the same time slot. This episode features the latter.

When Krusty the Clown is run off the air by the creepy puppet show Gabbo, Krusty falls into depression. He is taken in by the Simpsons, who convince him to fight to get his show back. He calls in every connection he can in order to create a star-studded comeback special. Bette Midler, Johnny Carson, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Hugh Hefner all guest star, along with Sideshow Luke Perry, Krusty’s “Worthless Half-brother.” This episode was only possible because the Simpsons were red hot at the time, and the reason why they’d become so popular is that they had some of the best writers available. Every line of this episode is funny, and it’s not just one style of humor. It comes at you from every direction, from “Worker and Parasite,” Eastern Europe’s favorite cat and mouse team, to the Red Hot Chili Peppers changing their indecent lyrics to “what I’d like is, I’d like to hug and kiss you.”

Krusty Gets Kancelled showed that an episode full of cameos could use their presence to focus on more than just the fact that they had a guest star. It simultaneously embraced and satirized the exact thing depicted in the show: Relying on celebrities to draw in a crowd to get the audience to remember a show that was losing out to the flavor of the month. Since then, we’ve seen many more celeb-mob TV episodes, but I can’t think of any that were better.

Link to the Archives.

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For your clip, here’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and then Johnny Carson lifting a Buick Skylark over his head while singing opera.