Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 2 “The Ghost Monument”

We go straight from the intro to a pretty classic episode of Doctor Who, complete with spaceships, running, beeping alarms, and, of course, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) trying to get everyone out alive.

SUMMARY

E2 - 1Space
Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. – A Doctor Who Writer.

Picking up immediately where the previous episode left off, with Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) floating in space. They’re rescued by Angstrom (Susan Lynch), a pilot who is in the middle of an intergalactic race. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Yas (Mandip Gill) have been picked up by another racer named Epzo (Shaun Dooley). While Angstrom is doing just fine and lands safely on planet Desolation, Epzo’s ship is out of gas and taking hits, resulting in the Doctor having to help him make a crash that they can walk away from.  Epzo and Angstrom trade barbs as competitors, before the group reunites and heads to meet with the race’s organizer Ilin (Art Malik).

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Ilin is very fancy. 

Ilin says that they’re supposed to finish the race by reaching the “Ghost Monument,” an object that apparently phases into reality every 1000 days. The Doctor quickly realizes that the Ghost Monument is the TARDIS, so the race is on to get to the TARDIS before it phases out again. The four catch up to the two racers and are forced to share a boat ride with them across the flesh-eating oceans of Desolation. It turns out, naturally, that Epzo and Angstrom both have dark backstories that forced them into this race.

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Backstories of Genocide and Parental Abuse. How cheery!

After crossing the ocean the group reaches a deserted city guarded by robots. Ryan tries to take them out by running out and shooting them, only to hilariously be forced to flee when the guns don’t do anything to the robots. As he screams in fear, the Doctor uses an EMP to disable the enemy. They rejoin Epzo and Angstrom and find an underground base. It’s revealed that the Stenza (the race of the Predator knock-off from the last episode) used this planet to research weapons, including the Remnants, which are psychic creepy-voiced (Ian Gelder) clothing-looking entities which clear up the wounded from battlefields while also squeezing people to death and causing terror to enemies. The Remnants hint at something in the Doctor’s background that even she doesn’t know before the team defeats them.

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The next morning, they make it to the victory tent, where both Epzo and Angstrom claim victory together. Ilin allows this, but, apparently angry at the Doctor, only teleports Epzo and Angstrom off planet, leaving the Doctor and companions stranded. Fortunately, the TARDIS briefly phases in. The Doctor is able to stabilize it back into normal reality and the pair are finally, joyfully reunited. The Doctor finds that the TARDIS has reconfigured not only the outside (slightly changing the appearance of the police box) but also the inside, taking on a more crystalline appearance. The new companions properly pay respect to the ship’s awesomeness and the Doctor takes off, intent on taking them all home.

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We’ll see how it goes.

END SUMMARY

Well, this is a solid continuation of the last episode. Honestly, it was much better than the premier, but it didn’t have the burden of introducing 3 new companions and the Doctor, so that’s forgivable. This is fairly dark, due to the levels of murder and genocide that is recounted both by Angstrom and also the Doctor when she discovers the history of the planet, but it still has enough fun and creativity in there to make it feel like a regular Doctor Who episode.

There’s an old screenwriting statement that the best friend to a writer is a ticking clock. Having time constraints on the story automatically gives the characters and the plot a sense of urgency that instantly elevates the tension without distracting from the story. Despite the fact that the main character has a time machine, Doctor Who frequently embraces this, putting a time-clock on the end of the world or something similar. This episode is a great example, because at first the Doctor has no reason to try and participate in the Death Race until it’s revealed that the final location is the TARDIS.

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The Ghost Monument indeed.

Now, it would have been easy to make this into a true race, with the Doctor and companions trying to outpace Epzo and Angstrom, but they chose not to for a very good reason. One of the themes of the show in general, and seems to be repeated by this particular incarnation, is that people should work together. The Doctor herself even says it outright: “We’re stronger together.” It’s a solid message that really works within this episode.

A few notes about how Jodie Whittaker is portraying the Doctor. First, she is one of the more polite incarnations to her companions, even thanking them for not bothering her too much about the fact that she accidentally got them stuck on an alien planet. Second, she uses more direct methods at times than many of her previous incarnations, including using Venusian Aikido during this episode to easily incapacitate Epzo, something the Third Doctor (Pertwee) was fond of. Third, she does the dramatic almost Harry-Potter-spellcasting-esque draw and point with the Sonic Screwdriver, and I love it.

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Plotholus conveniens fixus!

I haven’t quite determined how to feel about the rest of the cast. Yas doesn’t really seem to have found her niche yet. Ryan’s dislike of Graham continues, and I hope they eventually really get into why he doesn’t like him. Ryan’s dyspraxia is still an issue, although when running he also suffers from “Prometheus School of Running Away” disease.

The other big note is that we’ve now had two big episodes in a row featuring the Stenza. I have to think they’re going to be the big bad guys of this arc. I’m not a huge fan of the embedded tooth appearance, but the haunted clothes of death from this episode was excellent. So, we’ll see what happens.

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Yeah, not a fan.

Overall, I thought this episode was a solid hour of television. I give it an A-.

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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Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 1 “The Woman Who Fell To Earth”

I love Doctor Who. I’ve loved it since I first saw it on PBS as a child, not realizing that the episodes I was watching were more than 20 years old at that point. When it came back, I was elated. I’ve enjoyed the majority of the episodes since the revival, putting two among the best episodes not only of the series, but of television in general. It’s truly a magical show for me and I was completely thrilled that someone requested that I review this season for the blog. I will try to have these up ASAP after airing, but life will get in the way sometimes, so Tuesday at the latest.

So, Allons-y! (if any of you are named Alonzo, then I am so f*cking happy right now)

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Where we last saw our hero….

SUMMARY (SPOILERS – In River Song’s voice)

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), a young adult with developmental coordination disorder (your body doesn’t send the right nerve signals strongly enough), finds a set of strange glowing symbols floating in the air in the woods and, after touching them, a blue pod appears. Ryan calls the police and PC Yaz Khan (Mandip Gill), a former classmate, arrives to investigate. However, the pair get distracted by a call from a train containing Ryan’s grandmother Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) and her husband, Graham (Bradley Walsh). The train gets attacked by a creature made up of writhing tentacles and electricity which moves towards Grace, Graham, and another passenger named Karl (Johnny Dixon). They’re saved by a woman who falls through the roof of the train. Who is this mysterious woman. Yes, there’s supposed to be a period there because I love bad jokes and it’s the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker).

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Thirty minutes into not being Scottish.

The creature tags the passengers and the doctor with sparks before leaving. The Doctor reveals that these sparks have implanted DNA Bombs, a dangerous and mostly banned weapon. They try to track down the pod that Ryan found, only to find another alien creature has emerged from it. That alien disappears, apparently sensing the first one, after killing a man and taking his tooth. The Doctor rebuilds her sonic screwdriver and takes the group in pursuit of the tentacle monster, revealed to be a bio-data-gathering device called Gathering Coils. They are confronted by the second alien, revealed to be Tzim-Sha of the Stenza (Samuel Oatley) who is basically Predator if he collected teeth instead of skulls.

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… Arnold Schwarzenegger would kill him without trying. 

The Doctor’s group confront Tzim-Sha and the Coils at the site of his hunt. The Doctor manages to trick Tzim-Sha into taking back all of his own DNA bombs and saves the target, but Grace dies trying to stop the Coils. Ryan tries to learn how to ride a bike in tribute to her, but never succeeds due to his condition. After Grace’s funeral, the Doctor tells them she has to find the TARDIS which is supposed to be in space above Earth. She builds a teleporter to go to it, but accidentally teleports herself, Ryan, Graham, and Yaz into the vacuum of space where no TARDIS appears to be.

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And debuts her new outfit.

END SUMMARY

Well, let’s get it out of the way, the Doctor now has 27 X Chromosomes, whereas she previously had 17. Not my fault you didn’t take Time Lord anatomy if you don’t understand this joke, but you really should have at least taken Nth-Dimensional Sex Education so that you’d know about the Birds and the Branes.

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Yeah, but my name’s on the site, so… bite me.

Yes, the Doctor is now equipped with a vagina and, honestly, it didn’t impact the episode much. That was probably a solid move on the writer’s part not to go too heavy into pointing out the differences between her and previous incarnations. That made it seem less like Jodie Whittaker was playing a Female Doctor and was just playing The Doctor… WHICH SHE F*CKING NAILED. Seriously, this might be my favorite Doctor debut, right up there with “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eleventh Hour.” Whittaker debuts by falling into the path of a monster and briefly incapacitating it, which is one of the most Doctor-y ways to be introduced.

The main thing is that Whittaker quickly embodied the Doctor, filled with all of the pain, curiosity, and excitement that usually define the character. I think one of the best moments is when she is forging a new sonic screwdriver and gazes at a spoon so enthusiastically, realizing that it’ll be one of the perfect components to the device, and you really feel almost drawn to her because of the sincerity she gives off.

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It’s the little things.

Her new companions are going to be more of a team than the usual one or two people who follow the Doctor at a time. I like most of their dynamics, although they seem to shift back and forth during the episode. Still, I think that they’ll serve a much different role than previous companions, if only because of the number.

As for the episode itself, it’s fine. The Coils are visually interesting. The jokes that the Doctor makes about Tzim-Sha’s name (mostly just calling him “Tim Shaw”) are pretty good. The main thing that shocked me was that they killed off a character that we were definitely starting to like… and one that was central to two of her companions’ stories. That’s kind of crazy for a show like this.

Overall, I liked this episode. I’d say that in Doctor Who terms, this was probably about a B+.

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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Reader Bonus: Extremis (Doctor Who)

Is there anything that is a genuinely selfless act? If you teach a child to read, you benefit from a more educated population. If you make the world a better place, you get to live in a better place. Even if you’re doing something good in private, the feeling of reward you get is still providing you a benefit. So, when is something truly good, if goodness requires seeking no advantage? This episode came up with one of the most creative answers in television.

Quick Recap of the show:

DoctorWhoExtremisPromo

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 Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and a humanoid alien named Nardole (Matt Lucas). In the episode before this, the Doctor was rendered blind and uses sophisticated sunglasses to pretend to see to hide his condition.

SUMMARY

At the beginning of the episode, the Doctor receives an e-mail titled “Extremis” and begins to read it through his sunglasses. It’s then shown that the Doctor is cleaning up his classroom (he’s temporarily teaching) and is surprised by a group of cardinals and the Pope himself. They’ve come concerning an ancient book found in the Vatican Library called Veritas (the Truth). It turns out that every person who reads the book commits suicide afterwards. They ask the Doctor to read it.

DoctorWhoExtremisPope
He loves it when they call him el Papa. And do good works.

The Doctor picks up Bill (and humorously interrupts her date with a very attractive woman by showing her the clergy) and, together with Nardole, heads into the secret Vatican library which houses Veritas. They are led to the reading cage which houses the book and find the only translator of the book who hasn’t killed himself rambling about having “sent” it. The translator runs off and commits suicide, and Nardole and Bill see that he had e-mailed a copy of the translation to CERN.  The Doctor uses a high-tech device to temporarily restore his sight so he can read the book, but the exertion knocks him out.

DoctorWhoExtremisReading

Nardole and Bill, going through the library, find a portal. They step through it to find themselves in a broom closet in the Pentagon. They head back through the portal and are suddenly in a hub room with a large number of portals projected to various important locations. They pick another and emerge in CERN, where the workers are all having a raucous party. It’s revealed that they’ve set up an explosion to destroy the entire facility and kill them all.

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I challenged a Sicillian while death was on the line.

When the Doctor wakes up, a figure emerges that he can’t quite see yet. The figure steals the book and tells the Doctor that what they are doing is just “a game.” The Doctor responds: “Good, because I win” and escapes with the laptop containing the book’s translation. He finds a corner, opens the laptop to read it, but his eyes fail. The figures come for him until a bright light surrounds him.

Back at CERN, Bill and Nardole ask one of the heads what is going on. He explains that they are saving the world. They ask him how. He asks them to select a random number. As they answer, in sync, he says the same word, then challenges them to pick more. Every time they say the number, he says the same. He apologizes, then prepares to blow up CERN. Bill and Nardole escape into the hub, but discover that they aren’t truly portals: They’re projections. None of the places they’ve been are real, they’re just projections. Nardole, horrified, reaches past the projector and dissolves into pixels. Bill, shocked, follows a blood trail through another portal.

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Bill finds herself in the Oval Office with the Doctor. The Doctor tells her that he read Veritas, and it’s a story of a Demon that wanted to take over the world. The Demon decided to create a Shadow World filled with Shadow People who think and act like regular people, and to observe this new world to figure out how to take over the real one. In other words, it’s a computer simulation. The random number test was to confirm whether the reader is in the real or fake world: If you’re in the real world, you can come up with a real random number, but in the fake world, everyone answers the same sequence. The Doctor and Bill both failed the test, so they’re both in the simulation. They aren’t real. This means the most noble thing for them to do is to kill themselves, because that will stop the simulation from matching the real world and hurt the Demon’s chances of taking over the real world.

After the Doctor finishes explaining, Bill dissolves, revealing the figure behind the simulation to be a desiccated alien dressed as a monk, one of many. The Doctor says that he’s going to stop them. The monk explains that they have run many simulations for centuries and that they have killed the Doctor many times, ensuring that he will not stop them. The Doctor counters that the problem with running a computer simulation this good is that it has allowed the Doctor to interfere. The monk counters that there is nothing he can do. The Doctor informs him that, in order to simulate the computer networks of Earth, the monks had tapped into the computer networks of Earth, allowing him to do exactly one thing: Send an e-mail. The simulation Doctor titles it “Extremis” and sends it to the Real Doctor who got it at the beginning of the episode.

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Throughout the episode, there have been flashbacks to the Doctor attending the execution of his life-long nemesis The Master (currently “The Mistress” or Missy, played by Michelle Gomez). While the Doctor watches the executioners set up the proceeding, he is met by Nardole, who reads to him the last words of the Doctor’s Wife, River Song (Alex Kingston):

Goodness is not goodness that seeks advantage. Good is good in the final hour, in the deepest pit without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis. This is what he believes, and this is the reason above all, I love him. My husband. My madman in a box. My Doctor.

The Doctor then prevents the execution of Missy, believing that she can change, and the Doctor agrees to watch over her. In the present, the Doctor asks Missy to help him stop the monks from invading.

END SUMMARY

So, this episode contains an answer for the question in the beginning: Virtue is only virtue when there is no possibility of reward. In other words, the only true good is sacrifice. In this episode, we see a number of people living up to that by killing themselves in order to disrupt the simulation and help stop the aliens from keeping up the simulation, but that’s only because those people realized that they weren’t real. Ultimately, it also didn’t make much of an impact because they have millions of simulations running. The Doctor, instead, goes a step further and, rather than kill himself, figures out a way to actually make a real difference, even though he himself is not real. Basically, the Doctor doesn’t just beat death to do something good, he beats reality.

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With an e-mail, no less.

Honestly, I love the fact the episode really recalls a running question during the Doctor’s Twelfth incarnation: Is the Doctor a good man? The Twelfth Doctor can be callous, can be rude, can be unkind even, and definitely can be judgmental, but this episode finally draws that question to a close. He is not just a good man, he is a man willing to do what is good without any reward being promised or even possible. The fact that the episode also features the Doctor saving one of his most hated enemies from death, knowing that she will likely try to kill him again in the future, just in case she can change, is equally significant. The end of the episode shows why it may have been the right decision: Because only Missy might be able to stop the monks.

The episode kind of invokes the simulated reality movies like The Matrix, eXistenZ, or even Dark City, but is really closest to The 13th Floor, because the main character is also not real in this story, but is a copy of someone in reality. The movie connections pretty much end there, though, since this is about overcoming the limitations of being stuck in a virtual world not by breaking it (as the CERN workers try), but instead by using it.

DoctorWhoExtremisThirteenthFloor

This is one of my favorite episodes of Capaldi’s run, though it didn’t really approach the beauty of “Heaven Sent.” Still, he’s in my top three Doctors, for now, and this episode really helped.

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: 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.

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Yes, he plays the guitar.

SUMMARY

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.

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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.

DoctorWhoVeil

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.

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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.

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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.

DoctorWhoAzbantium

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.

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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.”

END SUMMARY

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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.

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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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31) Blink (Doctor Who)

Doctor Who is over 50 years old, it’s died twice, been revived twice, and managed to have more people play the lead character than almost anything besides Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes. You can’t really say that there’s a “standard” episode, because it varies so much in tone, quality, and style over the run that it’s very difficult to describe in broad strokes. It also creates some very long-running jokes or callbacks, some so long that it spans a generation or two. As such, it’s often difficult for new fans to really get into the show, because even if you join after the latest incarnation, there’s so much mythology built up that it gets intimidating. This episode, though, avoids that.

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 who lives and journeys in a 60s British Police Box called the TARDIS. 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 10 doctors, and the current one was played by David Tennant. His companion at the time was a woman named Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman).

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No matter which team you play for, at least one of them is for you.

SUMMARY

Three factors set this episode apart. First, the Doctor and Martha are barely in it. Despite being the main characters of the show, this episode focuses almost entirely on a woman named Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan).

DocWho

Second, this episode actually establishes some goofy, but still somewhat logical, rules of time travel in the Doctor Who universe, by saying that “most of the time, what happened didn’t happen until it happened, but it also didn’t happen and might not have happened if you didn’t know it happened after it happened, which allows it to unhappen if you intervene in a way such that it is still yet to happen at that time.” Or, as the Doctor puts it: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but, actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.” But it’s really the third factor that most distinguishes it, and earns it a place on this list: The Weeping Angels.

The Weeping Angels are statues. In fact, they’re a lot of statues. Maybe even all of them. But they’re usually shown as female angels with their faces covered by their hands, hence, appearing to be weeping. And, most of the time, they’re just normal statues.

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No photos, please.

This isn’t a cute expression. They’re actually stone, and not living, when observed. But, when nobody is looking, they come to life and attack at unbelievable speeds, capable of traveling several dozen feet faster than the eye can blink.

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DIDJA PUTCHER NAME IN THE GOBLETOFIRE!??!?

And, if they catch you, they kill you in one of the most unusual ways possible. They transport you back in time, and then they eat the energy that your potential life would have generated. You get to live out the rest of your life, but it will probably start years or even decades before you were born. Even better, throughout the episode, some of the statues in the background respond not to the characters, but to the viewer, which can really freak you out the first time you notice it.

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Before the episode starts, the angels have gotten the Doctor and Martha. However, as the episode progresses, Sally, the main character, finds that the Doctor has set up clues and hints for how Sally will beat the angels from years in the past. Things range from messages under wallpaper to hidden DVD extras, which leads to both a really clever and really horrifying scene. The progression of the episode is brilliant, because it manages to tell the viewer both that the Doctor has set all of this up, and also that it absolutely doesn’t guarantee success because “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.” Ultimately, the solution for the angels is both obvious and clever at the same time. (No, it’s not “mirrors”… although, later, it’s mirrors).

END SUMMARY

If you ever want to get a person into Doctor Who, this is the episode to show them. It requires almost no knowledge of the show, but it somehow manages to embody some of the best elements of it at the same time.

PREVIOUS – 32: Game of Thrones

NEXT – 34a: Black Mirror

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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Doctor Who is on Amazon Prime, but here’s the famous dialogue: