Doctor Whosday – S12 Xmas Special “Revolution of the Daleks”

The Doctor gets rescued by an old friend in time to confront an old enemy.

SUMMARY 

After the Scout Dalek was destroyed on New Year’s Day 2019, it was intercepted by agents of Jack Robertson (Chris Noth), the shady businessman from “Arachnids in the UK.” Robertson has the Dalek analyzed and repurposed into defense drones used to suppress riots along as part of a scheme with politician Jo Patterson (Harriet Waller). The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is in prison since being caught by the Judoon, waiting for decades while trying to figure out who she really is. She is rescued by Jack Harkness (John f*cking Barrowman!) and returned to Earth, only to find out that it’s 10 months past when she left. In the interim, the Tardis Trio (Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill) have gotten upset at being left behind. They discover the Dalek threat just before the Doctor returns. At the same time, Robertson’s scientist Leo Rugazzi (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) grows a Dalek from the cells in the shell, only for it to take over his body and grow dozens of other Daleks. As the Doctor, Jack, and the Trio confront Robertson, they find out that the Daleks have taken over the defense drones and are taking over the UK. Hatching a plan, the Doctor summons another Dalek ship which destroys all of the cloned Daleks for being “impure.” The group then manages to destroy the Dalek ship and trap the Daleks in a spare imploding TARDIS. With the Earth safe, Ryan and Graham decide to stay behind and the Doctor and Yaz set off back into the stars.

I can deal with almost anything if I get more Barrowman.

END SUMMARY

This special was a bit of a surprise on a lot of levels, including both the presence of John Barrowman and the fact that it signaled the departure of Walsh and Cole from the series. Walsh was one of the better parts of the last two years of Doctor Who, so I’m curious how, or if, they’ll be able to replace him. It was also a surprise that they were able to finish filming it during Covid-19, but apparently part of it is that at least some of the shoot occurred before quarantine. Still, I’m impressed they got it out.

I mean, I do buy them quitting as characters.

As far as the special goes, I actually thought it was well done. It managed to balance the Doctor’s more gentle philosophy over the last two series with the fact that Daleks generally cannot be reasoned with. As the Doctor is trying to figure out who she is following the events of the last season finale, she can focus on doing the thing that the Doctor does better than anyone in the universe: Beat the hell out of a shallow allegory for Nazism. This episode doesn’t really have the monologues that the previous Chibnail episodes relied on, but I think that is a helpful respite for both the characters and the audience. This episode comes at the end of an absolutely crap year and, frankly, I didn’t need a long morality speech. I wanted to see the Doctor trick a bunch of Daleks into being folded into a singularity and banished from reality. Chris Noth returning as the seemingly unkillable douchebag billionaire was just a nice bonus.

What government would spend this much money to gas rioters? Oh, right…

Overall, it didn’t do much to move the canon along, but it was a fairly entertaining hour and change. That’s all I wanted and that’ll do for now.

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Doctor Whosday – S12 E8 “The Haunting of Villa Diodati”

The Doctor and The Tardis Trio encounter Mary Shelley on a significant night.

SUMMARY

It’s 1816 and Percy Bysshe Shelley (Lewis Rainer), Lord Byron (Jacob Collins-Levy), Mary Shelley (Lili Miller), her sister Claire Clairmont (Nadia Parkes), and Byron’s physician Dr. John Polidori (Maxim Baldry) are at Byron’s vacation rental, Villa Diodati. There have been a number of storms this year due to it being the year without a Summer. The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) shows up during such a storm along with Ryan, Graham, and Yaz (Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh, and Mandip Gill). After they arrive, Percy Bysshe Shelley goes missing and his room is covered in gibberish and strange symbols. Strange figures then appear throughout the house, the walls start moving, and dead body parts start moving on their own. 

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It’s no Ozymandias.

The Doctor realizes that these events are caused by a high-tech security system. She manages to prove it just as a figure starts to appear within the house, revealed to be a half-complete Cyberman (Patrick O’Kane). This appears to be the Lone Cyberman that Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) warned the Doctor about in “Fugitive of the Judoon,” but the Doctor chooses to stay and confront it. The Cyberman is revealed to be named Ashad and that he is hunting for the Cyberium, the substance that the security system is protecting. Ashad time traveled to the villa, but his power was drained. He uses the electrical storm to recharge himself, setting out to find the “guardian,” revealed to be Shelley.

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Either the first Modern Prometheus or possibly Galactus’s offspring.

The Doctor and the rest of the house find Shelley, who had found the Cyberium previously. The Cyberium is apparently the accumulated knowledge of the Cybermen. His gibberish was apparently calculations. Ashad threatens to kill Shelley, so the Doctor absorbs the Cyberium from him. Ashad then threatens to destroy Earth, so the Doctor gives him the Cyberium, despite Jack’s warning not to “give it what it wants.” The Doctor and the Tardis Trio depart, using Percy’s scrawlings to follow Ashad. The experience inspires the writing of Frankenstein.

END SUMMARY

Okay, this was a solid build up to the last two episodes. It continued the plotline of the Lone Cyberman started in “Fugitive of the Judoon,” while also being a classic “historical celebrity” episode, and the ending is the perfect antepenultimate cliffhanger. So, right now, the finale could well involve Cybermen, the Master, Doctor Ruth, and Jack Harkness. I know it probably won’t have all of those resolve in this series, but dang, that would be a ride. 

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Please come back to me, Jack.

This episode did a lot of things right that others in this season didn’t pull off well. First, the pacing was great. It had a cold open to set the atmosphere, the Doctor and crew arrive, then we’re slowly given more and more clues that something is very wrong here. The reveals of the secrets are given the proper amount of weight and reactions by the cast, which is something they have sorely lacked at this point this year. 

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They later put on a production of A Christmas Carol, I think.

The moments revealing the essences of the various characters, too, were well done, focusing more on showing us who they are rather than telling us. I particularly love the moments of Lord Byron trying first to seduce the Doctor with his confidence, only to hide behind Claire when he thinks he’s in danger. While Lord Byron’s behavior (he was typically not considered a coward), as well as Claire’s response to it, don’t correspond with their historical personas (she was pregnant with his child at this point and didn’t seem to hate him until after she gave birth), the changes made the episode more interesting. 

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Also, the moment of the Doctor claiming the Cyberium was pretty awesome.

I also loved that, at the end of the episode, there were still more mysteries, including whether or not Graham saw an actual ghost. It really fit the Gothic theme. Overall, just a solid episode to set up for what I hope will be an explosive finale. 

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

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Doctor Whosday – S12 E5 “Fugitive of the Judoon”

The Doctor’s Fam meets an old friend and faces a targeted invasion.

SUMMARY

Gloucester is invaded by the Judoon, the space rhino cops-for-hire, who are searching for a fugitive. They attack Lee and Ruth Clayton (Neil Stuke and Jo Martin), but the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) saves them. At the same time, Graham (Bradley Walsh) is abducted by a teleport only to find himself face to face with Captain Jack Harkness (John “The Sexiest Man Ever” Barrowman). Jack reveals that he thought Graham was the Doctor in a new regeneration and abducted him by accident, trying to give the Doctor a message. The Doctor discovers a box in the Claytons’ home, but Lee denies knowing anything. As the Judoon come in, the Doctor, Ruth,  Ryan, and Yaz (Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill) all escape while Lee surrenders, only to be killed by a former associate, Gat (Ritu Arya). Ryan and Yaz are then transported to Jack’s ship, only for him to be attacked by the people he stole it from. 

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Yes, Jack, I missed you like the flower misses the sunshine.

The Doctor and Ruth go to Gloucester cathedral where they are attacked by the Judoon and Ruth proceeds to instinctively beat the crap out of them. A text leads the pair to a lighthouse, where Ruth smashes an alarm box and the Doctor finds a buried TARDIS. Ruth emerges from the lighthouse identifying herself as the Doctor and the owner of the TARDIS. It’s revealed that Ruth and the Doctor are, in fact, both the Doctor… but neither one remembers being the other. Ruth reveals that she was forced to work for Gat at one point and that Gat is chasing them. The TARDIS is abducted and Ruth faces off with Gat, only for Gat to reveal that she is a Time Lord and was ordered to bring the Doctor back to Gallifrey. Since Gallifrey was destroyed by the Master, the Doctor realizes that Gat and Ruth have to be in her past, but she doesn’t remember either of them. Ruth tricks Gat into killing herself, returns the Doctor to Earth and departs. She meets with the Fam who give her Jack’s message. The Doctor, not understanding what’s happening now, believes something is coming for her.

END SUMMARY

Well, dang, just when I was worried that the show was losing track of what made the show work, it puts out this episode and I’ve got to say that I am blown the hell away. Not only did they bring back one of my favorite characters in the history of the show for a very cute cameo (though no reunion… yet), they completely blew me away by having the reveal that there is yet another Doctor… from the past. You’d think that since they did that once with the “War Doctor” it might seem a little derivative, but I honestly felt that the surprise and the excitement were just as genuine as they were for that reveal. It’s even better in some ways because Doctor Ruth is a sassy and jaded counterpart that perfectly balanced the Doctor’s heavy optimism. Given how they set her up, this can’t possibly the only time she shows up, and I look forward to the return.

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Also, Jo Martin freaking brings it. 

This episode managed to do a ton mostly by keeping the audience on their toes and pacing it perfectly, literally the opposite of what the last two episodes did. Pacing and connection is especially important in this kind of episode, because it really is a number of misleads that could easily have come off as trite or cliche. The only reason they didn’t is because the episode focused on the Doctor and Ruth and revealed most of the twists to us and them at the same time, allowing us to watch their responses to the new information. That response makes it feel earned. Admittedly, it helped that most of the twists were completely unexpected and compelling, but if they hadn’t felt earned, they wouldn’t have worked. 

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I shouted multiple versions of “WHAT THE HECK??” when this happened.

I also thought that the dialogue stepped up quite a bit in this episode, feeling a lot more natural, particularly between Jack and the Fam.  

Overall, just a solid episode of Doctor Who that leaves me wanting more. This is basically  what I was hoping for after the explosive premiere.

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

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.